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Duplicate content is a common issue that affects search results and rankings. It occurs when the same content appears on multiple pages or domains. 

In this article, we’ll explore what is duplicate content exactly, why it matters, and how it impacts SEO. We’ll also learn about the causes of content duplication and find practical solutions. 

Hence, keep reading to avoid the adverse effects of duplicate content on your website’s search engine optimization.

What Is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content refers to the appearance of the same or similar content in more than one place on the internet. It can happen on the same website or across different websites. In the context of SEO, duplicate content is not a penalty, but it can still affect search engine rankings. 

Search engines can have difficulty determining which version of content to display in search results when they find identical or very similar content on different web pages. This issue can result in lower rankings for all instances of the content. 

It’s essential not to have the same content in multiple places on your website, whether on purpose or by accident. This ensures that each page has unique and helpful information, which is better for SEO rankings. 

What Is Duplicate Content?

You can use a tool to check if your content is duplicated elsewhere and ensure it’s only on your site. It will help you avoid adverse effects on your search engine rankings. For example, if you have a blog about how businesses can use social media to grow, you want to provide valuable information and advice to your readers.

Now, imagine that you want to get more traffic to your blog. Therefore, you can republish this blog post on another website you own. Alternatively, you could have someone else copy and paste your entire blog post onto their website without giving you proper credit. You now have two identical versions of your blog post in both scenarios online. 

If you need help in avoiding content duplication on your website, consider using the SEO audit service. By working with experts, you can make sure your website’s content is optimized correctly and free of duplicate content problems. Outsourcing your SEO tasks can save time and help you focus on other essential parts of your business.

Why Does Duplicate Content Matter?

For Search Engines

When the same content appears on different web pages, search engines can find it challenging to choose which one to display in their search results.  It can lead to issues where the link metrics (like how many other websites link to your page) get divided between the different versions, or search engines may need to know which version to prioritize. 

For Search Engines

Having multiple copies of the same content on a website can make it hard for search engines to decide which version to show in search results. Remember that search engines prefer unique and relevant content. 

For Site Owners

Having the same content on multiple website pages can cause big problems for site owners, especially if you’re trying to attract visitors through search engines like Google. These search engines want to show users the best and most original content. 

Therefore, if you have duplicate content, they might not include your pages in their search results. This can mean less traffic to your site and fewer potential customers. To avoid this, ensure your website has original and unique content on each page.

When multiple copies of the same content exist, search engines can confuse which version to rank higher in search results. This confusion leads to lower search rankings and decreased visibility. It can result in lost traffic, fewer leads, and lower conversion rates for site owners. 

For Site Owners

In addition, content duplication can hurt your website’s reputation. It can make your website look unoriginal or like you copied someone else’s work, making people distrust your website. Plus, search engines like Google might penalize your website for having duplicate content, which can cause your website to appear lower in search results or not appear. To avoid this, ensure your website has unique content on each page and doesn’t copy from other websites.

Multiple versions of the same content on a website can also cause links to be spread across different versions of the content, reducing the website’s search visibility. To avoid these issues, website owners should focus on creating original and unique content to maintain their website’s search engine ranking and traffic.

3 Causes of Duplicate Content

Most people who work on improving website visibility know “what is duplicate content” and try to avoid it. However, it can still happen unintentionally for different reasons. Website owners don’t mean to have duplicate content, but it’s pretty common, and up to 29% of web content is the same on different pages. 

Avoid duplicate content and maintain good search engine rankings by understanding what causes it. The three common causes are: 

URLs

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, a unique address for identifying and locating online resources. It’s the address of a website or a specific page that enables web browsers to access and display the content on that page. You can use URLs in various contexts, including links in web pages, bookmarks, and search engine results.

URLs

Multiple URLs leading to the same content can cause SEO duplicate content issues. It happens when a website’s filtering feature generates different URLs with similar or duplicate content. Each filter combination adds a parameter to the URL, creating many different URLs with the same content. This issue can confuse search engines as they determine which URL to include in their search result.  

For example, a product page on an e-commerce website may have filter options for size, color, and price range. Each filter combination produces a unique URL. However, the content on the page may remain mostly the same. It can dilute the visibility of each page version and spread the link equity among the duplicates, impacting the search visibility of the content.

