Content creating and publishing as a website owner requires fine work even though the task itself seems simple. Also, the way you handle the duplicate content threat affects your website’s search ranking. No matter what your website is for, personal blogging, small businesses of cooperations, it must be handled correctly.
Despite the fact that Google announced that the duplicate content is not a significant problem that will keep your web pages from indexing, it still affects your ranking. If there are multiple bits of “appreciably similar” on several other web pages, search engine algorithms have a difficult time deciding which content is the original and which one to show on SERP. Check our guide to learn how search engines work.
But what is duplicate content? What does it consist of? And what are the ways to avoid it? Our article presents an in-depth guide to the duplicate content and offers everything you need to know about it.
What Is Duplicate Content?
The brief explanation is this: duplicate content is a piece of content that appears in several other places simultaneously. Those several other places can be a different URL or even a different domain. Also, it can appear on various web pages of the same website.
A duplicated content may appear the same as the original one. Therefore, the content gets copied word-by-word (exact-duplicate).
Moreover, it applies to similar content, even if the words are slightly changed (near-duplicate).
As the internet is an endless well and there are billions of articles about the same issues, creating duplicated content is sometimes unavoidable and happens unintentionally.
Why Does Duplicate Content Matter?
Duplicate content on the same website or different web pages causes trouble to both search engines and website owners.
For example, search engines can not decide which version of the content they should include in or exclude from their indices. Also, they do not know which content should appear and where on search results according to a search query.
As of website owners, they suffer from not being visible on SERP and losing traffic. As a result, their products or services will not be visible and suffer economically as well. However, we will dive into the details of different types of duplicated content to get a better idea of it and prevent any loss.
Different Types of Duplicate Content
There are two main ways of how duplicate content happens.
- Internal: Happens on one single website when a domain creates multiple different URLs for the same page.
- External: Issues when two different domains have a web page with the same contents indexed by search engines.
Both internal and external duplicates can occur as exact or near duplicates.
Issues of Internal Duplicate Content
There are several titles you can look out to on your website to avoid harming your SEO and search engine ranking. After paying attention to internal problems that may cause duplication, you can check what you can do about the external duplicate content problems.
As you start to adjust your website to avoid duplicate content, you can pay attention to two things:
- Page titles and meta descriptions that are unique on the HTML code
- Different headings in relation to other web pages of your website
Even though the title of a page, a meta description, and headings are not the things that immediately catch an eye, they build up the uniqueness of your website. Also, a well-written meta description shows the value of your content to search engine algorithms. However, if you have too many webpages, excluding meta descriptions from several pages is better than writing down the same meta description.
Different URLs, Same Content
This issue is most likely the most common reason why duplication happens. Most commerce websites create different variations of URL parameters that belong to a single product’s page.
For example: ?sku=5136840, &primary-color=red, &sort=new
Print versions of a page with different URLs also generate copied content.
In other words, if a product page has different URLs for every color or size it is available in, hundreds of different URLs will be redirected to the same product. This will result in a search engine trying to index each one or not index it at all. It would be wise to avoid creating URL variations using parameters, if possible.
HTTP, HTTPs, WWW, or Non-WWW Pages
If your content is available with or without entering the subdomain www, and accessible via both HTTP and HTTPS, your pages get duplicated. You need to make sure your website redirects accurately.
Issues of External Duplicate Content
If your website’s traffic is high and you are accessible by appearing on the first page of the search results, your content may get duplicated by other content writers.
Scraped Content (Copied Content)
It is what it sounds like: scraping someone else’s content from their website and using it on another website. Many content writers copy a piece of content or the whole of it and use it to reach out to their targeted audience and increase their website traffic.
If you suffer from your stolen content, you can inform Google about the stolen content using the spam report webmaster tool.
How Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?
As we have stated before, search engine algorithms can not decide how to index duplicated web pages, and in the end, they do not index them at all. Having web pages that do not have unique content will hurt the search engine rankings.
If a search engine can not decide which web page is the “original,” their rankings will suffer, which will lead to traffic loss. Then it becomes a cycle and affects your brand awareness and SEO by not making you visible and not ranking you to appear on SERP.
Ways to Avoid Duplicate Content
So, you have learned much about duplicate content and its effects on your website. Fixing this issue is not as hard as trying to appear on the first page with hundreds of duplicated content. Overall, the only thing you need to do is to specify which one of the duplicates is the original one and make the search engine acknowledge it.
We will explain how to avoid duplicate content so that you can apply it to your strategies.
Setting Up HTTP/301 Redirect
One of the most efficient ways to solve the duplicate content issue is setting up a 301 redirect. It automatically redirects users and search engine crawlers to the “correct” URL and solves the duplicate content issue.
This will result in multiple web pages with the potential of getting high traffic combine with each other and increase their relevancy.
In other words, canonical links are tags embedded into the source code of a website to refer to the original page. With this, you can tell search engines which of the URLs is the correct one and should be on SERP. Rel=”canonical” appears on HTML and looks like this:
Another answer to this problem is telling search engines that duplicated web pages should not be indexed. This will bring clarification for algorithms, and they will index the desired web page to appear on SERP.
Even though Google announced duplicate content not to be a penalty for websites, it can still hurt your SEO and rankings. As a business owner, you should pay attention to the content writing as it is the heart of commercing. We found Matthew Woodward’s video on eliminating duplicate content helpful. Check it out right now.