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I'm looking for guidance, options and ideas for an e-commerce site that is currently in production and is selling well. We sell primarily one product, but the business has three general categories of customers, let's say CAT1, CAT2, and CAT3.

Currently, all our content, be it video, faq, testimonial or product-features are broken up into three separate pages, one for each category.

  • example.com/info-page-cat1
  • example.com/info-page-cat2
  • example.com/info-page-cat3

The videos and testimonial content is sufficiently unique that I don't think there is an issue. But for our FAQ content and product features there is quite a bit of duplicate content.

In many cases the only change between those three pages is a single word or two. For example: "use this item for CAT1" is changed to "use this item for CAT2". At most, a couple paragraphs change from one page to the next.

  • Is there any definitive evidence that this will hurt SEO?
  • Is there any definitive evidence that this helps SEO?

The boss is convinced this content is good for SEO because customers searching for a term should find 'relevant' content.

^ that is problem one; any thoughts or guidance would be appreciated


Now for problem two or problem one part two...

On each of those pages, we have several sections or tabs of information (e.g. installation, general questions, why we're superior, etc...)

The idea has been proposed that each section or tab of information, and each question or subheading should have it's own URL that can be shared with customers and be seen by google (and others search engines).

  • Is this doable without causing massive duplicate content issues, and if so how?
  • Can URL control variables be used? e.g. example.com/page1?=section1&=question4
  • if so, will Google index the root page only?
  • ...or the root page and all the unique URLs example.com/page1?=section2&=question2

I'm sorry if this should be multiple questions on stack, if so I can break it up. But any advice you have in these areas would be appreciated!

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    I am a firm believer of not using parameters if you can and using a path such as /car/make/toyota/model/corrolla/. It yields better search results. This takes work of course. As well, this answer may help: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/74633/… – closetnoc Dec 7 '16 at 1:52
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    From the article it looks like the/slashed/url/method is a better overall SEO bonus. In our case, a secondary use for the URL parameters that has been proposed, is to control the visibility of content. So the above examples, in addition to be shareable, would also determine which content on the page is shown to the customer. – MrMr Dec 8 '16 at 23:27
  • I did something like that where a pages could reference different sub-sets of the whole data set like page.html?subset=domain-name-registration, but I found that this, while a clever user and web master advantage, it made a severe mess of web pages at a time when the canonical tag was not available. Ooopppsss. It was all part of using my hierarchy objects so that a page can show just some of the content from a larger pool. In the end, I ended up abandoning parameters except for forms and apps. I am converting sites to using paths more. Slowly. Very slowly. That seems to be my speed. – closetnoc Dec 9 '16 at 0:00
  • There is nothing wrong with your thought, That is what a lot of sites do. I just found that ranking was tougher and that my whole hierarchy thing, while convenient for me, made too many pages that Google would try to fetch. Yes. This was also before nofollow. Or about the same time. Parameters are just fine. They just rank lower on the semantic clue scale than the path would. – closetnoc Dec 9 '16 at 0:04
  • @closetnoc So, to recap and see if I understand what you've said (and posted in the other SEO related answer as well as your site). Using the URL parameters will work for page control, makes life easier for webmasters, but does not provide the same SEO benefit as the "/"ed URL method and could be considered an old/aging technique now that we have canonical URLs and rel="nofollow". If URL parameters are used, stick to two, maybe three, at most and make them keyword or content specific. – MrMr Dec 9 '16 at 19:55
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SEO 101: If you are using nearly the identical content on 3 separate pages, you either must chose a canonical, or consolidate the 3 into 1. With the latter, I highly recommend taking this route given content is nearly identical, and you can be sure that at least 1 of the 3 URL's will be indexed by Google. Remind your boss why he hired you for SEO Services.

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The usual mystical SEO disclaimers aside:

ISSUE 1: Duplicate/Thin Content

This doesn't hurt, but Canonicalisation will probably help.

By varying, your boss is trying to target different niches. That is perfectly understandable.

I'd probably think about both - a general product page, with the niche targeting pointing to it. Something like:

example.com/generic-product-info
example.com/info-page-cat1
example.com/info-page-cat2
example.com/info-page-cat3

With the cats (meow <- ...sorry...) pointing to the generic as canonical.

Alternately, redoing each of the cat pages in full to better specifically target the niche. <- Probably the best option if you have the time.

ISSUE 2: Breaking Up Sections

This really depends upon your content and audience IMO.

You need to weigh up the value of keeping content together v breaking it up.

Keeping it together can give the page more weight, increase dwell time, and also satisfy customers because all the info they want is in one place.

On the other hand, breaking it up may be appropriate too - if there is too much information or it is confusing or superfluous etc.

In my experience, it is more typical that the information can be kept together but, again, it depends what the information is.

Think about what would feel natural / easy for users and you probably will not go wrong.

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