When a website has URLs that end with a forward slash (“/”) and URLs that don’t, Google treats them as separate pages, even if they have identical content. The same problem can occur when there are different URLs for mobile and desktop page versions with similar content. 

To avoid problems with duplicate content, website owners can use the tag Rel=”Alternate” to ensure that the mobile-friendly URL matches the desktop version. This action tells Google that the mobile-friendly URL is an alternative version of the desktop content. It’s important to regularly check and fix any issues with having duplicate URLs on your website. By doing this, you can improve your website’s rankings and make it easier for people to find it.

HTTP, HTTPS, WWW

When multiple website versions have the same content, they are duplicate websites. Search engines may confuse about which version is the main one, which can cause confusion and lower rankings.

HTTP, HTTPS, WWW

If a website has HTTP and HTTPS versions, search engines may see these as separate websites, even when the content is identical. The same goes for variations with or without the “www” prefix.

Having multiple versions of the same website can cause several issues. It can reduce the strength of individual web pages and confuse search engines and users. To avoid this problem, website owners must ensure that only one version of their website is accessible and visible to search engines.

Scraped or copied content

Scraped or copied content can cause duplicate issues. It involves publishing identical or near-identical content across multiple websites, including yours. If other websites copy or scrape your content, they create multiple versions of the same content online. This can cause several problems related to duplicate content, including:

  • Similar content confusion: Search engines can get confused when there are several similar versions of the same content, leading to lower search engine rankings for all versions. 
  • Penalty for duplication: When search engines detect duplicated content, they may consider it as an attempt to cheat or trick their system to get better search engine rankings. It can result in a penalty, lower ranking, and decreased visibility for the website.
  • Content trust issue: When there is duplicate content, users can get confused and need to know which version is trustworthy. This confusion can lead to a decrease in user engagement and trust in your website or brand.
  • Diluted link impact: It can cause links to spread out among the different versions of the same content. The links that would have helped boost the website’s search visibility and ranking are spread out and less effective. 
Scraped or copied content

When online stores copy or steal product information from other websites, it can create the same problem as duplicate content. Many websites use the same descriptions provided by the manufacturer, which results in duplicate content across different websites. This issue can confuse search engines when determining which website is the original content source.

7 Practical Solutions For Duplicate Content

To solve the duplicate content issue, website owners can determine which version is the original and use technical SEO like 301 redirects, the “rel=canonical” attribute, or Google Search Console’s parameter handling tools to indicate the primary page. Here are some practical solutions to prevent content duplication:

1. 301 redirect

A 301 redirect is a long-lasting redirect that sends traffic from one URL to another. When a web page is lost or no longer exists, they can use a 301 redirect to automatically send visitors and search engines to a new location. It transfers the link equity and ranking signals from the previous URL to the new one. For this reason, it is a vital tool for maintaining the SEO value of a page.

“301 redirect” is a simple technique that involves editing the website’s .htaccess file. Using a 301 redirect can be an effective way to manage duplicate content problems.

301 redirect

Why is 301 redirect a practical solution for content duplication? It allows website owners to specify which version of the content should be considered the canonical or original version. By shifting all duplicate versions to the original page using a 301 redirect, search engines will know which version of the content to index and rank in their search results. 

301 redirect also consolidates the ranking signals of all versions into one page. This action not only helps avoid any penalties for duplicate content but also strengthens the authority and relevance signals of the original page. It will lead to better search engine rankings. 

2. Rel= “canonical”

What are canonical tags? The rel=canonical attribute tells search engines which page is the original or canonical version of a piece of content. You need to add the rel=canonical tag to the HTML head of each duplicate version of a page and specify the URL of the original page. Search engines will then understand which page to rank and credit for links and content metrics. 

Rel=canonical is a way to avoid duplicate content problems and maintain search engine rankings by combining the ranking power of multiple pages into one page. It’s a faster and easier solution than setting up 301 redirects, making it ideal for websites with many duplicate pages.

Rel= "canonical"

Let’s say you have an e-commerce website that sells a particular brand of shoes. You have several pages on your website that provide information about the shoes. There are product descriptions, specifications, and reviews. However, due to technical issues or other reasons, some of these pages are accessible through multiple URLs, such as:

  • example.com/shoes/product123
  • example.com/shoes/product123/?ref=homepage

To avoid the risk of duplicate content issues and ensure that search engines treat the correct page as the canonical (original) version, you can use the rel= “canonical” attribute. You would add this code to the head section of each duplicate page:

<head><link rel="canonical" href="" /></head>

This tells search engines that the canonical version of the page is the one with the URL example.com/shoes/product123. Then the search engines will attribute any links, ranking power, or other metrics to that page.

