Duplicate Content Issues Hurting Your SEO

Duplicate Content Issues Hurting Your SEO

Last Edited May 27, 2018 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization

You have probably heard that you shouldn’t have duplicate content, but have you ever wondered why? Chances are you have heard that it is bad for SEO, but you haven’t really been given a thorough explanation as to why. It is hard to adjust your content to meet certain needs if you don’t even understand what duplicate content is, let alone how it is negatively affecting your SEO. By understanding the effects duplicate content can have on your SEO, you can make necessary adjustments to improve your material.

What Is Considered Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content is content that is very similar or exactly similar to content that is on another web page or website. Basically, this duplicate content will be present on the internet in more than one location. If similar content appears on the web in two different locations, that is duplicate content.

Duplicate content can make it difficult for search engines to determine what version of the content is the most relevant and should be displayed first.

Some companies decide to buy two URL’s in hopes of increasing their traffic. If both of these URL’s house the exact same website, just at a different address—that is duplicate content. Maneuvers like this can actually significantly decrease your SEO based rankings.


Why Is It a Problem?

It is hard for some companies to understand why duplicate content is a problem, especially if their website has duplicate content of its own. The main problem is that people can steal content and use it as their own.

It would be extremely frustrating if you used time and resources to create specific content for your website, and then someone else was able to steal it and use it as If it was their own, free of any consequence. Aside from this aspect, duplicate content also causes Google to struggle. Google isn’t sure how to rank its content because it is stuck trying to generate results between to identical pieces. There simply isn’t an algorithm that allows Google to rank identical content, so it is generally left out of rankings. This results in significant damage to your SEO.

Duplicate content affects both search engines and site owners. The content is probably not going to be very visible, or it may not be visible at all.


What Happens If You Have Duplicate Content?

If Google notices that you have duplicate content, which it will at some point, your site can be penalized. Google is becoming stricter about similar copy because it has become a prominent problem.

If you end up being penalized by Google, it will result in significant consequences for you and your site. Your website would no longer be as present when searched because Google will reassign your ranking, thus moving you from the first page of results to maybe even the 10th.

You may think that if you are caught, you can just remove the duplicate content, and things will immediately go back to normal, but this is not the case. Google could leave you out of search engine results for months to come. This would be a major setback for your website, and it isn’t worth it.


What Can You Do About The Problem?

There are ways you can decrease your chances of having duplicate content. They include:

  1. To begin, you should examine all content and tags that you have used. It is common to catch yourself using similar words and phrases because this is likely a result of your specific tone. It is not alright to completely reuse paragraphs of content. You should thoroughly analyze your site, and if you notice any relatively similar content, you should make some changes.

  2. You can set up certain signals like 301 redirects that will be sent to Google to notify their bots of pages that may have similar content. If you are aware that you have duplicate web content, set up one of these redirects. It basically lets Google know which page is correct and should be considered for rankings.

  3. By now you probably have an idea of what duplicate content is and how you can avoid it. So, on future projects makes sure you are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that your work is unique and not duplicated. There are sites like Copyscape that you can run your content through to check for plagiarism.

  4. You need to make sure that if other websites have picked up your content or press releases that you have written, that these websites are reputable. You won’t be penalized if your content has been posted on a legitimate site.

  5. You need to take action if you have noticed that other websites have stolen your content. If you catch this ahead of time, your SEO will not have to take a hit because of someone else’s mistakes. You can reach out to Google and let them know that the content was originally yours. Make sure that you have proof on hand!

  6. If you do copy from a website, use the rel=canonical attribute to turn over all rights (ranking power, links, and content) to the specified URL that the content was taken from. This will tell search engines that you are just using the content as a reference—not stealing it.

  7. Add Meta Robots Noindex tags to the HTML head of the pages that have duplicate content to eliminate them from a search engine's index. These pages will still be crawled, but you won't be penalized for them.


How Is It Possible for Duplicate Content to Happen?

Many websites will accidentally create duplicate content. There is a significant amount of duplicate content on the web in general. The majority of the content was probably created by mistake. In fact, some website owners don’t even know that duplicate content is an issue. There are numerous ways that duplicate content can be created:

  1. HTTP VS HTTPS: If you have web pages that have the variation with or without the “s”, but similar content on each- that is duplicate content. Many websites purchase both domains because users can easily have a typo. This may seem like a simple change, but it can cause extensive SEO damage.

  2. Variations in URL’s: It is extremely common for there to be many URL variations for one specific piece of content. If you have ever shared a link to print, additional words are added to the URL, and duplicate content is essentially created. If you can avoid it, you should avoid the creation of multiple URL’s. There are some instances when there is too much work involved to find a loophole in the URL variations. Google tends to be forgiving for these cases, but it is still considered duplicate content.

  3. Copied Content: One of the difficult aspects of duplicate content is that it is sometimes okay for two different websites to have the same content. An example of this would-be product descriptions. If two websites are selling the same product, it is only normal that they also have similar content describing their product. There are probably hundreds of pages on the web that contain duplicate content because of their descriptive words associated with their products. Google sometimes tends to overlook e-commerce websites, but sometimes your SEO can take a hit even based on product descriptors.


