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SEO is improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site or page from the search engines using natural organic and algorithmic search results (SERPs).

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September 14, 2007

Session IDs are Duplicate Content Too | Not New

Google me this..Yahoo Site Explorer tools can fix ugly dynamic URLs, but Google can't even handle some session IDs. Now, I have been looking into this for a couple of months with 2 of my forums....Running a test actually, and I understand the logic. I mean has Google not publicly denounced their hatred of spam? Yet session IDs can be a very valuable tool in a user generated environment for fighting spam, among other uses. Ideally in the post on the Google Webmaster Blog what happens it that there are many different versions of a page or URL, so Google decides which one is best and uses it. Additionally, they claim:

3. We then consolidate properties of the URLs in the cluster, such as link popularity, to the representative URL.

Yet I see these split in my Google Webmaster's tools....So I am not so quick to believe this. Maybe they do, age old question here....Why the hell to they provide soooooo much information to us in our tools and NEVER anything on our possible supplementals or duplication issues.....Damn wouldn't that be valuable!

They suggest this as a possible solution:

2. Submitting a Sitemap with the canonical (i.e. representative) version of each URL. While we can't guarantee that our algorithms will display the Sitemap's URL in search results, it's helpful to indicate the canonical preference.

I venture to guess that this will NOT work....Here's why, you list this URL in your sitemap, just like Google says, so next they attempt to crawl that page.......But they get Now, yes they found that page, but the session IDs kicked right in...Does Google notice this? When they follow links out from that page do they use the sitemap URL referrer or the actual page URL? I really think this would just screw up. Most of all, what about post pages, hopefully you have a nice busy environment...So are you going to create a sitemap 5 or 6 times a day?

I said in the title this is not new, Vanessa Fox said in 2006:

Minimize the number of redirects and URL parameters [Ed. Note: I’d keep it to 1-2 parameters if possible]. And don’t use “&id=” in the URL for anything other than a session ID. Since it generally is a session ID, we treat it as such and usually don’t include those URLs in the index.

I know that has changed, because my test forum session URLs are indexed. I just don't understand why Google can't get their head around things like this. So my suggestion to you is to kill your session IDs. There are many platforms you should consider this for: many forums and community board software, Zencart, Drupal, and many more. Just make sure you back up before you make any changes, and I would create a new sitemap, especially if you use a generator. At least check to see that the generator has picked up the internal pages that will now be index-able, and that it didn't by chance grab any session IDs before. Wouldn't hurt to ping to!

Peace and SEO

Melanie Prough

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