SEO plays a crucial role in determining the success of a website. However, amidst the various SEO challenges, duplicate content emerges as a critical concern that can significantly impact a website’s ranking and visibility on search engines.

This raises a crucial question: why is duplicate content bad for SEO? In this blog post, we shall delve into the solutions to this inquiry while providing some useful pointers to avoid duplicate content on your website.

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Understanding Duplicate Content in SEO

SEO duplicate content refers to identical information appearing at multiple online locations or URLs. This means that if the same content exists in more than one place, it could be flagged as duplicate content.

Studies have shown that up to 29 percent of web pages contain duplicated content. Determining what qualifies as duplicate content can be tricky. It could encompass anything from a few lines of text to an entire webpage if it appears at various places on your website.

Types of Duplicate Content and Their SEO Significance

Duplicate content can be categorized into two types, each with distinct characteristics.

Internal

This type of duplicate content occurs within the same website and involves user-generated content using different internal URLs. When multiple URLs within the same domain present identical information, it qualifies as internal duplicate content.

External

External duplicate content arises when identical page copies are found on more than one domain and are subsequently analyzed and indexed by search engines like Google. In this scenario, the same content appears across different websites, leading to duplicate content issues in search engines’ eyes.

The Importance of Addressing Duplicate Content for SEO

Addressing duplicate content is critical for SEO due to its significant impact on both search engines and site owners.

For search engines, duplicate content poses several challenges:

  • They struggle to determine which version(s) of the content to exclude or include from their indices, leading to indexing issues.
  • The presence of duplicates hinders the allocation of link metrics (such as trust, authority, anchor text, and link equity).
  • Duplicate content confuses search engines when deciding which version(s) to rank for query results, potentially leading to irrelevant or suboptimal search outcomes.

For site owners, the repercussions of duplicate content can be detrimental.

  • The duplication often results in rankings and traffic losses.
  • The presence of multiple duplicates leads to diluted link equity, as inbound links get spread across various versions instead of consolidating into one piece of content.

Consequently, the search visibility of the duplicated content is adversely affected, hindering its potential to achieve the visibility it would otherwise deserve.

Identifying Common Causes of SEO Duplicate Content

Let’s explore some common ways duplicate content is unintentionally produced.

URL Variations as a Cause of Duplicate Content

1. URL Variations as a Cause of Duplicate Content

URL parameters, like click tracking and analytics code, can lead to duplicate content problems, not just because of the parameters themselves but also due to their order in the URL.

For instance, URLs with different parameter orders can duplicate content, even if the information is the same. Additionally, session IDs assigned to website users can create duplicate content.

Printer-friendly versions of content can compound this issue when multiple versions get indexed. To mitigate such problems, it’s advisable to minimize URL parameters and alternate versions, preferring to pass relevant information through scripts instead.

2. The Impact of HTTP vs. HTTPS or WWW vs. Non-WWW Pages on Duplicate Content

Running multiple versions of your website, such as “www.site.com” and “site.com” (with and without the “www” prefix), can result in the generation of duplicate pages. Similarly, hosting versions at both “http://” and “https://” can also lead to the same problem.

When both versions of a page are accessible and visible to search engines, you run the risk of encountering duplicate content problems.

3. Addressing Copied Content to Avoid Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content extends beyond blog posts and editorial content and affects product information pages. While scrapers republishing blog content are a known source of duplication, e-commerce sites face a similar issue with product information.

When multiple websites sell the same items and use the manufacturer’s descriptions, identical content appears across multiple online locations.

4. Clarifying the Concept of URLs to Prevent Duplicate Content Instances

When a CMS powers a website, it may retrieve the same article in the database through multiple URLs because the unique identifier is the database ID rather than the URL in the developer’s view.

However, search engines consider the URL as the unique identifier for the content. Explaining this to developers helps them grasp the issue, and after reading this article, you’ll be equipped to offer them a solution.

5. Managing Session IDs to Eliminate Duplicate Content Challenges 

To enable visitor tracking and facilitate features like a shopping cart, websites use sessions to store visitors’ activity history, including items in their cart.

The session requires a unique identifier, the Session ID, commonly stored in cookies. However, since search engines don’t typically store cookies, some systems use Session IDs in the URL.

6. Understanding the Role of Parameter Order in Duplicate Content

Using URL parameters that do not alter a page’s content, like tracking links, can lead to duplicate content. URLs with and without parameters are considered distinct for search engines, impacting your rankings negatively.

This applies to all types of parameters, from tracking to sorting products or displaying different sidebars, which can cause duplicate content issues.