3. Meta Robots Noindex

Another practical solution for content duplication is the meta robots tag with the value “noindex, follow”. It allows website owners to exclude specific pages from search engine indexes without completely blocking search engines from crawling them. Include this HTML element in the page’s head section to exclude a page from search engine results. 

Meta Robots Noindex

Using this tag lets website owners keep the search engine from indexing duplicate content while still allowing them to crawl and follow links on the page. It benefits pagination issues where many pages have similar content but different URLs. 

By using the “noindex, follow” tag on these pages, search engines can understand that they should not be indexed but can still crawl the links and understand the pagination structure. Ultimately, this ensures that the correct page with the original content is the one that appears in search engine results. As a result, your website’s overall ranking and visibility will improve.

4. Preferred Domain And Parameter Handling 

Try setting the preferred domain and specifying parameter handling in Google Search Console. They allow you to signal to search engines which versions of your URLs are canonical to index. 

By setting the preferred domain, you can avoid having your site’s www and non-www versions competing in search results. And by specifying parameter handling, you can tell Google how to handle URL parameters, such as those used for tracking or filtering. This method avoids having multiple versions of the same content indexed.

Preferred Domain And Parameter Handling 

However, it’s important to note that parameter handling in Google Search Console only affects Google’s crawlers. Therefore, you may need to use other web admin tools for different search engines. Using top-level domains can also help Google understand which content is country-specific and should be ranked accordingly. 

5. Content Similarity Minimization

Minimizing similar content means changing the content to eliminate or reduce duplication. By doing this, each page on the website will have unique and valuable content for users. This is crucial for improving search engine optimization (SEO) and enhancing the user experience.

Reducing the similarity between your website’s content can make it more valuable and relevant to your audience. It can lead to better search engine rankings, more website traffic, and increased visitor engagement. So, ensuring your content is unique and valuable to your target audience is crucial.

Content Similarity Minimization

For instance, if a travel website has identical pages for two cities, the website owner can merge the pages into one or create unique content for each page. By doing so, the website owner can eliminate content duplication and provide more valuable content to visitors.

Knowing “what is duplicate content” and several tools can help you check if your content is a duplication version on other websites or online platforms:

  • Copyscape: This tool offers a free URL search with results in seconds. It helps to identify duplicate content by highlighting exact matches of the content on other web pages.
  • Dupli Checker: Allows you to perform a text search or upload a text file to search for URLs. The tool is entirely free, with unlimited searches when you sign up. Before you sign up, you can try it out once. The tool scans for duplicate content in just a few seconds.
  • Siteliner: This tool scans a website for duplicate content, page load time, words per page, internal and external links, and other SEO-related issues. Paste the website URL into the tool to scan the site. Depending on the website’s size, the scan can take a few minutes, but the results are well worth the wait.

And even more

There are some other methods that you can use to prevent duplicate content besides the solutions mentioned above:

  • Use the same URL format: Include or exclude a subdomain like “www”. This will maintain consistency in internal linking throughout your website.
  • Use a self-referential rel=canonical: This method will protect your content from being copied by others. By linking your existing pages, you can prevent content scrapers from stealing SEO credit for your work.
  • Add backlink: Include a backlink to the original article on each page or article. It will improve your content’s overall quality and credibility and establish your content as the original source.
And even more

Frequently Asked Questions

Duplicate content can harm your SEO by confusing search engines and splitting ranking signals. When multiple pages have the same content, it becomes difficult for search engines to determine which page is the most relevant and should be ranked higher. This problem can result in lower search engine rankings and reduced organic traffic.

Having the same content on your website as other websites can be a problem. It’s best to make your content unique. But sometimes, this is challenging, like when using manufacturer product descriptions. In such cases, you can use “canonical tags” or “301 redirects” to show search engines which version of the content you want them to use.

Conclusion

In summary, it is crucial to understand what is duplicate content, why it harms your website, and how to solve it. Duplicate content can harm your website’s SEO and user experience. Therefore, taking proactive measures to prevent it can save you time, money, and headaches in the long run. Keep following us for more valuable tips on maintaining good SEO practices.