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How does Duplicate Content Impacts your SEO?

Irrespective of whether duplicate content on a site is accidental or the conclusion of someone, it must be addressed and handled correctly.

It does not matter if you manage a website for a small business or a large corporation; each and every site is vulnerable to the threat that duplicate content poses to SEO ranking.

In this blog, we will be explaining to you how to find duplicate content, how to determine whether it is affecting you internally or across other domains too, and how to manage these issues correctly.

What Constitutes Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content refers to blocks of content that are either wholly identical to one another (exact duplicates) or extremely similar, also known as common or near-duplicates. Near-duplicate content is when there are two pieces of content with only minor differences.

It is true that having some similar content is quite natural and at times unavoidable (i.e., quoting another article on the internet).

The Different Types of Duplicate Content

There are two kinds of duplicate content:

  • Internal duplicate content refers to one domain that creates duplicate content through multiple internal URLs (on the same website).
  • External duplicate content, that is also known as cross-domain duplicates, happens when two or more different domains have the same page copy indexed by the search engines.

Both external and internal duplicate content can come off as exact duplicates or near-duplicates.

Is Duplicate Content Bad For SEO?

Officially, Google does not impose a penalty for duplicate content or plagiarism. However, it does filter similar content, which has the same impact as a penalty: a loss of rankings for your web pages and a negative impact on your SEO strategy.

Duplicate content tends to confuse Google and forces the search engine to pick which of the identical pages it should rank in the top results. Irrespective of who produced the content, there is a high possibility that the original page will not be the one chosen for the top search results (which seems quite unfair for some people).

This is just one of the many reasons why duplicate content is bad for SEO. Here are some of the other obvious reasons why duplicate content sucks.

Internal Duplicate Content Issues

On-Page Elements

To prevent duplicate content issues from occurring, make sure that each page on your site has:

  • a very unique page title/headline and meta description in the HTML code of the page
  • headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.) that differentiate from other pages on your website

The page title, meta description, and headings make up a small amount of the content on a page. However, it is safer to keep your website out of the grey area of duplicate content as much as possible. It is also an excellent way to have search engines see value in your meta descriptions.

If you can’t write a unique meta description for each page as you have too many pages, then exclude it. The majority of the time, Google takes snippets from your content and presents it as the meta description anyway. However, it is still a better option to write a custom meta description as it is a critical element in driving click-through rate.

Product descriptions

Understandably, creating unique product descriptions is quite challenging for many eCommerce companies, as it can take a lot of time to write original descriptions for each product on a website. This comes off as an obstacle for them.

However, if you plan on ranking “Rickenbacker 4003 Electric Bass Guitar,” you necessarily have to differentiate your product page for Rickenbacker 4003 from all the other websites offering the same product.

If you sell your products through third-party retailer websites or have other resellers offering your product, then provide each source with a different (and unique) description.

Product variations, like colour or size, should ideally not be on separate pages. Utilize web design elements so that all the variations of a product are kept on one page and engage your audience as well as makes your content more valuable.

URL Parameters

Another common problem with duplicate content found on eCommerce sites (though, not exclusive to eCommerce) comes from URL parameters.

Some websites use URL parameters to generate page URL variations (for example, ?sku=5136840, &primary-color=blue, &sort=popular), which may lead to search engines indexing different versions of the URLs, including the parameters.

WWW, HTTP, and The Trailing Slash

A frequently overlooked part of internal duplicate content is around URLs with:

  • www (http://www.example.com) and without www (http://example.com)
  • HTTP (http://www.example.com) and HTTPS (https://www.example.com)
  • a slash at the end of a URL (http://www.example.com/) and without a slash (http://www.example.com)

A very quick way to check for these issues is to take a part of unique text from your most valuable landing pages and put the text in quotes and search for it on Google. Google will then search for that exact string of text. If more than one page shows up in the search results, then you will have to look meticulously to determine why that is happening by first looking into the possibility of the three options listed above.

If you find that your website has either a conflicting www vs. non-www or trailing slashes vs. non-trailing slashes, then you’ll have to set up a 301 redirect from the non-preferred version to the preferred one.

Note: There is no SEO benefit of using or not using www or the trailing slash in your URLs. It’s a matter of one’s personal preference.

External Duplicate Content Issues

If you have a considerable amount of valuable content of high quality, there is a good chance that it will end up being republished on another website. As flattering as this may sound, you will have to do without it. Here are some of the different ways duplicate content occurs externally:

Scraped Content

Scraped content is when a website owner robs content from another website in an attempt to increase the organic visibility of their site. Webmasters who scrape content can also attempt to have machines “rewrite” the scraped content they robbed.

Scraped content can occasionally be easy to identify as the scrapers sometimes do not bother to replace branded terms or examples throughout the content.

How the manual action penalty works are: a human reviewer at Google will review the website to determine if a page is compliant with Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines or not. If you are flagged for trying to manipulate Google’s search index, then you will either find your website has been ranked significantly lower or removed from the search results completely.

If you are the victim of scraped content, you should notify Google by reporting the webspam under the “Copyright and other legal issues” option.

Syndicated Content

Content syndication occurs when another website republishes your content that, most probably, originally appeared in your blog. It’s not the same as getting your content scraped because it is something you volunteered to have shared on another site.

As insane as this may sound, there is an advantage to syndicating your content. It makes your content more visible, which can lead to more traffic to your site. In other words, you are dealing with content and possibly search engine rankings for links back to your site.

How to Check for Duplicate Content

If you have web pages with rich content that are reducing in their search engine rankings, then you should check if your content has been copied by someone and used on another website. Here we are sharing a few ways you can do this:

Copy a few sentences of text from one of your web pages, then put it in quotation marks, and search for it in Google. By using quotation marks, you’re telling Google that you want results that return that text exactly. If multiple results show up, then someone has definitely copied your content.

Copyscape

Copyscape is a tool that checks your web page text for duplicate content found on other domains for free. If the text on your page has been scraped, the offending URL will show up in the results.

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