Because most duplicate content is unintentional and not plagiarized, Google doesn’t penalize it. However, duplicate content impacts your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Keep reading to learn duplicate content’s meaning, impact, and how to prevent it now!
What is duplicate content in SEO?
Duplicate content is content that’s identical or nearly identical and is found in different URLs. If a page contains the exact same copy as another page, it’s considered duplicate content. Duplicate content can be found within the same website or on pages from different websites.
Does Google penalize duplicate content?
“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.” (Source)
Google doesn’t penalize duplicate content — at least when it’s unintentional.
However, deliberately scraping content from another website and republishing it as your own is discouraged in Google’s Search Essentials’ Spam Policies. Scraping may result in the site ranking lower in search engine results pages (SERPs) or not appearing in SERPs.
How does duplicate content happen?
Most duplicate content published is unintentional. In fact, some site owners may not be aware that they’ve created duplicate content on their site!
Here are four ways duplicate content happens within your site:
1. URL variations
Your site may inadvertently create new URLs when it uses session IDs or click tracking, so what was supposed to be one URL can have multiple ones.
Having a printer-friendly version of a page can also result in duplicate content when other versions of a URL get indexed.
2. Site versions
Does your website have HTTP and HTTPS versions? If you do, you have created duplicates of your site or pages. A website that has versions with and without “www” at the beginning may have also made copies of their pages and website.
3. Scraped content
Scraping content is copying content from one page to another. Sometimes, this is done without malice. For example, two different distributors of the same brand may have product pages with similar copies.
4. Coincidental duplication
Different websites can create and publish similar content. News websites cover the same events. Multiple distributors of the same brand and products may have almost identical category pages.
What is the impact of duplicate content on SEO?
While Google doesn’t penalize unintentionally created duplicate content, having identical content or pages may adversely affect your SEO efforts.
For one, the alternate version of your page may get more backlinks than the version you’ve been optimizing. As a result, the alternate page may also show up in SERPs.
Having multiple versions of a page also dilutes link juice — instead of a single page receiving all the backlinks, it shares it with the duplicate pages on your site.
Duplicate content may also prevent your newly published pages from getting indexed. Each website has a crawl budget. Instead of crawling and indexing your new pages, search engine bots may spend more time and resources on crawling your duplicate pages instead.
How to prevent duplicate content
Now that you know what duplicate content is and its impact on SEO, let’s discuss best practices that prevent duplicate content on your site:
- Use 301 redirects
- Instruct search engines with canonical tags
- Use a meta robots noindex tag
- Avoid publishing duplicate content whenever possible
Let’s dive into each tip:
Use 301 redirects
Using 301 redirects is an excellent way to handle duplicate content. When you’re switching from an HTTP to an HTTPS site, you can inform search engines to go to your HTTPS page instead of your HTTP version by using 301 redirects.
That way, all the users who intend to visit your page go to the HTTPS version even when they try to see the HTTP page.
Redirects are also handy when you need to merge two or more pages and redirect them to a single one.
For example, let’s say you published a blog post that covers a topic you’ve previously written about. You can merge the content into a single page, preferably the higher-ranking one. You can then use a 301 redirect to this page.
Instruct search engines with canonical tags
Do you have a printer-friendly PDF version of one of your HTML pages?
You can instruct Google that the PDF is a duplicate, and it must treat the HTML version as the original one. You can do this by using the canonical tag in the HTML head of the PDF version.
Use meta robots noindex tag
The meta robots noindex tag is a line of code that you can add in a page’s <head> section to tell search engines to exclude it from the index and SERPs. This code looks like this:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>
Using this tag excludes your duplicate content from SERPs and drives traffic to page versions that you’re optimizing.
Avoid duplicate content whenever possible
If you notice that you have a particular page generating multiple URLs for different sessions, consolidate those URLs into one.
You may also have a blog that you regularly update. Regularly auditing your site may inform you of blog posts with similar topics that you can merge into one blog post.
Prevent duplicate content, and boost your SEO efforts!
If you want to boost your SEO efforts and rank in SERPs, it’s important to provide a seamless user experience and useful content. Duplicate content on your site may hurt your rankings and confuse your visitors.
Follow our best practices to avoid duplicate content and boost your ranking in SERPs!
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