Duplicate content is an issue that affects most websites at some point or another and can impact a site’s rankings heavily. Luckily, this issue is fixable and its impact can be minimised with due diligence.

In this article, we discuss what duplicate content is, why it’s bad for SEO and a few ways you can address duplicate content issues.

What is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content refers to two or more pieces of content on the web that are exactly, or very close to being, the same.

Google defines it as ‘substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar’.

Duplicate content can fall into one of two categories onsite duplication or offsite duplication – both are damaging issues and need to be addressed properly.

Onsite duplication is when the content appears twice or more on multiple unique URLS on a site. Offsite duplication is when the duplicate content has been published by two or more different websites.

Some examples of duplicate content include:

  • Discussion forums that generate two different versions of the same page, one for desktop and one for mobile devices
  • Web pages with printer only versions
  • Online store items that are shown or linked to by multiple distinct URLs
  • Third party content that you have republished, or a third party has published your original content – either with or without permission
  • Although duplicate content is usually a result of non-deliberate mistakes, some use it strategically in the attempt to dominate rankings and win more traffic. This ultimately results in a poor user experience and leaves Google with no choice but to demote the content.

Why is Duplicate Content Bad for SEO?

Duplicate content is bad for SEO for these two main reasons.

  1. The first one is that it confuses search engines. When several pieces of duplicate content are identified, the search engine has trouble deciding which one to index and rank in the SERPs. This means each piece of content competes against each other, so they all perform poorly.
  2. The second reason is that search engines will struggle consolidating link metrics for the content, they won’t know whether to direct the trust, authority, link equity, etc. to just one of the pages or to split it between the different versions of the content.

Is it a Google Penalty?

Google has confirmed that it doesn’t class duplicate content as a penalty, however the way it handles it has given some the impression that it does.

In reality, Google makes a decision on which URL is “best” to show and filters out the rest so that users aren’t presented with the same content multiple times. Pages that are likely to avoid being filtered out are those that offer unique content which adds clear value for the searcher.

How to Address Duplicate Content Issues

Obviously one of the best ways to avoid duplicate content issues is to make sure every piece of content you publish is completely unique and not copied from anywhere. However, if duplicate content issues do arise, there are a few simple ways to handle them.

  • Use canonical tags to signal your preferred version of any duplicated content on your site
  • Use a consistent URL structure
  • Implement 301 redirects to prevent less favoured duplicate content from being displayed
  • Use the hreflang tag for localised sites
  • Use the noindex meta tag to stop search engines indexing pages with duplicate content
  • Take care when syndicating content
  • Avoid repeating boilerplate content wherever possible
  • Avoid creating placeholder pages that don’t have real content yet

As experts in SEO and content creation, our team has the knowledge, skills and experience to help you fix any content issues you might be facing.

To get in touch with us, give us a call on 01473 934050 or send us an email at [email protected].