How to Check Whether or Not Your Site is At Risk

Google Search Console is a great tool you can use to help identify duplicate content that you might have. You need to go into the search console for your site and then check under search appearance and then HTML improvements. It will show you the list of all the URL’s you are using. If you notice that any two are similar, this is not a good sign, and you probably have duplicate content. Your duplicates are most likely not even appearing in search engines because Google is not able to work with your SEO.


You Can You Improve Your SEO

If you feel like your website just isn’t generating the results that it should be, you could have duplicate content. SEO takes a big hit when a search engine has to dismiss a lot of your content because it is present in too many other places on the web. The thing about duplicate content is that it is fixable. You can simply delete the duplicate content, add in page redirects, or purchase an online tool that will literally identify and remove the content for you. You shouldn’t let duplicate content hold back the potential of your website.


Why Is Duplicate Content Still Present?

If Google views duplicate content as such an enemy, why is it still largely present on the web? Nothing is perfect, even Google’s algorithm for SEO. Some aspects of duplicate content still being present on the web may be due to imperfections with SEO, but most issues probably aren’t. The reasons some sites can have duplicate content on their websites without any penalty from Google is because their website isn’t relevant.

If you have a website that is using others content and still isn’t seeing much traffic, Google isn’t going to waste time on it. There are numerous websites that use duplicate content to generate traffic for monetization purposes. These are the focus of Google’s SEO algorithms. This doesn’t mean that you should be encouraged to try and pass off duplicate content on your website, it just means that an unsuccessful website will probably slip through the cracks.


What Should You Do About Guest Posting?

If you have written a guest post for another website and you are wanting to repost it on your website, you can do this. Many people seem to be worried that this will pass as duplicate content. It is technically duplicate content, but there is one thing you can do that will allow this to be seen as permissible by Google. There is an HTML tag that you can add that basically redirects users, and Google to the original content post. This is basically in place so search engines can identify which copy of the content is considered the official version. If you are looking to post content like this, it is important to note that you usually can’t receive monetization from your piece. Most individuals choose to repost their guest work as a way of self-promotion, and this is perfectly acceptable.


Don’t Stress Over SEO

SEO is a very important part of generating traffic to your website, but it should not cause you a significant amount of stress. SEO is actually very easy to incorporate into your webpage, and there are many tools that can walk you through the process. You do need to try and avoid duplicate content because why knowingly risk affecting your SEO. If you are super concerned that your content is present somewhere else on the web, then run it through a plagiarism tool. Many website hosts also offer tools that can help you manage your SEO presence, some of these tools will inform you of duplicate content.


Can Duplicate Content in Landing Pages Affect SEO?

Some companies will have multiple landing pages that have just a slight difference. Say one page is specifically targeted towards one city, and another is targeted toward a different city. Although you are reaching an entirely different demographic, only the city name is changed. This is considered duplicate content, and it can be recognized by Google. Many companies don’t want to rewrite their content for every city, that just isn’t resourceful. You are able to include a canonical tag that helps Google recognize the distinction in your pages. You probably aren’t a fan of the idea of having to do this, but the potential of breaking Google’s policy isn’t worth it. By doing this you can ensure that your website will not see an SEO hiatus, and your traffic should continue to be steady.


How Much Duplicate Content Is Acceptable For SEO?

There is not a magic number that tells you exactly how much duplication is allowed. I mean there is a penalty in place by Google that will revoke your SEO if you have a significant amount of duplication. So, you should not try and push your luck. Some advice against using a significant amount of citations within your work because this has the potential to lead Google to believe that a lot of your content is duplicated. The best way to get around this would be to paraphrase material and then include a reference page.


Why Is SEO Important?

Now that you are aware of the consequences associated with duplicate content, make sure that you are taking necessary precautions to ensure that the content on your website isn’t duplicated and abides by the policies that Google has in place related to SEO. Many people know that SEO is important, but they don’t know much more than that. Without good SEO, your website will not be as prominent as others on the web. It is hard to compete with your competitors if they have high visibility on the web and you don’t. The most successful web pages show up on the first page of results on Google. Most people don’t bother to look at the results on the second page. So, making sure that your SEO rankings land you on the first page of results is very important. This is a highly competitive thing to accomplish, but one strike with duplicate content and you are immediately removed from the page you are on and pushed pages further into the results.

The internet is full of so many different web pages, that duplicate content is just bound to happen. Literally, anyone is capable of creating a website, and anyone can copy and paste material from one site to another. The most important thing is that you understand what duplicate content is, why Google has strong implications in place against it, and what you can do to prevent it. If you have mastered the three of these, then chances are your website will be just fine. SEO is a vital part of directing traffic to your webpage, and without it, your website is basically undetected by outside individuals.

Not all duplicate content is done on purpose, but even accidents can affect your website down the road. If you are concerned that your website might contain duplicate content, take the time to go through and track your information. It is better that you take the time to do this now than have Google inform you of duplication errors. If you notice another website with your content, you can inform Google. If you have proof that this is your original content, Google will not penalize you, and the site with the duplicated content will be penalized as well as forced to take down your material.

Most websites will come into trouble with duplicate content issues at some point in time. The only thing that you can do is to try to get ahead of them. If your website ranks very highly in SEO results, chances are many people will try to duplicate your content. Make sure your website has unique indicators in place, and you have proof to support your content as being original. It is only a matter of time until Google has a question related to your content. AS long as you have evidence to support your case, Google will not be able to penalize you. Even smaller websites should be cautious about the content that they post. Duplicated content is never good for SEO purposes.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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