Google’s John Mueller answered the question if Google penalizes sites that are nearly identical. Mueller used examples of different levels of similarity between sites and suggested which to avoid.
Will Google rank sites that look alike?
The question posed was whether two sites that looked alike could still rank in Google search.
There was no mention as to whether the content was similar, but John included that scenario in his answer as well.
This is the question that was asked:
“We plan to share the same backend and the same frontend for our two brands.
We rank pretty well with both in Google.
How big is the risk of penalization if we use the same HTML structure, the same components, the same layout and the same appearance between the different brands?
What would be different are the logos, fonts, and colors.
Or would you suggest migrating to the same front-end while maintaining the different experience between the two brands? »
No penalty for looking similar to another site
John Mueller confirmed that if the sites look almost alike, it will not result in any negative action for ranking in search results.
“First of all, there is no penalty or web spam manual action for having two nearly identical websites.”
Next, he explained how Google would handle two websites that share the same URL structure and content.
He continues his response:
“That said, if the URLs and page content are the same on these two websites, what can happen for identical pages is that our systems can choose one of the pages as the canonical page.
This means that we would focus our crawling, indexing and ranking on this canonical page.
For pages that are not identical, we usually index both.
For example, if you have the same document on both websites, we will choose one and show only that in search.
In practice, this is often very good.
If you need both pages to show up in search, just make sure they’re very different, and not just with a changed logo or color scheme.
Google handles duplication with canonicalization
John’s answer is interesting because it gives insight into how Google deals with actual duplicate content where all of the content is identical.
In this case, it says it will canonicalize a version of the content, which means it will choose a version of the content for ranking purposes.
This can be a problem for sites that syndicate their website content, which is why it’s important for websites to require the publisher of syndicated content to use cross-domain canonical.
A reason why there is no penalty
In 2013, Google research engineer (then) Matt Cutts said that up to 30% of all content on the web is duplicated, because that’s just the normal state of the internet.
He cited this statistic as part of an explanation of why Google doesn’t penalize duplicate content because innocent sites would lose their rankings.
Is there a penalty for having two nearly identical websites?
The answer is no, as long as the content itself is not identical.
Watch the Google After Hours hangout at the 11 minute spot where John Mueller answers the question on almost identical websites
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