I have one master website website.com/master and many mirror sites website.com/rep1, website.com/rep2, etc.

The content, except for the contact information, is identical on all of them.

We make it this way so that every representative has his own website and stats.

I already use the Canonical URL Tag to inform google that all the "mirrors" are duplicates of website.com/master.

Now, my problem is that one of the mirrors, let's say website.com/rep4, appears first in google ranking. How can I make sure the master website (website.com/master) will always appear first?

I've looked everywhere on many occasions and never found any topic that would cover my case.

Can anyone help? I would be most grateful.

  • Just to clarify... website.com/rep4/somepage has the appropriate rel="canonical" pointing to website.com/master/somepage (on the same domain)? And the content of these two pages are pretty much the same?
    – MrWhite
    Nov 22 '13 at 1:05
  • Yes and yes. Thx for the comment.
    – Alex
    Nov 26 '13 at 9:55

If the canonical tag is working correctly, then over the time the sites that have the canonical tag referencing the main site, should drop out of Google's index, leaving just the main canonical tag.

How long have you have these sites set up and the canonical defined? It could just be a matter of time now.

However you do mention that the "content of these two pages are pretty much the same". How much does the content differ by? As Google does mention this in their guidelines:

The rel="canonical" attribute should be used only to specify the preferred version of many pages with identical content (although minor differences, such as sort order, are okay).

So if the content is too dissimilar, Google may in fact ignore the canonical tags altogether.

If you view Google's cache of the canonical-ed page, by adding cache: at the beginning of the URL like this: cache:website.com/rep4 or clicking view cache in Google's index; what does it say at the top? If it says something like below then the canonical tag is probably being recognised correctly:

This is Google's cache of http://www.website.com/master. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 13 Nov 2013 18:10:39 GMT

But if it says:

This is Google's cache of http://www.website.com/rep4. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 13 Nov 2013 18:10:39 GMT

Then it's not working.

What you might want to do to be sure that these mirror pages are not ranking or causing any duplicate content issues, is simply add the meta robots noindex, follow tag into the pages <head> section. This will tell Google to no longer index the pages, but all links on the page will still be crawled and followed.

  • Hi ! First of all, thx for you answer, really helpful ! The websites have been up for around 6 months and the Canonical URL Tags for 3 months. The changes between pages are very small: only the name and the phone number varies. Finally, the cache snapshot shows website.com/rep4. I guess I'll verify the syntax of the canonicals to be sure and wait to see how it goes.
    – Alex
    Nov 26 '13 at 9:54
  • Should I register the website on google webmasters and give a sitemap or something? Would it help in my case? Sorry if this is obvious, I have very few experience with SEO.
    – Alex
    Nov 26 '13 at 10:00
  • I verified the cache version of other pages from the same site (ex : website.com/rep4/page1.html and it gives me website.com/master/page1.html so it at least works on some pages.
    – Alex
    Nov 26 '13 at 10:06
  • Yes, if you create an xml sitemap that includes only the correct canonical URLs (and does not include the URLs that are canonicled to a different page) and submit to Webmaster Tools, this should help Google to figure out the correct canonical pages.
    – Max
    Nov 28 '13 at 5:24

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