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I have a static sidebar on all pages of my website which I made completely myself (it's not a widget or WordPress feature) so I don't see how Google would distinguish it from any other part of the content. Will that harm my SEO considering I have duplicate content on all pages?

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3 Answers 3

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Most websites have some elements on the page that are static across all pages on the site:

  • Header with logo and search
  • Navigation elements (usually in a left or right sidebar)
  • Footer with copyright notice, and privacy policy links.

Parts of pages being static is so common that there is no way that it could hurt your website from an SEO standpoint. It would hurt pretty much all websites.

Your question also implies that Google penalizes for every instance of duplicate content. That is just not true. We have a good resource question here about duplicate content. I suggest you read it. Most of the time Google doesn't penalize for duplicate content, even when the entire page is a duplicate of something else. Google usually just picks one of those two pages to include in the index and does not include the other page. Google's Matt Cutts has even said that duplicate content should only hurt you "if it looks spammy". As long as your users find your static sidebar useful, (it isn't stuffed with keywords and nonsense text) you will be fine.

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Oh heck no! Just make sure it is placed below your content in your HTML. You can create a div tag and manipulate it with CSS. Otherwise, Google will definitely be confused by it and your placements in the SERPs will suffer.

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But wouldn't it be registered as duplicate content and I thought search engines penalize for duplicate content –  etangins Jun 9 at 0:35
    
If your sidebar is below your content, it will not be seen as duplicate. Generally, your sidebar should be in a div tag though it is not required. Google will just see this as part of the page and not the content. But if it appears before your content, then you have a problem. –  closetnoc Jun 9 at 1:36
    
Mine came first, but my SEO seemed to do pretty well. I'm worried now my sidebar may be more optimized than my main page. –  etangins Jun 9 at 20:51
    
Google is fairly good about figuring out sidebars so I am not surprised. I had a sidebar that came before my content and it performed fairly well. But as soon as I changed it- putting the content first, then high relevancy search results allowed the page to perform much better and the bounce rates decreased. –  closetnoc Jun 9 at 21:05
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Generally, no.
The only issue is when the sidebar info prevail on main info of the particular pages. Google names it as Additional value of the page. You may measure it as value for the users.
So, if the page have enough value for the user, it is not a problem with sidebar (footer/header).

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By value, do you mean I need to have enough unique content on each page, meaning that only if the sidebar is the majority of the content will I get penalized. –  etangins Jun 9 at 20:52
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Yes, you're right. –  Marian Jun 10 at 6:51
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