It would be a bit disappointing if every website you visited on a particular topic, say “kayak repair,” had exactly the same content. If your business sells products or services in this market, you’d want them to stand apart from the competition. Consumers want unique solutions, and Google wants businesses to offer this.
Part of your digital marketing strategy should be to offer an engaging and useful user experience (UX). And this involves posting unique content on your website. If you post duplicate content, whether intentional or not, it could harm your search engine rankings and business results.
Here is what you need to know about duplicate content, some common issues with it, and how you can avoid it in your content marketing strategy.
What is Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content is exactly what it sounds like. There is more than one version of your content found online, whether it is on another part of your website or someone else’s site. If you are posting hundreds of products on your site with the same description but only switching out a few words, this is considered duplicate content.
Google advises website owners to “avoid creating duplicate content.” But the search engine also acknowledges that not all duplicate content is malicious. While you may not intentionally set out to “copy” content from one area of your site to another, it can happen. And, when it does, it will still have negative consequences.
Why Duplicate Content is Bad for Digital SEO
Pages created with duplicated content are terrible for SEO. Not only can they have a negative impact on your search engine rankings, but there is also the possibility of negative consequences, such as another page with the same content outranking your own.
Duplicate content isn’t something you want to ignore. From the search engine’s perspective, usually Google, there is confusion about which page is the authentic one and deserving of higher rankings. When this confusion exists, usually neither page will get much favor.
From the site owner’s perspective, there is the potential for lost rankings and business. The search engines want to provide the best user experience, so will rarely display multiple versions of the same content. When there are duplicates, this dilutes your visibility and negatively impacts your SEO efforts.
Common Duplicate Content Issues and How to Address Them
In a majority of cases, website owners don’t intentionally create duplicate content. But, by some estimates, up to one-third of the web consists of duplicate content. We quote each other or do other technical things on a website that have unintended consequences.
Here are the most common duplicate content issues and how you can address them before they become a problem.
1. Competing Versions of Your Website
If you haven’t told the search engines which version of your website you want indexed, (www.yoursite.com or just yoursite.com), there could be two versions in the search index. You can fix this by entering the settings you want in Google Search Console. You can also create a 301 redirect from one version to the other.
2. Separate Mobile Sites
If you want to be mobile-friendly, you should have a mobile-first website. But some people still have two versions of their website posted - one “regular” and one that is mobile. If you fit this scenario, you can fix the duplicate content issue by adding the rel=”canonical” and rel=”alternate” tags to your page, telling Google that these are two versions of the same page. Ideally, you should convert your site to a responsive design.
3. Trailing Slashes on URLs
Believe it or not, you are creating two distinct pages when you have a page with a trailing slash at the end of the URL and one without. So, these two pages would create a duplicate content issue:
Similar to the www and non-www issue, you’ll want to pick one or the other and create a 301-redirect to the one you want to keep. Make sure you are consistent across the pages on your site.
4. Separate Printer Versions of Pages
If you offer a separate printer version of your website content, Google is likely to view this as duplicate content. In this instance, specifically, Google recommends that you use the noindex tag in the <head> section of your page to prevent the search engine from indexing that version of the page.
5. Content Management System Duplicate Content
If you use a content management system (CMS), you might have duplicate content issues. This is particularly the case with eCommerce platforms that create various product categories. This can be a complex issue if you have thousands of products. One solution is to block certain category and product URLs via Robots.txt.
6. Boilerplate Content
Assuming your business has some content that it wants to add to every page on its site, Google might consider this duplicate content under certain circumstances. It’s considered acceptable if the content is some kind of legal disclaimer you’re required to post or your terms and conditions. But, if it’s a boilerplate sales pitch, you may wish to make it as unique as possible. Otherwise, it could be viewed as duplicate content.
7. Meta Information Duplicate Content
The meta-information on your page (title and description) are some of the first pieces of content the search engine reads. If you have multiple pages on your site with the same meta title and description, this can be viewed as duplicate content. Make sure the information is unique and a true reflection of what is on the page.
8. Scraped Content on Other Sites
If you are scraping (aka “stealing”) content from other websites without giving them credit, you should stop. It’s plagiarism, spam, and not fair to the website's owner. But, if someone else has scraped your content, it could impact your rankings, and you’ll want to address it promptly.
First, find out if that page quoted you and gave you credit for the content. If they didn’t, contact the site owner and ask them to remove the content. If those efforts fail, file a takedown request with Google.
Having a good understanding of duplicate content is one way to prevent it and correct it. But you may not be able to identify all of the duplicate content issues on your website or those that exist on other web pages.
At Connection Model, we offer comprehensive digital marketing solutions to our clients and will help you address issues like duplicate content. Contact us today to learn more about our services and to schedule a free assessment.
Written By: David Carpenter