In the last few days, the Joomla SEO and Bloggers community have been writing a lot about two posts on the Official Webmaster Blog.
Two posts, one about Demystifying the "duplicate content penalty" and the other on Dynamic URLs vs. static URLs.
From a Joomla webmaster point of view, these items look as if they would turn the world of Joomla SEO upside down…
Yes, Joomla can produce multiple URLs that pint to just one content item and Yes, Joomla is a Content Management System and thus will produce Dynamic URLs.
So it seems only natural that Joomla webmasters and Joomla SEO Specialists will read and react on these posts.
Duplicate Content Issues
So lets see what people are writing, first is Arno Zijlstra on his Joomla Blog , he wrote a short post pointing to the first Google webmasters Blog and About how Google thinks about Joomla! and duplicate content which is followed by some fine comments by Steve from Alledia and I really like the comment of Johan Janssens "Finally ! Been fighting this fight for 3 years now …".
Which is really true and people think multiple URLs to one article is a bad thing from Joomla!, but also WordPress and Drupal will do the same.
But as Adam Lasnik already wrote in 2006 Deftly dealing with duplicate content Google does a good job on filtering the best link to an article itself. (That article has some tips on how to improve things from a search engine point of view)
Vanessa Fox did a kind of follow up on that post also on Duplicate Content also giving pointers to help your site to get better SERP results.
Duplicate content is not the same as having different URLs pointing to the same article, most certainly not if the links are on the same domain! Duplicate content is if you publish your articles on more domains, or use the same text on multiple pages on your site.
See the difference? Multiple pages, not multiple URLs.
Steve did a piece on Joomla and Duplicate Content also in 2007 and I did write some articles about it on my other Blog like Simple things to avoid duplicate content , but the best post was this one on The Duplicate Content Penalty Myth (That Title was close to the Google's blog….back in 2007)
Quote "I'm here to tell you that there is no such thing as a search engine penalty for duplicate content. At least not the way many people believe there is. " … now where did I read something similar…?
Also Barrie North wrote a piece about this Joomla duplicate content issue, also pointing to different URLs and the problem about diluting pagerank between those URLs.
Which brings us back to the second posts from Google's webmaster Blog.
Dynamic URLs vs. static URLs
Joomla in standard installation has URLs filled with parameters, Google is now saying that you can just leave them as it is…or not?
Well no, they are telling you that if you want to do rewrites of your URLs to do it the right way, which means make sure that you have one URL pointing to your article.
O, and just to point out one thing… did anyone notice that the Google webmaster Blog itself rewrites their URL to a Keyword rich one?
Or should I assume that they write there pages in a pure static HTML version?
Looking at this post and some of the examples given, it seems that there are some Cms systems out there that really stuff there URLs with a lot of parameters and adding parameters each time new content is added.
But that is not the case with Joomla, Joomla sites with the basic URLs can get good results in the SERPs but in my opinion and based on my experience that once that are using URLs rewrites are doing even better.
As confusing these two posts can be, they also have some great information on how Google robots and indexing is done.
And no, Google is not the only search engine robot out getting your links, Yahoo and Live can also bring in some traffic.
More importantly, people tend to click on better looking URLs more often because they recognize the topic keywords.
So what to do with your Joomla! site?
For me this is simple, if you already have good rankings, keep doing what you do the way you are doing it now.
Changing URLs now based on the Dynamic URLs vs Static URLs post will surely drop your results.
If you are setting up a new Joomla site make sure you use a SEF Component like sh404SEF that will point all duplicate URLs to just one URL and will send a proper 301 redirect from the standard Joomla URL to the SEF one.
One other point why you should use sh404SEF is that it will give Google a real 404 code on a 404 page and thus cleaning up duplicate URLs over time.
I addition to the sh404SEF component, make sure that you have a Google / Yahoo / Live, oké , oké a sitemap.org complaint sitemap.xml file (ore equivalent) that holds the URLs produced by the SEF component.
That way the search engines will know what URL you think is the best if they find duplicate URLs.
Don't forget to set that path in your robots.txt.
Read the Google webmaster posts and read them carefully, also read some of the comments.
They indeed can be very confusing and send you in the wrong direction as some other Google information looks like it is contradicting to what is written.
Maybe they should follow a short course from Brain Clark on how to write clearly on a technical subject.
Am I changing my advice on SEO on Joomla and WordPress? No! I have seen sites go from page 150 to page 1 on their targeted keywords just by rewriting their URLs.
But if you want to give it a try, just shut down your SEF options, wait for a few weeks and see what happens.
Then please come back here and put your experience in the comments, I would love to read about them then I always look forward to reading about a nice experiment.