Duplicate content isn’t just a problem from a plagiarism perspective, it also has a negative effect on a website’s SEO. But why is duplicate website content bad for SEO, or search engine optimization?
Search engines use content to decide which page is the best match to the search query to show in the search results. If you have two pages on the same website that have the exact same – or even text that is too similar – you might be confusing search engines and hurting your search rank.
A search engine’s purpose is to crawl the web and find the best answer to a search query. However, when serving up multiple pages with duplicate content, search engines get confused and choose to bypass the pages entirely. If there are multiple pages with the exact same answer, which one should it give credit to? Neither.
The result is that all of the pages using the same content get lowered, while another website with unique content will get ranked higher because it will be seen as more valuable for the search query. That isn’t doing the searcher or the website owner with the most credible information any good.
Why is Duplicate Content a Problem?
Duplicate content matters because it not only confuses the search engines about which site to rank, but also they’re unclear about whether to direct the link metrics to one page or spread them out among different versions. Search engines also don’t know what versions to include and which to omit from their index.
Duplicate content hurts site owners in terms of rankings and traffic losses. Since search engines rarely show multiple versions of the same content, they are forced to choose which version has the best result. This means all the other duplicates will get less visibility. Also, link equity is affected because other sites have to choose between duplicate pieces of content. Inbound links will point to multiple pieces, not just one, which can impact the search visibility of a particular piece of content.
How Does Duplicate Content Happen?
Duplicate content is rarely done intentionally. But, it still happens frequently enough for it to be problematic.
Have you undergone a website redesign? If your site version is not properly set in Google Search Console, you may suffer from lowered search positioning due to duplicate versions of your website being live at the same time. Make sure your website design company knows to set the proper site version and submit the correct sitemap to Google’s search index.
Check out these other common scenarios that can result in duplicate content:
Some sites have a “www” as part of the address while others don’t. If your site has separate versions and the same content is on both sites, you have created duplicates of each page. The same can be said for sites with both http:// and https://. You could run into duplicate content issues there as well. As mentioned above, this can easily happen after a website redesign or when swapping from a non-secure to a secure version of your site.
Duplicate content issues can be a result of URL parameters, such as click tracking and some analytics codes. This can be an issue that relates to the parameters themselves as well as the order in which they appear in the URL. Printer-friendly versions of content can also cause duplicate content issues when multiple versions of the pages get indexed.
To prevent this issue from leading to duplicate content, avoid adding URL parameters or alternate versions of URLs.
In WordPress and some other systems, there is an option to paginate comments. This can lead to content being duplicated across the article URL.
Trailing Slashes vs. Non-Trailing Slashes
URLs with and without trailing slashes are unique in Google’s eyes. If your content is accessible on URLs with a trailing slash and without, you will have duplicate content issues.
If your site has similar content to people in different locations who speak the same language, it can cause duplicate content. Having different versions of your site for people in three different countries with only minor differences will result in versions that are near duplicates.
How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues
In the end, it doesn’t matter how you ended up with duplicate content, the important thing is to fix it before it tanks your SEO rankings. You need to first specify which version is the duplicate and which is the original. After you sort this out, you have a couple of options.
Don’t Let it Happen
The easiest way to avoid duplicate content is to not let it happen in the first place. This means checking for session IDs, duplicate printer-friendly pages, and pagination. You can also check if your parameters are in a different order. Make sure whoever is programming your site puts the parameters in the same order. These are simple things that can go a long way when it comes to duplicate content.
You can set up a 301 redirect from the duplicate page to the original content page. This can help to sort your issues because when multiple pages that can rank are combined into one page, they will stop competing with one another and create stronger relevancy.
Using the rel=canonical attribute can also help deal with duplicate content. This tells search engines that a page should be treated as if it were a copy of a particular URL, and all of the links and content metrics that search engines would apply to this page should be credited to the particular URL. The rel=”canonical” attribute is part of the HTML head of a web page.
The Bottom Line: Contact a Digital Marketing Agency
Being aware of duplicate content issues and why they can be problematic for your SEO rankings is crucial if you want to have a quality website. Avoiding issues that can lead to duplicate content and fixing them when they appear can prevent long-term damage to your site.
Has your website already been flagged by Google as a duplicate site? Learn how to get a Google penalty removed from your site.
If you need help sorting through duplicate content issues, contact the digital marketing experts at TheeDigital. Our SEO experts know just how to sort through the front-end and back-end issues that a website serving up duplicate content issues might have. If you’re ready to solve problems and see results, contact us today!
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