Duplicate Content: SEO Basics & How To Fix Issues

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Updated 2/5/2024

Learn about duplicate content and what it means for SEO. Find out why it’s a problem, how to fix it, and how to prevent issues in the future.

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Duplicate content is a term used in the field of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to describe content that appears in more than one place on the internet. For example, the content can be identical on the same site or others.

Google and other search engines may not know which version of the content to index or rank for relevant search queries. This confusion can negatively impact a website’s SEO, so understanding how to prevent and deal with duplicate content is vital.

Types of Duplicate Content

While most people who work with websites will only need to worry about duplicate content on their site, there are different types.

On-site

This happens when the same content is accessible through multiple URLs on the same website. For instance, if a blog post and a news update on your website have the same content, search engines will struggle to understand which one to show in search results. Users will also be confused, as they will have difficulty determining the right page.

Off-site

This happens when the content on your website is identical or extremely similar to the content on other websites. For example, if you have a product description on your site and the exact same description appears on a different website, this is considered off-site duplicate content.

The Problem for SEO

Duplicate content is not directly penalized by Google or other search engines. However, when search engines encounter multiple pieces of similar content, they must choose one to display in search results. Consequently, the right content might not be chosen, causing it to rank lower or not be ranked at all.

How to Check Duplicate Content

There are several ways to identify this common issue:

  1. Manual Checking: This is the simplest method but can be time-consuming and is only feasible for small websites.
  2. Google Search Console: Use Search Console to identify pages that Google perceives as duplicates. Duplicate content reports can be found under Indexing > Pages. From there, it should show any relevant errors.
  3. SEO Tools: Tools Semrush, Ahrefs, and Moz can help you identify duplicate content across your website. These are paid options with steep subscriptions, but recommended if you’re making continuous SEO efforts.

How to Fix Duplicate Content

Once you’ve identified issues, there are several ways to handle it:

  1. 301 Redirects: If you have two pages with identical or highly similar content, consider redirecting the lesser-performing page to the better-performing one.
  2. Canonical Tag: Use this HTML tag to tell search engines that certain similar URLs are equivalent. This way, you specify which URL you’d like to appear in search results.
  3. Meta Robots Noindex: Use the ‘noindex’ tag to prevent search engines from indexing duplicate pages. However, this should be used sparingly as overuse can lead to significant chunks of your site being de-indexed.
  4. Content Revision: If possible, revise the content to make it unique. Don’t just vary some words so it passes the robot test. Make sure each page fulfills a different search intent. If they can’t, consider deleting what’s unneeded.
  5. Consolidate Content: If you have several pages with similar information, consider combining them into one comprehensive page.

Preventing Duplicate Content

Here are some steps to prevent issues in the future:

  1. Consistent Internal Linking: Ensure every internal link pointing to a page uses the same URL.
  2. Use a Content Management System (CMS): These often have built-in features to prevent identical pages, such as generating unique URLs for every page.
  3. Avoiding Similar Content: When creating new pages, ensure they’re unique and provide different information from what’s already on your website.
  4. Avoid Posting Syndicated Content: Syndicated content is distributed to multiple websites, leading to duplicate content. If you do syndicate, use a canonical link to the original content.

Bottom Line

By understanding what duplicate content is, its consequences, and how to handle and prevent it, you can ensure your website performs better in search results, resulting in more traffic and higher engagement. ?

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