Content is King; did you just frown? You are not alone; it is a common reaction among many marketers. Nonetheless, the popular phrase coined by Bill Gates has stood the test of time and will stick for the foreseeable future. It is the primary reason you’ve invested considerable time and resources crafting compelling content.
People and search engines like content; your audience finds answers to their search intentions, while search engines use the content to rank your site. It means the more content you have, the better the SERPs. Despite investing in relevant content that establishes your authority and credibility, your sites may not perform as well as you’d hoped.
Your content could tank your SEO; that’s quite a turn, right? Well, you wouldn’t intentionally use content crafted to improve SEO against yourself. So, how can this happen? DUPLICATE CONTENT!
What Is Duplicate Content?
At its simplest definition, duplicate content is a block of content that appears in multiple unique online addresses/ Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). You may have identical, near-identical, or appreciably similar pieces of content on varying domains (external duplicate content) or even the same domain on multiple pages (internal duplicate content) that qualify as duplicate content.
Duplicate vs. Near-Duplicate vs Similar Content
- Duplicate content is identical/nearly identical content. Such content generally confuses search engines since they aren’t sure which content to display. Duplicate content also diminishes user experience since they arrive at the same conclusion.
- Near-duplicate content is very similar to an existing content block but not identical. The content mainly results from variations of the same content on many URLs. Search engines may not penalize near-duplicate content as much as an outright duplicate. The engines can rank similar versions poorly and only show one version in search results.
- Similar content shows similarities in elements like the content structure, ideas, or topic. However, the content is not an exact duplicate and could provide more insights or perspectives on a given topic. It could be an extension of existing content, which means it can add value and improve user experience and search engine ranking.
Do You Have Duplicate Content?
You can quickly answer NO since you don’t engage in “poor” SEO habits. However, remember that search engines can’t tell the original content source. It means you may have considerable duplicate content issues tanking your SEO without your knowledge.
Among the simplest ways to establish if you have an issue is by using duplicate content checker tools. Google Search Console is a good start, which provides more link metrics that can help improve your online presence. You can also take manual action, like copying a sentence from a blog post you suspect has duplicate issues. Copy a sentence with at least ten words, paste it with quotes into Google, and hit search. If more websites show besides yours, you may have duplicate content issues.
Duplicate Content in SEO
Duplicate content is not penalized directly, but you are not clear. Duplicate content could tank your SEO strategy in three main ways:
- Search engine penalties: Search engines can perceive duplicate content as an intentional effort to manipulate search results. The perception translates to reduced search rankings. Even worse, since the search engines struggle to determine the relevant version to display, your pages may not receive optimum rankings for certain keywords. The search engine penalties mean your visibility takes a blow, which tanks your practical SEO strategy. If the engines establish excessive duplication, it could also result in removal from the search results altogether and considerably sink your SEO efforts.
- Higher bounce rate: As users realize the content is available on multiple pages, they will likely leave the website before checking out other pages. Growing bounce rate doesn’t just affect your lead generation and conversion effectiveness. It indicates that the page isn’t as valuable, which is a significant ranking factor. As such, the search engine ranking drops.
- Lower website traffic: For starters, your website’s visibility drops, so you won’t reach an extensive user pool. The growing bounce rate also affects traffic. To top it all, as users find the same duplicate version on different pages, they are unlikely to bother visiting the rest of your pages.
Duplicate Content Penalties: Myth or Reality?
Duplicate content can be confusing, especially with all the myths surrounding it and the impact on SEO. The fact is, duplicate content is not directly penalized by search engines. Sure, it may affect your ranking, but remember, search engines consider various factors when ranking your pages. The crawling and indexing consider how relevant and valuable your content is, meaning if you consistently create and publish unique content, you’ll rank higher than the duplicate sites.
Don’t relax; duplicate content is still a ranking factor and can hurt your pages, especially link equity. Links pass authority and value to other pages. It is the main reason marketers invest considerable resources in link-building campaigns. As you strive to build link equity, duplicate content affects the effectiveness since search engines only choose one page to display. This lowers the visibility of each page with duplicate content, which results in reduced link exposure and equity. Moreover, external sites could link to a duplicate page, which may not be the preferred domain. This dilutes the external link’s value as it links to different page versions.
Here is the kicker: PLAGIARISM! A misconception among many is that search engines like Google can tell the original creator of certain content. They can’t, which means someone can copy your content and pass it as their own. This can result in a plagiarism case, an offense search engines severely penalize. Your pages could be removed and, even worse, face lawsuits. If someone steals your content and claims to be the author, take relevant steps not just for SEO but also to curb copyright violations.
Common Causes of Duplicate Content
Duplicate content can occur deliberately or unintentionally. This means you may have duplicate content without realizing it, which could be among the top reasons your SEO strategy isn’t delivering notable results. Here is a glance at the top ways duplicate content occurs.
