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During SEO audit for a client I noticed that they had over a dozen duplicate websites that are carbon copies of the main website. This was done via CMS platform and DNS. One of the mirror sites has about 400 indexed pages and has Moz DA of 42 and 137k External Equity-Passing Links (all pointing to the main website). Full metrics comparison is below:

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I originally planned on doing rel="canonical" on the mirror site but the CMS vendor never even heard of it and is refusing to implement it in the header. My only other option is doing one to one 301 redirects.

Since the mirror site ranks well, even competes with main domain for some positions on the 1st page of SERP, what will be the impact after the redirects? Is doing 301's still the best option?

  • It seems to me to be the only option since you cannot do a canonical tag. BTW- what a silly @$$ vendor! Are they idiots?? – closetnoc Jun 15 '16 at 17:55
  • @closetnoc I only hesitate because it has a good DA. You don't think the 301's will lose juice? Trying to see what the overall impact might be. Don't want to tell client that they lost half of their traffic because we got rid of the mirror site. – dasickle Jun 15 '16 at 19:32
  • 301's pass the value of the link through to the target domain (or most of it). However, you are right in some respect. I see 301's as a temporary thing - meaning that you will want to create a link profile to the preferred domain equal or better than the improper domains. Time will naturally take care of some of that. However, I always recommend creating as many links as possible as quickly as possible so that the improper domains can be deleted/removed later. Keep in mind that the 301's really do not solve the canonical problem, but do make things better. – closetnoc Jun 15 '16 at 19:46
  • In otherwords, with the 301, Google will still credit the improper domain in search, however, it should remove the duplicate content issue. The canonical tag tells search engines where the credit really belongs. Keep pinging the vendor though. It is absolutely ridiculous that they refuse to make such a simple change for a standard and required feature of the web. It should be a really simple/no brainer code change. Especially if templates are used. – closetnoc Jun 15 '16 at 19:51
  • How are you going to implement the 301s? The rel="canonical" doesn't need to be in the HTML, it can be implemented as an HTTP response header (although if the redirects - HTTP headers - are all managed by the CMS, then that would indeed be tricky). – MrWhite Jun 16 '16 at 8:10
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Creating multiple identical websites and linking back from them to the main website is nothing but an aggressive attempt to web spam and influence the ranks of the main website. With Google rolling out Penguin and Panda updates, it's only a matter of time that all the websites (including the primary one) is nailed by Google for a violation of their quality guidelines.

To avoid getting into such a situation, the best approach would be to 301 all the websites to the main website. To be on the safer side, I would redirect them in batches instead of all at once.

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Whatever you are doing is against the Google guideline. But lets jump to the answer.

The best way would be redirecting it to the main website. The only problem with this is, after redirecting your website, you will start losing SERP position for the mirror website. Google will keep only one website in the ranking. so it is better to understand which website is doing good in the organic ranking and the visitors. If you are sure that the ranking of the mirror website is not that important then add 301 redirect to complete website.

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