Duplicate content is the bane of every creator’s existence.
Some people even believe that having duplicate content can warrant a penalty by Google. While it isn’t true that duplicate content gets penalized, having lots of duplicate content can cause issues with SEO and can negatively impact your search engine rankings.
What Is Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content refers to content that has near-similar or duplicate copies found in different places, either on various websites or on different pages from the same website.
It’s on different URLs, and since it appears on multiple sites, search engines are unable to determine which one should be listed higher in the rankings. This could result to both URLs being ranked lower or other webpages, not necessarily yours, ranking higher.
Google, however, notes that duplicate content isn’t necessarily deceptive in origin. It cites the following examples of non-malicious duplicate content:
- Discussion forums with regular or stripped-down pages for mobile devices
- Store items displayed or linked using several distinct URLs
- Web pages displaying print-only versions
There are many instances that can lead to the creation of duplicate content, but it is usually due to technical reasons. Poorly implemented parameters or improperly linked pages may be tagged as duplicate content. Other reasons include:
- Varying URLs
- Separate versions existing in HTTP or HTTPS pages
- Scraped content
Content can be intentionally copied, however, with the intention of manipulating search engine rankings or acquiring more traffic. Google classifies this as “copied content,” and this can lead to a poor user experience and may be grounds for action.
Why Does It Matter?
Duplicate content can hurt your SEO performance. Aside from affecting search engine results and algorithms, duplicate content also affects site owners.
- It can affect your website traffic
Pages with duplicate content are less likely to get organic traffic. When faced with multiple pages having similar content, Google will have some difficulty in detecting which page is the original, thus all pages will struggle with ranking for search results.
Duplicate content also affects where the link metrics are directed.
- Duplicate content may end up outranking your page
While duplicate content or syndicated content doesn’t usually cause any problems, there are rare cases where it does outrank the original page, which can pose a serious problem for site owners with regard to site visibility.
- It can also affect your backlinks
Having duplicate content can affect your link equity. Similar content can attract a number of backlinks, which results in a diluted link equity between URLs as these websites have to choose between multiple pages. Since inbound links affect rankings, having diluted backlinks can also affect website visibility.
Best Practices to Avoid Creating Duplicate Content
To prevent duplicate content from appearing, here are some steps you can observe:
- Add unique content to your website
Avoid scraping or spinning content or adding content that adds little to no value. If your page happens to have similar content, try putting them in one page. In cases of syndication, make sure that, for every site or page where your content is syndicated, it links back to your original article.
- Use 301 redirects
301 redirects are especially handy when it comes to redirecting a duplicate page to the original page, thus minimizing competition among multiple pages. It also proves useful for sites that have been restructured.
- Check different URLs for similar content
Remember that technical reasons are often the cause of duplicate content, so when creating a page, you have to check that your other pages don’t get indexed, especially if you’re running an e-commerce site where different versions of your product may have different URLs.
You can do this by going to Google and typing in “site:nameofwebsite.com” in the Search bar. You can also check for indexed pages using Google’s Search Console.
- Use a different attribute
Rel=”canonical” is a useful attribute to help you determine the canonical URL, or the original URL of a page or piece of content. Google doesn’t recommend blocking pages with duplicate content, but it does advocate the use of link elements like this one and 301 redirects.
- Check that your site redirects properly
Duplicate content can result from websites not redirecting properly from WWW or HTTPS versions to non-WWW or HTTP sites, thus resulting in multiple versions of your site and not just your content. Make sure that when you switch your sites to different protocols, all versions of your website should be collated in one page.