7. Resolving Duplicate Content Arising from Comment Pagination

In popular content management systems like WordPress, and sometimes in other systems as well, there is a feature to paginate comments. However, this can inadvertently lead to duplicate content issues.

The comments get duplicated across the main article URL and additional URLs like “/comment-page-1/“, “/comment-page-2/“, and so on. Awareness of this potential problem is essential to prevent SEO complications and ensure a better user experience.

8. Handling Printer-Friendly Pages to Prevent Duplicate Content Concerns

When using a content management system that generates printer-friendly pages and links to them from your article pages, Google will likely discover these pages unless you intentionally block them.

This raises a crucial question: Which version would you prefer Google to display? The version containing your ads and peripheral content or the one showcasing your article? Making this choice strategically is essential to ensure optimal presentation and visibility of your content in search results.

9. Coping with Different Site Versions and Their Impact on Duplicate Content

Sites with different URL versions, such as having both “www” and non-“www” versions or using both “HTTP://” and “HTTPS://“, may inadvertently create duplicate content for each page.

This situation can arise during website redesigns or when transitioning from a non-secure to a secure version of the site, potentially leading to duplicate content issues.

10. Localizing Content to Tackle Duplicate Content Across Regions

Similar content targeted at people in different locations speaking the same language can lead to duplicate content issues. Maintaining different versions of your site for multiple countries with minor differences can result in near-duplicate content.

How Much Duplication Is Ok?

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Determining the acceptable level of duplication in content can be somewhat ambiguous, as major search engines have not set specific guidelines for this.

While SEO experts have attempted to establish thresholds, a general rule of thumb is to ensure that all content is at least 30% different from any other copy. Utilizing tools like “duplicate content checker” or “keyword density tool” can help compare content and calculate the duplication percentage.

Fixing Duplicate Content Issues

Regardless of how duplicate content arises, resolving it to safeguard your SEO rankings promptly is crucial. Start by identifying the duplicate and original versions. Once clarified, you can explore various options for addressing the issue effectively.

1. Preventive Measures

Avoiding duplicate content is straightforward if you take preventive measures.

  • Check for session IDs, duplicate printer-friendly pages, and pagination.
  • Ensure your parameters remain consistent by having your site programmer set them accordingly.

These simple steps can significantly reduce the chances of encountering duplicate content issues.

2. Removing Pages with 301 Redirects

This method is suitable for completely removing page variants and keeping only one primary version. Delete the unnecessary page(s) and implement a 301 redirect from their URLs to the correct primary URL.

3. Content Rewriting

Use this method for pages with multiple variants with unique SEO values. The approach is straightforward: ensure the content is unique instead of duplicate. This involves distinct HTML text, keyword strategies, images, and videos.

4. Implementing Canonical Tags for Variants

Use the rel=”canonical” method for pages requiring the co-existence of multiple variants, like eCommerce product variations, “print” versions, and URLs with tracking parameters.

The rel=”canonical” tag, a meta tag, can be added to any webpage. It informs search engines that the page exists but credits the original content (OC) elsewhere as the primary source.

5. Utilizing Self-Referential Canonical Tags for Pages

Quality work attracts site scrapers who steal content from other websites for their domains. Add a canonical tag to all pages to combat this external duplicate content, referencing the same page’s URL.

This simple measure can deter scrapers, and even if they copy your entire code, the canonical tag will ensure your URL receives proper credit as the source.

6. Applying Meta Robots Noindex

The “meta robots” tag, specifically “noindex, follow,” is valuable for handling duplicate content. Also known as “Meta Noindex, Follow,” this tag can be added to the HTML head of specific pages to exclude them from search engine indexing while still allowing them to be followed for crawling.

7. Configuring Preferred Domain and Parameter Handling in Google Search Console

Based on your URL structure and the reason for duplicate content, setting up your preferred domain or parameter handling (or both) can provide a solution. However, using parameter handling in Google Search Console may only impact Google’s crawlers.

8. Leveraging Site Search

Quickly identify similar or duplicate content through a simple site search. In the Google search bar, type “site:yourdomain.com“, followed by a keyword. This search will display results only from your domain that contain the specified keyword.

9. Utilizing Dedicated Tools

We rely on Screaming Frog for comprehensive site crawling, which offers a paid tool with a useful duplicate content feature. This tool identifies problematic pages and other SEO optimization opportunities, including duplicate page titles and meta descriptions.

10. Employing Links Effectively

Link building is integral to SEO, and link diversity across many platforms can benefit SEO performance. Thus, avoid directing all your links to only one version of the content.

