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I'm working with a site design that calls for two distinct headers and accompanying sets of navigation; however, the nav links within both are identical. I have one header with the id "main" containing a "primary" nav; I also have a fixed header that reveals via jQuery when the user scrolls beneath the primary navigation; this fixed navigation is within a header with the id "fixed" containing a nav with the id "fixed-nav."

My question, therefore, is whether effectively doubling the navigation element in this way would have an adverse effect on SEO? Also, would it matter at all how the header/nav elements are placed within the markup? For example, the placement of the fixed header could be at the very bottom of the page, given that it's positioned absolutely; however, I currently have both headers placed in a row, one after the other, at the top just under the opening body tag.

  • Okay, you explained things really well. Not too many questions are this clear. But what escapes me is why the two navigational units. Can you explain the motivation/concept more so that we understand? – closetnoc Nov 7 '14 at 4:16
  • Yes definitely, happy to provide clarification-- the primary reason is that both forms of navigation are very different structurally, and note that this is only an issue on the homepage. Basically, the client wants the nav links initially displayed in the form of a "business card" placed at the upper-right on the homepage; and when the user scrolls past this initial set of links, a fixed nav bar will slide down revealing the same links above for easy access. I suppose the same links could be injected via jQuery or something along those lines, but this is the general concept. – nickpish Nov 7 '14 at 4:20
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    I knew there was a good reason. I am thinking on this a bit. Not sure that there would be much of any SEO effect positive or negative. Just know that Google generally excepts the first link on a page so these would have to be tuned for SEO first. Also, Google is doing all the new rendering work to analyze how a site is seen by a user. It might get confused somewhere along the line, but sometimes you just have to try things to see what happens. – closetnoc Nov 7 '14 at 4:26
  • Hm ok, thanks. Maybe it would be wise to place the fixed header at the bottom of the page, as I'd prefer for Google to see the "primary" links as just that; is there any reason to think that Google's algorithm takes into account the ID names assigned to elements? – nickpish Nov 7 '14 at 4:29
  • You know what? That is a good question, but I do not think so. It maybe that they will get smarter about checking code, but I cannot remember seeing anything along these lines. Based on what you described, it sounds like you are okay, but perhaps someone will know more. I tend to be rather old school and only experiment around from time to time. I do know SEO fairly well and I have been at it a long time. I am semi-retired and only do research to support others and fiddle around the edges for fun. I could not leave IT entirely! I am a weird sort of a geek that way. – closetnoc Nov 7 '14 at 4:41
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Having a duplicate set of navigation links isn't going to change how Google sees your site much. In fact, when Googlebot encounters a second link to the same destination in a page, it generally ignores it:

  • PageRank is only passed to the first link
  • Anchor text only counts for the first link

Having duplicate navigation is very common. I've worked with sites that do so for several reasons:

  • Left column navigation and duplicate header navigation: in testing they found that users prefered the left column navigation once they were familiar with the site but that new users often couldn't find it and noticed the header navigation more
  • Navigation in a menu and in the footer: Navigation in a drop down menu can't be found with ctrl-f search, so it was duplicated in the footer for those users.

Because providing duplicate navigation can help usability and because so many sites do it, Google isn't going to have any problems with it.

The only caveat that I would add is that it might be tempting to add rel=nofollow to the links in one of your two navigation sections so that Googlebot pays attention to the other. Don't do that. If one set of links has nofollow, Googlebot treats both sets of links as if they had nofollow. Google's logic is: "If the link can't be trusted in one place, why should it be trusted in another?"

  • How does Google handle nofollowed links? In general, we don't follow them. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Essentially, using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web. However, the target pages may still appear in our index if other sites link to them without using nofollow, or if the URLs are submitted to Google in a Sitemap... Source: support.google.com: Use rel="nofollow" for specific links – Matěj Kříž Jan 8 '18 at 13:14

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