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Duplicate Content and Its Impact on SEO

Duplicate content significantly impacts a website’s performance and visibility. This blog answers all your questions while sharing must-try strategies to avoid the plight of duplicate content. Read more!

Home / Blogs / Duplicate Content and Its Impact on SEO
Raghav Tayal

Head Of Operations - Digital Web Solutions

June 5, 2024

Duplicate content is a term that sends chills down many spines. It has the potential to cause even the most value-oriented websites to face the dread of falling rankings on search engines and a loss of credibility. While there are no penalties for using duplicate content on a website, the drop in authority can be difficult to regain.

That said, having duplicate content on your website is not the end of the world, and there are multiple ways to address the problem and regain your credibility. If your website recently encountered the worries of duplicate content, this blog will help you understand what it is, the types of duplicate content, and how to deal with the situation in all zen.

But first,

What is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content refers to content that has already been published on other URLs or on different pages of the same website. Notably, duplicate content doesn’t mean the wordings have to be in the exact same order or copy. Content can be duplicated even if it has striking similarities.

For instance:

  1. Original content: Duplicate content negatively impacts website SEO
  2. Rewritten content: Duplicate content can harm your SEO negatively
  3. Content copied word for word: Duplicate content negatively impacts website SEO

While these headings may seem different, they are eventually the same matter being said in twisted ways. 

However, for a content piece to be deemed ‘duplicate,’ it must show the following:

  • Signs of overlaying of words to form the same meaning as the original content piece.
  • No additional information than the original content piece.
  • No value-added content addition to make the content piece more relevant or engaging.

Types of Duplicate Content

Here are the commonly observed cases of duplicate content:

1. Republished content

In such cases, piece(s) of content are taken from a website and are directly republished on another website without any changes. The content in such cases will be deemed duplicate content. Notably, even if you have permission from the original source to republish, your content will still be known as duplicate.

2. Similar content but not identical content

Such cases of content duplication are the most complex ones as they involve content that is not an exact match to the original content but has traces of striking similarities. This often happens when a piece of content is paraphrased to change the sequence of words used without changing the manner in which information is conveyed.

3. On-site duplication

On-site duplication occurs when the same piece of content is published on multiple URLs on the same website. Aside from videos, short or long-form content being duplicated, even using the same meta descriptions for all the pages on the website counts as duplicate content.

4. Product descriptions and e-commerce duplicate content

Duplicate content, in the case of e-commerce websites, is often caused by using the same product description for multiple products. This could be a result of page duplication during website creation or because all the products are nearly identical with minor changes in sizes or color.

While this can be fixed by matching the product specifications to the content, it is still crucial to ensure that even if the products are strikingly similar, they present variations of the content.

5. Non-canonical duplicate content

It refers to a situation where a website has more than one page containing the same content, but search engines consider only one page to be the “canonical” version. As a result, across the web, the same content will be seen for multiple URLs, making it challenging for search engines to determine which one is the original.

If there are no canonical tags specified, the search engine ends up using different types of signals to choose a canonical version of the page on its own. While it may seem convenient to let the search engine choose one for itself, it might not be the ideal solution, as any page at random will be picked, even if the page’s content doesn’t meet the criteria you have set or desired.

How Does Duplicate Content Impact SEO?

Google is not fond of duplicate content. In fact, the search engine spends a lot of its time and effort on indexing and ranking pages with valuable information. A website that has plenty of duplicate content will only make it challenging for search engine crawlers and bots to analyze the pages and determine their true value.

In case the website doesn’t seem adequate for the bots and crawlers, they may end up labeling your website low on credibility and, eventually, authority. Moreover, using duplicate content from high authority and credible websites is also termed as an effort to come across as deceptive and trying to manipulate search engines.

Here’s how duplicate content harms your SEO efforts:

  1. Impacted Internal Linking Structure: It will dilute link equity, lowering their overall impact and making your website full of links that do not indicate high value.
  2. Wasted Crawl Budget: Duplicate content throughout the website wastes the crawl’s budget, eventually resulting in bots not scanning all pages on your website. As a result, a lesser number of pages from your website will have a ranking potential.
  3. Confusion for Search Engine Algorithms: Multiple URLs or versions of the same content make it challenging to identify which piece has the original information, eventually confusing the search engine algorithms when determining which piece is worth displaying.
  4. Lowered User Experience and Engagement: As multiple pages will have the same content, it will become frustrating for your target audience to find the information they want, lowering the user experience and engagement.
  5. Reduced Visibility in Search Results: Once the search engine bots recognize that your website has similar content on multiple pages, it is less likely to show it to others, lowering your online reach.
  6. Potential Penalization by Search Engines: While there are myths surrounding penalization, Google doesn’t issue penalties for duplicate content. It only disregards the website as informative and will lower the ranking, so online users can’t find the website on SERPs.

Common Causes of Duplicate Content

Here are the frequently observed causes of duplicate content:

1. URL parameters

URL parameters, like session IDs or tracking IDs, can result in duplicate content as the same page becomes accessible by multiple URLs. The result of such discrepancies is users not selecting the product, which has a lower impact on the branding efforts the business is putting in.

2. Printer-friendly versions

When multiple versions of the same page get indexed when they are created as print-friendly URLs, for instance, www.helloworld.com/welcome and www.helloworld.com/print/welcome are essentially the same page with the exact same content, resulting in duplicate pages. It is always best to avoid using URL parameters or creating alternate versions of URLs.