11. Linking Back to the Original Content

If you can’t implement the previous solutions, *consider adding a link to the original article on top or below the content. Including this link in your RSS feed is also beneficial. Though some scrapers might remove it, having multiple links to the original article can help Google identify the canonical version.

Best Practices to Address Duplicate Content

Avoid the pitfalls of duplicate content and ensure a successful SEO strategy by following our best practices to maintain website integrity and better serve your audience. Let’s explore these preventive measures.

1. Emphasize Originality

To avoid duplicate content, prioritize crafting original, valuable content tailored to your audience. Emphasize what makes your website unique within your industry and develop content that showcases those distinctions.

2. Focus on Site Structure

Pay attention to your website’s structure. Implement canonical URLs to prevent duplicate content and inform search engines about the preferred version of a page. This is crucial for dynamic content websites, like e-commerce sites, where the same product may appear on multiple pages.

3. Attribute Proper Credit

Respecting the use of content from external sources is vital. If you find the need to utilize content from another website, always acknowledge the original source and provide proper credit by including a link back to it.

4. Verify Indexed Pages

To identify duplicate content, check the number of indexed pages for your site in Google by searching for site:example.com or using the Google Search Console. This count should align with your website’s number of manually created pages.

5. Ensure Proper Site Redirection

Multiple versions of the same site can occasionally exist. This occurs when the “WWW” version doesn’t redirect to the “non-WWW” version or vice versa. It can also happen during a switch from HTTP to HTTPS without proper redirection.

6. Utilize 301 Redirects

301 redirects are a simple and effective solution for addressing duplicate content on your site, aside from deleting pages entirely. If you encounter duplicate content pages, redirect them to the original source.

7. Monitor Similar Content

Duplicate content isn’t solely limited to verbatim copies from other sources. According to Google’s definition, even technically different content can lead to duplicate content issues. While this may not concern most sites with unique content for each page, certain cases can give rise to “similar” duplicate content.

8. Implement Canonical Tags

The rel=canonical tag communicates to search engines that while duplicate content exists on multiple pages, a specific page should be considered the original, rendering the rest irrelevant.

9. Leverage Tools

Several SEO tools come equipped with features specifically designed to identify duplicate content. One such tool is Siteliner, which scans your website to detect pages with significant instances of duplicate content.

10. Consolidate Pages

For identical content, redirect or use canonical tags. For similar content, choose between unique content for each page or consolidation into a comprehensive page.

11. Noindex WordPress Tag or Category Pages

For WordPress users, automatic tag and category page generation can cause duplicate content problems. To solve this, add the “noindex” tag or adjust WordPress settings to prevent their creation, avoiding duplicate content issues.

5 Myths About Duplicate Content

Here are 5 myths about duplicate content:

  1. Duplicate Content Always Damages Your Search Ranking. While duplicate content can affect SEO, it doesn’t always result in severe search ranking penalties.
  2. Not All Duplicate Content Leads to Penalties. Google distinguishes between malicious duplication and legitimate instances, such as boilerplate content or syndication.
  3. Scrapers’ Impact on Your Site. Scrapers, websites that copy your content, can be a concern, but their actions alone won’t necessarily harm your site’s SEO.
  4. Reposting Guest Posts Doesn’t Provide Advantages. Reposting guest posts from other sites on your own won’t typically yield SEO benefits.
  5. Identifying the Original Content Creator is Challenging for Google. Google struggles to identify the original content creator when multiple similar versions exist online.

These common myths often hinder a website’s SEO performance and understanding the truth behind duplicate content is essential.

How To Check If the Content Is Duplicate or Not

To check for content duplication on your content-heavy website, consider the following methods:

Exact-Match Search

Copy a snippet of text from your web page, enclose it in quotation marks, and Google it. If identical results appear from different sources, it indicates potential plagiarism.

Plagiarism Checking Tools

Enhance your search engine rankings by efficiently identifying content duplication using paid tools like Grammarly Premium or CopyScape.

Boost Your Search Rankings – Let’s Help You Fix Duplicate Content

Duplicate content can hurt your SEO performance, but you don’t have to abandon hope. Avoid similar and duplicate content by taking preventive measures, such as emphasizing originality, utilizing canonical tags, and leveraging tools.

Nevertheless, having an SEO team with specialized expertise would prove advantageous in identifying duplicate content on your website and implementing optimal strategies. With BrandLume’s expert SEO services, you can gain actionable insight and implement strategies to fix duplicate content issues.