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I have a website that displays different content depending on two selections made by a visitor: Whether they are a teacher or student, and their learning level (from 4 options). Everything is public and they don't need to authenticate to access the content. Depending on their selection, different content is displayed across the whole site, other than a contact and about page. The tone of the language changes depending on whether the visitor is a student or teacher and the materials available on each page also change depending on the learning level, however in all cases, the structure of the site is identical.

Currently I'm using a cookie to store the visitor's selections and render different content appropriately, so I have a single set of URLs which display different content depending on the cookie, with one of the permutations as default.

I appreciate this is far from ideal, but what is the better option? Would I be better using a distinguishing segment for each selection, for example:

http://example.com/teacher/lv3/resources/activities
http://example.com/teacher/lv4/resources/activities
http://example.com/student/lv4/resources/activities
etc.

What is the most sensible way to handle this situation?

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1 Answer

If you want to have this content indexed in Google, then you cannot only show this content when cookies are set. Googlebot does not use cookies and it will never see your content.

Your suggested URL structure would be a much better approach. That way Googlebot could click on the "teacher" link and on the "student" link to find all the content. Users that come in from Google search could automatically be assumed to be a teacher or a student based on the landing page.

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Thanks for replying. I show teacher/lv4 content by default, so this is what Google would index (given it can't alter this default based on cookies). The reason I am hesitant to set up separate paths for each combination is that a large part of the content would be duplicated across all or some of the combinations. As far as I am aware, this type of duplication is not looked on favourably by Google. –  Pedr Oct 26 '13 at 11:22
    
A moderate amount of duplication within your own site is not going to get your entire site penalized. At worst, Google would choose which of two pages that have the same contents that it wants to index. See searchengineland.com/… and webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/35652/… –  Stephen Ostermiller Oct 26 '13 at 11:30
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