SEOs and Webmasters alike have spent countless hours evaluating, strategizing and drilling through both basic and advanced SEO techniques to get their site in the good graces of Google. Lest we forget, they have spent and continue to spend a considerable amount of time sourcing data and making adjustments to Google Search Console (GSC) in particular.

Just yesterday, Google made an announcement via its Webmaster Central Blog that it will be saying “bye bye” to preferred domain settings as they migrate to their new GSC experience.

Let’s face it, Google continues to fine-tune its algorithm and sharpen the tools in its GSC shed. It should come as no surprise they will start making primary domain determinations to store within their index when preferred domain settings aren’t set which is, unfortunately, a commonplace issue for less SEO savvy website owners.

Historically, when you didn’t select a preferred domain or canonicalize duplicate URLs to a primary URL (think http:// vs. https:// vs. http://www. vs. https://www., etc.), your site would get penalized for having duplicate content issues. Those days appear to be going away…

With Google taking this new direction, it’s safe to say they’re getting away from arbitrarily penalizing sites for perceived duplicate content issues that technically didn’t really exist due to URL structure.

What Should SEOs and Webmasters Do?

Our advice is to continue to work on selecting your preferred domains and URLs. If you don’t, Google will choose a “canonical” URL for your pages. For some Webmasters and nearly all SEOs, that’s a roll of the dice they’re not willing to gamble on based on their knowledge of their own site pages and what pages are a top priority to have included in Google’s index.

In the event you don’t canonicalize your URLs or 301 redirect all duplicate URLs to their primary counterpart, Google will again choose the URLs they feel will be best for inclusion in their index.

Typical options for consolidating URLs (and authority) to the main pages you want to be indexed and prominently placed in search results, there are three main options for you to consider:

  1. Utilize permanent 301 redirects to point all duplicate URLs to the primary
  2. Create and update your sitemap (HTML and XML are both options with XML being the ideal solution especially for larger sites)
  3. Canonicalize your URLs as either link tags on HTML pages or within the HTTP header

Here at Lead to Conversion, we’re pretty stoked about this latest update over at Google since we’ve heard nightmare story after story about sites getting penalized for unintended duplicate content issues. With this latest update, in theory, fewer sites will feel the hammer of hate imposed by Google for duplicate content issues and we think that is something we can all celebrate.