3. Syndicated content

Many e-commerce websites create marketing content to expand their reach and prominence online, and without realizing it, they may end up syndicating their content on multiple platforms. Without adequate SEO protocols, this can result in external duplication. Additionally, if the other website with published content has more authority, the same content will rank higher for them than your e-commerce website. Canonicalizing your content to the URL on your website can be a simple way to avoid such situations. You can also request that the website where the syndicated content is posted use an X-robot tag.

4. Session IDs

eCommerce websites often use IDs for URLs (?sid=) with the intention of tracking user behavior. However, it ends up with a duplicate of the core URL (of the page where the session ID has been attached). An alternative and equally effective way to avoid this from happening is to use cookies to track user behavior. You can also consider using the “/robots.txt” file to disallow the crawling of these URLs. This way, the CMS system will not generate session IDs for search crawlers or bots.

5. HTTPS and HTTP versions

If your website has different versions on two different URLs (with or without http:// and https://), then there’s always a possibility that the same content will be available on both the versions. These versions are either created by mistake or are being maintained by the business to capture most of both the frameworks.

6. Canonicalization issues

Canonicalization is the process of signaling to search engines which version of a webpage you prefer to be displayed to your target audience. An error in canonicalization can make it challenging for search engines to find the version you prefer and instead show the page they prefer the most.

How to Detect Duplicate Content?

Finding duplicate content across the World Wide Web can be challenging and time-consuming. Moreover, there’s always a chance of not finding all the pages with duplicate content. Using tools can be incredibly helpful, rapid, and time-saving in such cases.

Tools and methods for identifying duplicate content

Some popular tools used for identifying duplicate content include:

  • Siteliner
  • Screaming Frog
  • Plagspotter
  • iThenticate
  • Copyscape
  • Duplichecker

Manual vs. automated checks

Sr. no Manual Checks Automated Checks
1. Usually, it involves a human reviewer checking the content. Automated tools scan through thousands of pages to find duplicate content.
2. Can identify plagiarism beyond exact matches. Set parameters and rules are followed when reviewing content for duplication.
3. Time-consuming process. May not detect content pieces that are paraphrased.

 

Importance of regular audits

To ensure there is no duplicate content on your website or the syndicated content you share with other high-authority websites, conduct regular audits on your website using a combination of tools.

How to Deal with Duplicate Content

Here are key tactics that will help in dealing with duplicate content on the website:

1. Implementing canonical tags

Canonical tags (also known as rel=”canonical” tags) are HTML codes that clearly indicate the preferred URL in case of duplicate or similar content. Self-referential canonical tags tell the crawlers and bots that the page they view consists of original and credible content.

2. Using 301 redirects

A 301 redirect can seamlessly direct your website visitors and search engines to the original webpage with the content. This method is incredibly beneficial if you do not plan on keeping the duplicate content.

3. Setting preferred domains in Google Search Console

If your website has multiple pages with the same content, adding a preferred domain on Google Search Console will ensure the crawlers and bots go straight to the original (and the best) version of the website.

4. Avoiding boilerplate repetition

Repetitive codes can mess up the overall framework of the website, resulting in duplicate web pages that can hamper search engine rankings.

5. Creating unique, valuable content

The most effective way to avoid the plight of duplicate content is to focus on creating fresh, valuable content pieces that offer a unique perspective on a topic. Aside from avoiding the risk of creating duplicate content in any way, writing your own content multiplies your website’s potential to rank. As search engines across the globe are shifting their focus to providing valuable information to their users, being detailed, authentic, and trustworthy will go a long way in ensuring higher rankings, more organic traffic, and ROI.

Best Practices for Avoiding Duplicate Content

Here are some best practices to ensure your website is free from duplicate content:

1. Consistent internal linking structure

Not all links carry the same value, and as a result, it becomes crucial to identify where you are placing your internal links. Instead of condensing all links on a handful of pages, consider spreading them throughout the website to make it easier for crawlers and bots to find other pages on the website.

2. Properly configure URL parameters.

Setting and configuring the website’s URL will ensure multiple URLs are not created under any circumstances. This is particularly important if you allow users to print content on your website.

3. Utilize rel=”””canonical””” tag

A rel=”canonical” link element is used in an HTML’s head section. It is done to indicate that another page represents the content on the page. The element, when placed anywhere else might not have the same effectiveness.

4. Regularly update XML sitemaps

Sitemaps are important as they allow website owners to assign priority values to individual pages, limiting the crawl budget. As a result, when search engine bots crawl through your website, they will only focus on scanning pages that help increase the website’s rankings.

5. Monitor site performance and indexing

Having a website with valuable content is not enough. To ensure your business website is constantly being seen and appreciated by your target audience, you must track the performance for parameters like organic traffic, click rates, impressions, and goal completions.

Taking note of the indexing aspect is crucial as it is the process of adding the data available on your website to the search engine’s database. Monitoring your website’s indexing performance will help in identifying errors and scope for improvement. Without fixing these issues, your website can suffer the consequences of lower visibility and, eventually, conversions.

Bottomline

When we think of duplicate content, we often imagine the same sentence being present on multiple URLs. However, that’s just a small part of the bigger picture. Duplicate content is diverse, and each has its own consequences (drop in search engine rankings, authority, and credibility).

Finding duplicate content can be daunting, but taking precautionary steps will enable you to approach the situation strategically and prevent any accidental creation of duplicate web pages. Additionally, consistently monitoring your website’s performance and indexing is the key to preventing duplicate content from occurring and creating a ruckus.

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