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My website has undergone many changes over the past 10 years, as I guess most have, rankings have dropped and over the past few months I have been working on the site and CMS a lot to improve it, but this has a raised a couple of points of discussion...

I have posted another question too which is related, but separate.

How best to handle product variations

My CMS system creates individual product records in the database for every product variation, but links them by title. So, for example: https://www.onlineguitarsales.co.uk/Product/Rotosound-Nickel-Plated-Electric-Guitar-Strings-Purple-Heavy-12-52-p1973 is a packet of Rotosound Electric guitar strings, 12 gauge. There is a drop down list from which you can chose different gauges (the variation on this particular product is gauge, obviously some it's colour, style, size, etc, etc). The "parent" product in the database is https://www.onlineguitarsales.co.uk/Product/Rotosound-Nickel-Plated-Electric-Guitar-Strings-Light-Pink-9-42-p1420.

Although the CMS system creates separate product records for each one, it internally duplicates the descriptions, specifications etc of each variation (there is an option to override this, but we'll ignore that for now), allowing only the Variation Description and the pictures to be different.

Naturally, if each individual page was presented to Google, this would immediately create duplicate content issues.

To overcome this, we have a rel="canonical" tag on each of the variant pages pointing to the "Parent" product, eg, see the <head> tags for the first link above and you will note it contains a rel="canonical" tag referencing the second.

Having read lots on Stack Exchange, SEO Moz, Google, etc, etc, I feel fairly safe that this is the right way to go.

My question is: Should I also add <meta name="robots" content="NOINDEX, FOLLOW"> tags to the variation (non-parent) pages?

  • Why does this deserve a downvote? It's a question to which I can find no conclusive answer. – Jamie Hartnoll Jun 27 '16 at 12:34
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    If you need to modify a question, go to webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/95695/… and select "edit". This is pretty much a duplicate of that question. – Mike Jun 27 '16 at 14:31
  • One or more of these down-votes may have been a result of a flag on the question and not necessarily a person down-voting your question. Fixed this one too! Cheers!! – closetnoc Jun 27 '16 at 14:45
  • @Mike this is not a duplicate, it's a similar question, yes, but referring to an entirely different scenario. The reason for adding these tags is different, therefore the question is different and Google's interpretation, and the requirement for such, is different. – Jamie Hartnoll Jun 27 '16 at 15:30
  • Just to clarify, my question is not about 301s or canonicalisation, but to question whether I should "allow" Google to index variation pages or just the "parent" product... the question being about the trade off of risk of Google seeing it as duplicated content in it's index, against customers not finding the colour (for example) they want when doing a search – Jamie Hartnoll Jun 27 '16 at 15:42
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No, a noindex isn't necessary. The canonical link element should ensure that only the canonical version is returned in search results – so no duplicates – and will benefit from "ranking signals" of the canonicalised (i.e. variant) pages.

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en

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