It’s long been a known fact that websites shouldn’t have duplicate content, but the reasons as to why and how it can affect your SEO rankings are sometimes quite vague. Having a clear understanding as to why original content is so valuable can help you develop a better content strategy without the disadvantages that identical copy can bring to your site.
What is duplicate content?
Large blocks of identical content, or substantial paragraphs of copy that are considerably similar to others, are considered to be duplicate content. Usually, this has been plagiarised content from either other websites or other pages on your own site. There are types of duplicate content that Google doesn’t consider to be malicious though, such as printer-only versions of a web page, press releases or products that are links via multiple URLs.
Google’s algorithm is smart enough to recognise when duplicate content is being used, so, it’s best practice to create unique and original content for your sites pages in order to prevent penalties or being penalised in the SERPs. After all, Google’s goal is to provide users with the most informative, engaging and valuable results that it can; if users are subjected to duplicate content within or across sites, it delivers a poor user experience.
Methods of identifying duplicate content
If you’re unsure as to whether your site has duplicate content, there are tools and methods available to help you identify any content that could pose a problem. CopyScape is a well-known site for checking duplicate content and it works by scanning the web for copies of the content on your site, highlighting offending sites when they’re found. It’s a simple but highly effective process that enables you to ensure that the content on your site is unique time and time again.
If you want to check for repeated content within your own site, Siteliner is a great option. It will analyse your site for duplicated pages or copy and identify which areas of the text have been reproduced.
If you don’t have access to a content checking tool, you can manually search for your content using Google search. You can copy a small excerpt of text, up to 32 words, and then enter it into the search bar to see if similar results show up. While it’s more time consuming, it’s an effective way of identifying duplicate content elsewhere on the web.
When you’re analysing your content, it’s important to look at the trends that crop up so you can work out the best way to avoid them in the future. For example, if you notice that a lot of your content is being taken from other sites, such as press releases or pages that are largely similar in topic and content with only minor changes, you can look to find ways to create a more unique spin on these topics so as to provide the most value to your audience. Likewise, if you’re using a supplier’s descriptions for products that are an exact match, try to find ways to incorporate your company’s branding and tone of voice into the messaging so as to include the information without resorting to direct copies. This can be a little labour intensive but the benefits to your site and search ranking make it a worthwhile task.
Fixing duplicate content on your site
There are various ways to rectify SEO issues related to duplicate content within your site. The first task is to determine which piece of content is the most important so that further content can be canonicalized to appease search engines and make it clear which page is most appropriate for being crawled and which should be ignored.
🛠️ 301 redirects and Rel=”canonical” tags
The best method for fixing duplicate content is to implement 301 redirects, which requires choosing one URL as the canonical, and then sending traffic for the other URLs which host the duplicate content to the preferred URL, via 301 redirects. Utilising this method ensures that a user of your site is taken to the correct page and it also means that pages within your site aren’t competing in the SERPs. A similar tactic is to use a rel=”canonical” tag, if you have the SEO knowledge to implement them, as this is also effective in avoiding duplicate content problems.
🛠️ XML sitemaps
XML sitemaps are great for larger sites as they make it clear to Google and other search engines which pages are considered to be the most important on the site. You can then use a canonical URL for each of the pages on your site and submit them to Google Search Console so that Google crawlers can decide if there are instances of duplicate content.
🛠️ Authoritative content
Arguably the most powerful tool in fighting duplicate content is to create and develop unique copy and focus on quality and originality. If you always create content with your target audience and user intent at the heart of it, the results are more likely to be genuine and leave a positive lasting impression on those who read it. And, it’s not just blogs or web pages this applies to – even platforms like YouTube insist users upload original content that hasn’t been pulled from third party sources, so ensure there’s a clear purpose behind your content strategy. So, as always, quality is the most important aspect to any content marketing campaign.
Staying close to Google’s quality guidelines will help to ensure that your site doesn’t become penalised for duplicate content issues. If your content strategy has the goal of creating credible, informative and valuable content, that is unique and original wherever possible, then duplicate content shouldn’t be an issue for your brand. Try not to panic if you do discover some repetition in content within your site, as the algorithms can usually spot when duplications are unintentional – just try to follow these tips where possible to help you better understand how to perform better in search engine results.