URLs direct users to a set page, and while variations don’t necessarily affect them, they can impact how search engines view the pages. The varying views can result in duplicate content, as seen below:
- URL parameters are essential, especially for click tracking and sorting. The parameters don’t change the content on the page. Nonetheless, the URL parameters, including the order they appear, can cause duplicate content problems. For example, www.abcd.com/apples and www.abcd.com/apples/?cat=organic can cause duplicate content. The category lets you track where the traffic originated from, in the illustration, organic apples. While the statistics inform your campaign strategies, the parameters have an unwanted side effect of duplicate content that can affect your ranking.
- Session IDs help you track users’ activities, which can help up your follow-ups. However, the resulting URL parameters can cause duplicate content because each user gets a unique session ID stored in the URL. Examples of the resulting multiple URLs are www.abcd.com/apples, www.abcd.com/apples/?cat=organic, and www.abcd.com/apples?sessid=023.
- Print-friendly versions are excellent as you strive to improve user experience. Even so, search engines can index the printer-friendly pages and the other versions, resulting in duplicate content. You would get duplicate content as the search engines view multiple URLs like www.abcd.com/apples and www.abcd.com/print/apples.
- Maintaining the www vs non-www version and https vs http version can help you reach an extensive pool of users, especially considering varying user preferences. Nonetheless, search engines view duplicate content if you maintain separate versions of www.abcd.com and .abcd.com with the same content. The same applies to the https://abcd.com and http://abcd.com versions.
- Comment pagination is an excellent option, especially if your page’s comment area is very active. Pagination can help improve the site’s speed. It can also create multiple pages, translating to more indexing and increased SEO opportunities. Nonetheless, the pagination can result in duplicate content in the page URL, which can impact search engine ranking. For example, you could end up with www.abcd.com/article and www.abcd.com/article/coment-page-1/, www.abcd.com/article/coment-page-2/, and so on.
Page Titles/Meta Titles
A site with many pages can challenge your quest to generate unique internal links, titles and meta descriptions. You could use the same across the pages, resulting in duplicate content even when each page hosts unique content from the rest.
Bloggers are pretty familiar with content scrapers. The more popular your site becomes, the more the scrapers come knocking. Content scrapers publish your content without your permission. Scrapers do not just target blog posts, though. Scraped content creates a duplicate, but it doesn’t always have to be a problem. At least it shouldn’t bother you, provided the original version outranks the scraped version. If the scraped content outranks your version, take the relevant measures to have it removed since it’ll affect your page ranking and visibility.
Content syndication entails republishing your content on various sites. For example, you can publish a guest post on a high-traffic blog site and republish it on your blog after a while. The strategy helps increase your reach as you tap into wider audiences. Content syndication can bring in more traffic but could also result in duplicate content.
E-commerce sites are the primary site owners that heavily practice content syndication. For instance, you may have resellers market your products. You provide the resellers with your product descriptions, which they publish on their site as-is. This means there are multiple identical product descriptions online, hence duplicate content.
How Can You Address Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content issues can be scary. Even though it doesn’t always have to be a bother, it should be on every marketer’s radar. This is particularly on how you can avoid or deal with duplication. Content duplication caused by content scrapers may be straightforward to address. You only have to contact the relevant authority, such as filing a request with Google for scraped content removal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If duplicate content is caused by your actions, like URL variations or content syndication, here are ways to address it for better SEO.
- Canonicalization: The rel=canonical attribute tells search engines which page version is important. The search engines can treat the rest with duplicate content as copies of a given URL. Canonicalization ensures that such pages’ metrics, including ranking power, are credited to your preferred domain.
- 301 redirect: The approach redirects traffic from duplicate pages to the canonical version. This means the pages work together instead of competing, which can improve the canonical version rank.
- Meta robots tags: Adding meta Noindex robots tag to your HTML head tells the crawlers that you don’t want the page indexed. It means it won’t be chosen and displayed on search results, effectively dealing with duplicate content problems.
- Efficient CMS use: How well you use your content management system (CMS) impacts your efforts to avoid duplicate content. You could be creating content you’ve already published without knowing it, emphasizing the need to understand the CMS better to keep track of your content across various pages effectively. The system can also help you configure URL parameters in a way that consolidates duplicate URLs.
Over 20% of the content on the web is duplicate content; it is quite common. A site with thousands of pages is unlikely to go without at least a piece of duplicate content. This shouldn’t be reassuring to any marketer, though. Duplicate content can affect your SEO, but it is fixable. Fixing even a minor duplicate content issue can significantly improve your search rankings. The most straightforward fix to duplicate content entirely within your control is original content creation.
Quality and authoritative content fulfills user intentions and makes search engines happy, translating to soaring page rankings. Nonetheless, content creation is tedious and intensive, but it is no excuse to resort to duplication. You can leverage professional ContentGo services for consistent, high-quality content across your pages.
Enlisting professional services allows you to focus on your core functions as ContentGo does all the heavy lifting to deliver content aligned to your brand and target audience. You’ll ensure you publish unique content that search engines and the audience love.
Quality content doesn’t just rank better; it drives more traffic to your pages, generates more leads, and improves conversion rates. Content still is and will remain the KING, but not just about any; you need well-researched, crafted, and original content to beat duplication issues, rank better, and win a vast loyal following. Register today and let ContentGo help reshape your content creation for better SEO.