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I am currently working on a website, and the designer wants a menu that is setup like this:

  • Toplevel1
  • Toplevel2
    • submenu1
    • submenu2
    • submenu3
  • Toplevel3
  • Toplevel4

All menu items have a title and content. When the user clicks toplevel2, the page needs to show all titles and content of the child submenus like so:

Title for submenu1 content....

Title for submenu2 content....

Title for submenu3 content....

etc..

If the user instead clicks directly on submenu2, the exact same content should be displayed but with the selected submenu title and content placed first, like this:

Title for submenu2 content....

Title for submenu1 content....

Title for submenu3 content....

etc..

Although I could get into a general discussion as to weather or not this is good design, my actual question is: Does this hurt SEO? They are all gonna have different URLS:

www.domain.com/submenu1 www.domain.com/submenu2

etc..

The thing is, I can't just do canonical redirect, since the order of the content still differs between url's.

(I posted this question on stack overflow first, but was asked to post it here instead.)

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    It's the same content that you arrive to by different ways which is exactly what you use canonical for. – riseagainst Jul 3 '14 at 15:35
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    I guess the question is, what is the ratio of new content per page verses duplicate content? – closetnoc Jul 3 '14 at 15:57
  • @guisasso: its the same content, but reordered. And they all have different "main" content. Does this still apply to canonical urls? I have the impression that canonical is more for the exact same pages with different urls, such as dynamic ´?itemid=32´ which could have a pretty variant as well ´/awesome-product´? thats not exactly the case in my example – Malibur Jul 4 '14 at 9:31
  • @closetnoc : Yes I am interested in that too, but my question is more precisely: "does reordering of the same content still count as duplicate." – Malibur Jul 4 '14 at 9:34
  • I'm not sure that I understand how this works. I do understand that the menus on your site will vary their order based on the context of the current page. I'm not sure why the menus themselves have URLs. In my experience menus are parts of large pages and don't get their own URLs. – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 4 '14 at 14:35
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Does this hurt SEO? They are all gonna have different URLS

The short answer is yes, especially if there are many menus and sub-menus. Since all your pages will have a different URL, but nearly same content, they will be considered as near duplicate content (that is low value/quality for the end user).

The solution is simple, pick one URL and use rel="canonical" in all other pages with this URL and you will be safe.

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While Google can be quite forgiving, the Google Scholar experience and citations allows Google to recognize this scenario natively. This means that content is not read/understood in a linear fashion any more (since 2008) and that similar chunks of data are easily compared between pages and sites. While any negative effect might be argued, I do know that pages, paragraphs, sentences, and even phrases can be compared to easily recognize reordered content. After-all this was a trick used by content spammers years ago.

So I would expect that this would be considered duplicate content. Depending upon the site size you will likely experience an effect at the least. Smaller sites are not often not penalized as a target, but an algorithm will probably effect your ability to reach searchers.

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