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We're working on a site and have come to a choice between one long (not too excessive) main page and several subpages.

The subpages would have custom meta/title/h2 elements and the content that corresponds to them.

The main page would have all the content and many more inbound links (pagerank) and with longer content encompassing the content we'd put on the shorter pages.

Which would be better for SEO and traffic in general?

Both schemes are very usable to the user although we are a little concerned with duplicate content (the page's header/footer and other elements remain the same).

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I tend to go with multiple smaller pages. You don't need to worry about duplicate content in the header and footer, Google and other search engines are aware that some content gets replicated through every page.

The nice thing about smaller pages is that the content is focused on that one subject. If you have a whole site worth of content on one page I think search engines would be find it difficult to find out what the page is about. They might not rank it as highly as a concise shorter page that only talks about one subject.

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If you have only one web page then it will most likely cover several topics and thus not be focused on any one topic. This will make it more difficult to get that page to rank well for one specific topic (you only get one page title, one h1, etc). If you break it down into multiple pages you will be able to focus each page on a specific topic. Additionally, interlinking your pages will also give you a (very) small boost as you will have the advantage of anchor text and PR transfer.

FYI, having the same header and footer does not count as duplicate content. If it did every website would have only one page in the index. Duplicate content only applies to the actual content on the pages.

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There is always a happy medium here, but no hard and fast rule, as it varies by topic.

This question can't really be answered properly without knowing the type of content or subject matter. But in general:

  • only break out content into a separate page if the topic being broken out is significant enough to warrant it's own page.
  • If you do break out a piece of content within a larger topic, include just a summary in the main page (presumably, there will also be other summaries for related subtopics), and the meat and detail go to the sub-page. If you are merely duplicating sub-topics to the new page, don't bother. It adds zero value.

Example: Look at any popular band on wikipedia.

  • The main article will contain a summary of their albums, usually under a heading called discography. It will contain a list of albums, and potentially some small details e.g. year and or a brief description.
  • Each album typically links to a sub-page dedicated to in-depth info about that album which doesn't appear on the band's main page. The sub-topic (the album) contains enough information to warrant the sub-page.
  • You wouldn't create sub-pages for just the ablum's year, and another for just the album's title, because it's just one piece of info, etc.

In conclusion:

  • don't just duplicate the content into sub-pages.
  • if you DO create a sub-page for a sub-topic of the main page, spend the time to research the subtopic and create a full and complete piece of content.

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