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Questionable SEO techniques

Country-specific sites and duplicate content filters: Scout, Scout, you are out!

Search engines consider duplicate content a sort of weed that must be eradicated in order to show users only the most relevant pages. So if Google's index includes multiple URLs that lead to the same content, Google uses the "Duplicate Content Filter" to refine search results and ensure that only unique pages are returned to its users.

Ideally, a multi-national company should maintain separate sites for each country - this way search engines can easily determine which site to show searchers from different countries.

But what if you have only one domain and several versions of your site in the same language (say, English) and want to target several English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, India, the UK, the USA) with the proper country-specific version of the site? This means your site has duplicate content and Google will filter the duplicates and leave the "original" on, at its discretion (for instance, all Google users will be served only the USA version that is no good for them).

So, if you don't have regional domains for every country you operate in, and you host all the content on the same domain, do the following:

1.     Create a subdomain or a subfolder for each version of your regional content. Plan your site architecture depending on your possibilities and conditions.

2.     Localise the content; re-write pages so that visitors from each of your targeted countries can find those pages useful.

3.     Place a portion of unique content on a page that has duplicate content. Most SEOs nowadays agree that 30% of the content on each page should be unique. You may use the random content method (add a poll to your page, or any dynamically renewing content such as a box with a local weather feed if it makes sense for your site) to make a part of page content unique.

4.     Set the target location for your site visitors in Google Webmaster Tools.

You can specify individual subfolders and subdomains of your site as targeted for regional audiences. In order to do so, you need to add each of the subfolders or subdomains to the Webmaster Tools and set the geotarget for each of them.

If no information is entered in Webmaster Tools, Google will continue to make geographic associations largely based on the country-specific domain (for example, .co.uk or .de) and the IP address of the web server that delivers the content.

Note: The tool handles geographic data, not language data. If you want to reach all speakers of a particular language, you probably should not limit yourself to a specific geographic location.

5.     Add your business location to Google Local Business Center; this will bring local visitors who search the Google Maps.

6.     Get linked from regional sites; this will help your site's country-specific version to rank higher in the regional search results.