What is duplicate content in SEO and how can it be prevented?
January 25, 2022
If you’ve spent more than five minutes learning about SEO, you’ve likely come across the term “duplicate content.”
Although most people know it is bad for SEO, it isn’t always easy to understand exactly what duplicate content is.
For example, does your website’s navigation, footer and sidebar count as duplicate content?
What about writer bios and other content that is the same on multiple pages?
And just how unique does your content have to be to prevent duplicate content issues from occurring?
All these questions and more are going to be answered in this blog post!
Want to work with an experienced SEO agency to improve your content and eliminate duplicate content issues? Here at Racer Marketing, we have extensive experience improving our client’s search engine performance. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions after reading this post, or if you’d like to see how we can best support your business.
Why is it important?
Although Google clearly states that duplicate content doesn’t HAVE to be an issue, they regularly discuss the different issues that duplicate content CAN cause.
This can be very confusing - especially with every SEO expert and their nan preaching endlessly about the negative effects of duplicate content.
With all the different opinions and conflicting information available online, it’s very important that you understand exactly what duplicate content is and when it becomes a problem for your search engine performance.
Even if you choose to outsource your SEO to a digital marketing agency, understanding this will help you better understand the work being done.
What is duplicate content?
Duplicate content is identical or nearly identical content across different URLs. This can be identical content on different pages on the same website or on entirely different websites.
Having the exact same content on different pages across the web visible in the search results is (generally) bad for a search engine user’s experience. There is no added value in having multiple pages containing the same information ranking for the same keyword.
This is why search engines often have to choose which page to rank for a particular keyword, and this is where most of the SEO problems caused by duplicate content originate.
Malicious vs non-malicious duplicate content
Google makes a distinction between non-malicious duplicate content and malicious/deceptive duplicate content. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content include different language versions of the same page with (nearly) the same content (US-English pages on a .com domain and UK-English pages on a .co.uk domain, for example), as well as identical content on a printer-version of a web page.
Malicious duplicate content refers to content that has been duplicated with the goal of manipulating search results. Content that has been copied or scraped (without permission), or just blatantly stolen from another website is a clear example of malicious duplicate content.
Even though the negative impact of malicious duplicate content is easy enough to understand, it’s not just malicious duplicate content that can cause SEO issues.icate content issues in SEO
Although Google has stated that duplicate content isn’t a negative ranking factor, meaning that Google’s algorithm doesn’t penalize pages in the form of a duplicate content penalty, they are clear about the fact that their algorithm will choose one of the duplicate pages to rank. This is done to ensure their users have the best experience when using their search engine, as well as to save resources.
Most issues caused by non-malicious duplicate content are a result of Google choosing the non-preferred version of a web page.
For example, a company may syndicate their content to another website, meaning they copy a blog post and publish a copy of it on another website to improve its reach.
If the correct canonical tag hasn’t been added and Google crawls the syndicated content first, it may choose the syndicated page as the original, ranking the syndicated content and preventing the original content from ranking.
However, duplicate content issues can also be caused by technical SEO mistakes, like the incorrect implementation of faceted navigation or even issues with content management systems like WordPress.
How to find and prevent duplicate content
Finding duplicate content can be challenging and is best done as part of an extensive SEO audit. Some of the most common causes of duplicate content, and thus the first places to look, include:
- Multiple versions of the same URL
Multiple versions of the same URL are often caused by poor website architecture. It is important that different versions of the same URL all 301 redirect to the main version. For example, the following domains are all seen as separate domains:
It is important that a single version of the URL is chosen and the others are redirected to the main version. Luckily, this is an easy fix for a competent developer or SEO.
- Other website architecture problems
There are many other website architecture issues that will require an extensive audit to discover. Some of these include redundant category URLs caused by (similar) navigation paths, duplicate pages caused by different product versions, and old pages that haven’t been redirected to new versions.
- Off-site syndicated (or stolen) content
When your blog post or other website content is published on another domain, it is important that the correct canonical tags are used and the copies link back to the original. When you syndicate the content yourself, this is easy enough to achieve. However, if the content is stolen without your permission, things get a little more challenging.
If this happens, a few things you can do are:
- Submit a copyright infringement report to Google.
- Contact the website’s hosting company with proof the content is stolen, asking them to remove the content.
- Add a canonical tag to the original page.
- If it happens often, link to the original page within your blog posts.
- Working with an experienced SEO agency to fix the problem.
This post on Search Engine Journal offers a great overview of the most common causes of duplicate content and how to fix them!
Duplicate content is a far more extensive topic than one may initially think. Hopefully, this post has provided you with enough information on the topic to be able to understand when duplicate content becomes a problem and how to find the most common causes of it.
If you have any questions after reading this blog post, or you’d like to work with an SEO agency to solve potential duplicate content issues, please feel free to reach out to us. Here at Racer, we have extensive experience helping companies improve their performance in the search engines and we’d love to see how we can help your business achieve its goals.