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What is duplicate content and how can I avoid being penalized for it on my site?

Can you please tell me if launching a .co.uk version of an English .com site can cause problems with ranking in Google SERPs?

We have a .com eCommerce site with 100,000+ indexed pages. The site is many years old and has a page rank of 5 so it has a long history and lots of links.

We launched a .co.uk version which used the same content for about 50,000 products, but uses pounds sterling and UK pricing.

Within two weeks, we went from getting 2,000 visitors a day to our .com site down to about 60 visitors per day.

We have been struggling with this issue for the past 30 days and it's costing us a lot of money. We had not considered the possibility that a .co.uk site could cause this big a problem.

The main .com website is still well indexed and crawled, but seems to have been filtered out of search results. The .co.uk site shows up in the US searchers on Google.com and the .com site seems to be in the more results section.

Could this be the problem we are dealing with? Could the .com site be suffering from a filter that shows the co.uk site instead. If so, do you have any suggestions on what we can do to remedy the situation.


2 Answers 2


You should add canonical links to both the .co.uk and the .com site, with the canonical link pointing to the .com site content.

You should then also add rel="alternative" links to all of the .com pages indicating that uk content exists.

for example:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="http://www.example.co.uk/path" />

the ref="alternative" indicates to google that it is a variation of the canonical content.

you should also make sure that you are declaring the language of your content correctly.

Google also offers more tips about multi-national and multi-lingual sites.

  • Thanks. Any idea if Google honors en-gb for British English, or is it just en?
    – user9983
    Sep 4, 2011 at 20:35
  • I've only seen "en" used, so I would stick with that for all Englsh variants.
    – Beantin
    Sep 6, 2011 at 21:12

You can use a cross domain canonical link as described here:


So choose whether you want .com or .co.uk to contain the canonical pages (I would expect the .com as it has more) and set up a link from each .co.uk page to the relevant .com page for the same product.

You can also sign up for webmaster tools if you haven't already and specify the different geographic targets for each domain, which is under Site Configuration -> Settings.

  • I set the geo preference right from the start, but G doesn't seem to be using it for some reason. We still get .co.uk in the US searches. As for the canonical link, won't that mean we have no listing in the index for the co.uk site. It that's the case, how do we show up in the UK searches?
    – user9983
    Sep 1, 2011 at 16:21

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