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We have cloned our website, meaning we started a new service which is almost identical to the first one. The first one converts videos to mp3, the other one converts them to mp4.

Recently, we got severely penalized by google, for the remarkable similarity of the sites (that's what we think). The 2 sites are on different domains and we would like each of them to grow separately from the other.

AFAIK, this is not the case of canonicalization. What can we do to make the search engines see the 2 sites as 2 different entities and not penalize us for having almost identical content on them?

Please give us a few suggestions or tell us about some best practices in this situation!

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    You cannot change search engines. Believe me I tried! Really. It doesn't work. It really sounds link you need to change up the sites so they appear different to the search engines. However, you can still keep the look and feel along with content to be similar enough to satisfy user experience. Yes. My advice is the to make them different and yet the same. Clear as mud? – closetnoc Sep 28 '14 at 7:12
  • Yep, like @closetnoc said. That is what CSS is all about. You can keep the structure, just change some styles and tweak the content. – Steve Sep 28 '14 at 7:17
  • But change the content enough. One way to do this is to write essentially the same thing but differently then re-order it. Do not rely on CSS to order your content. Search engines are not web browsers. Make it a physical change. – closetnoc Sep 28 '14 at 8:50
  • I agree, and I wasn't suggesting using CSS to reorder it, just make it look and flow differently as well as changing content. – Steve Sep 28 '14 at 10:50
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    @Steve CSS will not make the document flow differently and it is the content that search engines look at. If the structure of the HTML document is the same, or nearly so, CSS won't make anything better or worse for him. – Rob Sep 28 '14 at 13:21
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You must make the site sufficiently different (i.e., specific) as possible. Change the layout, modify the content, etc...

You may mark some pages as NOINDEX while implementing those changes. This should help removing the penalty too.

  • Great Answer. Also hosting them with different servers, using separate google analytics code, and even going as far as renaming and chaning up the javascript and css files will confuse google enough where they might see the two sites as being seperate. All this sounds like a bad idea, because you are now working TWICE AS HARD to try and rank to seperate sites. Whereas if you could have them under one parent site, as seperate services you could probably have an easier job with SEO. – Frank Sep 30 '14 at 14:46
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Changing the layout and modifying the content will help you in resolving the issue. Google bots will only index the content. It is true that using NOINDEX can help if you have many pages in website. Changing CSS will not work.

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There is one solution to this problem that is you can change the layout and another thing which can be done is that you can moderately change or modify the content of the site from the another one in such a way that the google bots cannot find them similar in any way.

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