We're about to release a mobile app that will be described in several locations on the web and in app stores. I've been under the impression that duplicate content in multiple places hurts SEO. Is that true? If yes, how different do the pages have to be?
The reason that duplicate content is a problem is this...
If you have the same content featured in several places – whether multiple pages on one website or spread over a number of different sites – Google is then struggling to decide which is the best one to put at the top of the rankings. That's particularly true if you've got some links pointing to one page and some to another – you might have twice as many links overall as your next competitor, but because they're split between 4 pages it looks as though your best page only has half as many links as your competitor. Which means that Google is less likely to rank your page high up.
I know that's a very simplistic description of how Google calculates where to rank a page, but the essence is that by spreading your content over lots of different pages, you're diluting the googlejuice that flows to any one page, which means that you're less likely to get a top ranking than if you were to concentrate all that googley goodness into just one page.
So it isn't a case of making the content different to meet some arbitrary target that Google has ... it's more a case of thinking about how you are going to strategically position your site in the marketplace. If people are searching for something and your app would be a good result for them, which page do you want to appear at the top? Ideally, you would use a <link canonical> tag to point to the one page that you want to be the definitive #1 result.
If you don't have full editorial control and so can't get canonical tags put in, make sure that you get a prominent link to the one definitive page on your site on each of the clone pages. Google is well used to this kind of distributed marketing, it's very common on the web, and if all the clone sites are linking back to one original site, it should be pretty obvious which one is the definitive site in terms of which one Google will give top ranking to.
Not all of the pages have the same purpose. Two of the pages, Facebook and the web site are meant to drive traffic to iTunes and Google Play, depending on the user's device. Google Play and iTunes are meant to drive downloads, so the goal is to get them to the top equally. Amazon also has an Android download, but I'm not trying to drive traffic there.
The one place that I have full control is my web site. Since it will have links to the app stores an argument could be made that this should be the goal for the top rank, but I assume I'd lose significant installs if an extra click is required. In any case, the page would bleed off to the app stores unless I cloaked the link.
Facebook is part of the social viral strategy. I would assume most Facebook traffic would originate from within Facebook.
I may be worth mentioning that all promotional activities will have links to iTunes and Google Play stores. That includes reviews, PR etc.
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