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I bought an example.org domain and created an account on a free web host. When signing up, I was forced to choose a 3rd level domain name for my site. Then I was allowed to specify my 2nd level domain name. Now example.org is under my hosting account waiting for the nameservers to take effect, but my 3rd level domain is already functioning. I put an index.html on it, and it shows as expected.

There is a good chance that I will not be able to delete that 3rd level domain at all and will have the two mirror sites as shown below:

  • example.org
  • anynameyouchoose.myfreewebhostingservername.com

May this lead to Google penalizing my 2nd level domain for content duplication?

2

May this lead to Google penalizing my 2nd level domain for content duplication?

Just to clarify, there is no "penalty" as such for duplicate content, it's just that your ranking will be divided between the two domains if both are returned in the SERPs. Not only could this reduce the ranking for your primary domain, the 3rd level domain could even rank higher and result in confusion for your users.

However, Google is pretty good at deciding for itself which is the canonical domain so the above scenario may not cause you much of a problem. But you can bet that Google will find the 3rd level domain and this will be searchable.

So, steps should be taken to avoid the duplicate content and to avoid the 3rd level domain being indexed:

  1. If you can, you should set up a 301 redirect from the 3rd level domain to your primary domain. eg. Using .htaccess on Apache. However, this might not be possible on your "free" host. As a fallback, you could perhaps implement a JavaScript redirect instead.

  2. Use a rel="canonical" element in the head section of your HTML document that points to the primary domain.

  3. Use absolute URLs/links throughout your site. Or, root-relative URLs and a base element in the head section that points to the primary domain.


Also note that there can be other issues with free hosts/subdomains. For example:

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