Duplicate Content on Large Scale travel Websites
Travel SEO is fiercely competitive and historically has seen the brunt of Penguin updates due to large scale blogging networks used for backlink profiling. Large scale websites with very similar products to competitors can often result in questions from Webmasters about the potential of duplicate content penalties.
Do Travel Websites Hold Home to Duplicate Content?
The issue of duplicate content on the web falls into the presentation of content, not necessarily the content itself.
Every day billions of web users consume content from news portals online. These are largely the same stories with varying angles and different insight.
Product pages provided by third party companies or tour operators, which may have also been provided to competitors are the flashing lights of duplicate content. But are they really that bad?
What Does Google Say?
Matt Cutts, Head of Google’s Webspam Team says issues of duplicate content can be easily avoided, with few problems raised.
In a video released in July 2013, Cutts said: “I wouldn’t stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing.”
Further to this, Google often reiterates that duplicate content is unlikely to result in a penalty, it just makes it more difficult for crawlers to know which page should be ranking if many pages across the site are similar.
Google’s John Mueller states sites need to ‘provide real unique value’ on pages.
Travel content managers need not to worry about duplicate content and may consider ways in which to diversify their current offering.
Mueller adds “one kind of really, really strong generic page” trumps “hundreds” of mediocre ones.
What’s more, hundreds (or thousands) of "mediocre" pages could send out signals of doorway pages – so again, diversifying content is a key way to avoid duplicate, or "mediocre" content issues.
Thinking about Page Structure
Page structure is a simple step towards a diverse content offering through pages where content may be from a third party source.
For example, prices can be segregated with heading tags, with the structure of tours also given prominence by the use of heading tags.
This sends a message to crawlers that different content is located at different places on the page.
Elements such as alt tags, link tags and page titles also deserve consideration.
Structuring content uniquely, with additional insight from experts, or user generated content, will improve the website as a whole, diversifying pages which may be similar both across the website and across internet as a whole.
Search Engine Crawling for Travel SEO
Further, a search crawler wants to see priority content ranked higher within the structure of the website, so target pages – potentially destination pages – are given more weight.
This allows website owners to create unique landing pages targeted to search crawlers, with product pages which may be duplicates, highlighted lower in the site map.
Here is a simple example of how travel web managers can structure their website with emphasis on ranking destination pages. In both structure and the build of the sitemap from 0.1 (lowest priority), to 0.9 (highest priority) we can control the emphasis a crawler puts on a page.
Approaching structure in this way has two main advantages.
Firstly, content within the website is structured in a such a way that crawlers can make their way around easily, we see destinations and then products within these destinations. Unique content is given higher priority and potential duplicate content on product pages is shown as an offshoot of these destination pages. A feed into destination pages then creates the ability to show relevant products. Adding these diverse options – such as products, unique insight to destinations is a strong signal that the destination page is what users will want to see when booking a holiday to a particular destination.
The second benefit is the ability to prioritise beyond destination pages for particular products if need be.
For example, destinations where there are a number of holiday types can be tricky. So to have a product entitled ‘Beach Holidays to Country Name’ and ‘Safari to Country Name’ allows for more targeted search results for those in a second or third round of searching, or those looking to book.
Again, targeted product pages can be diversified further.
Targeting Content to Different Buying Phases
Research from Yieldify, published in November 2014, reports that online travel customers shop in phases.
Within an initial ‘research phases’ lasting an average 10 minutes and the return ‘booking phase’ lasting for 28 minutes. The research suggests that if users do not convert on the second phase then they will fail to convert at all.
As such, it is essential not for search engine crawling, but for users, that content is as unique as possible.
This returns us to the first positive of our suggested site structure – which allows for both products and destinations to be targeted to users in the same place, with the most unique content given priority to search crawlers.
Maintaining a Management Structure a Travel Website
Website management also plays a major role in database product management. Creating formulas will give the website uniformity and structure within page titles. This both increases the SEO value and allows content owners of websites to concentrate efforts on unique pieces of work, as opposed to constantly updating titles.
At country level:
[Country Name] Holidays | Company Name
At City Level:
[City Name, Country Name] Holidays | Company Name
At Hotel Level:
[Hotel Name, City Name, Country Name] | Company Name
Managing a product database can be similarly run as well.
[Destination] [Product Type] | Company Name
Using all of the above adds structure to the website and the titles can be pulled from putting the information in the right place on the page when structuring.
Adding a manual override into this can also help, as it means targeted types of holidays in chosen locations can have pages amended.
This then allows for content pages to have more unique titles to be created if need be; a feed onto the selected pages (through a tagging widget) creates regular diverse content on potentially duplicate content pages and continues to increase the value of destination pages.
This latter point will be formed by considerations of content marketing efforts.
Whether a full site restructure or just simple page updates are in place, a migration strategy from one page to the other will be necessary.
This includes managing page updates, page structure changes and the impact this is likely to have on a business.