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Many site owners don’t quite understand when we tell them we found at least 6 versions of their homepage. And to be fair, it’s kind of unfortunate that search engines aren’t smart enough to consolidate obvious examples of duplicated homepages.

Here are the most common occurrences of duplicate homepages:

Example.com/index.php (or .html)
Example.com/home.php (or .html)
www.example.com/index.php (or .html)
www.example.com/home.php (or .html)

Even though you end up seeing the same content at all of these URL’s, they are unique URL’s that can each be indexed by Google, Bing and other search engines.

If your homepage will load (without redirecting) at multiple URL’s like the examples above, you have a great opportunity to make a small tweak that could give you a little boost in the search results.

Link & Authority Consolidation

Perhaps the best reason to eliminate duplicate homepage URL’s is to consolidate all of your links and authority to one URL. As you can see in the screenshot below, this site has some decent links and authority going to www.ledges.com and ledges.com (without the WWW). By combining these URL’s (through 301 redirects), we can consolidate those links and authority to make the most out of what we already have.

Common Homepage Duplicate Content Problems & Fixes
Forcing the WWW: Example.com vs. www.Example.com

If your site has this duplicate content issue, it’s probably affecting all of the pages on your site. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether you force your site to load with or without the WWW as long as you choose one version or the other. My preference is with the WWW. As evolved as the Internet is, it seems that most people still expect (and link to) sites using WWW at the beginning.

Forcing the WWW on your site is a pretty easy fix through the .htaccess file on your apache server.

WARNING: htaccess files can be your best friend and your worst enemy. Make sure you create a backup copy of the original before making any edits.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^domain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.domain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

In this example, you just need to change “domain.com” to your actual domain.

You can also give Google a heads up on your WWW preference by letting them know in your Google Webmaster Tools account. Go to “Site Configuration”, then “Settings” and tell Google if you want to display URL’s with or without the WWW.

Rewriting Homepage and Index Files

Depending on the CMS, language or other technical intricacies of your website, it’s pretty common to have a homepage file like index.html (.php, .aspx, etc.) or home.html (.php, .aspx, etc.). For most websites, this is another quick fix that can be done through the .htaccess file of your apache server.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9} /index.php HTTP/
RewriteRule ^index.php$
http://www.yourdomain.com/ [R=301,L]

In this example, you would just need to enter your website instead of “yourdomain.com” and change “index” and “.php” to match the file on your website.

After fixing both of these issues, your website should resolve to www.yourdomain.com whether you enter yourdomain.com, yourdomain.com/index.html or www.yourdomain.com/index.html. Over the next few weeks, search engines will crawl your site and evaluate the 301 redirects. These redirects aren’t the silver bullet that will push you to the top but it’s one of the many pieces to the puzzle that will help you get there.