Duplicate website content is defined as content that appears on the internet in more than one place. Even if the same content appears under different URLs, it is still classified as duplicate content, because remember, web crawlers look at many different factors on a webpage, with content being one of them. So, if you have the same content on different webpages, you can be sure that the web crawlers are going to deem it as duplicate content.
In this blog post, we are going to dive further into what duplicate content is, why it matters and how to fix it, to make sure your website is not at risk of being penalized by the search engines.
3 Common Forms Of Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is something that can often be created without even realising it. Something as simple as having the same meta description, page title, product description etc. can contribute to certain webpages being deemed as duplicate content. Below, we have include examples of 3 common forms of duplicate content that you may have within your own website.
On-Page elements consist of things such as:
- Page Title
- Meta Description
Even though these particular elements make up a minimal amount of the content within a webpage, it is still good practice to make sure each web page has unique On-Page elements, to avoid any possibility that multiple web pages may be regarded as falling into the category of duplicate content.
It can be challenging to create unique and interesting product descriptions, especially for websites that have large amounts of inventory and product categories. On top of that, it can take a lot of time to write content. If you sell your products through third-party retailer websites or have other resellers offering your product, then it is important to provide each source with a unique description.
Something that is often overlooked, is the importance of url parameters, for example ?sku=5136840, &primary-color=blue, &sort=popular etc. These are used when clicking on a variation of a product leads to a new webpage. With that being said, you should always strive to have all product related content and variations within the same webpage, to prevent search engines indexing different versions of the URLs, including the parameters.
Why Does Duplicate Content Matter?
Duplicate content matters in regards to both the search engines and the site owner.
There are three main issues that are presented by duplicate content with regards to search engines:
- The search engines do not know which content version to include or exclude from their indices (indexing). This can prove a problem because it may result in neither piece of content being ranked.
- The search engines do not know which page they should direct the link metrics to. This includes metrics such as trust, authority, link equity etc. This can prove as another issue when it comes to ranking the content.
- They do not know which versions to rank for search query results. This can prove an issue because if the duplicate content did not exist, your webpage may have otherwise been shown to that particular user upon making their query.
Duplicate content doesn't just matter to search engines, it also matters to the site owners. Site owners can suffer traffic and ranking losses, pushing them further back in the SERPs (search engine results pages). This loss in ranking often comes from two main problems:
- Search engines are focused on providing the best search experience possible for their users, thus being forced to choose which out of the two content pieces is going to be the best result to show. This results in a dilation of visibility for each piece of duplicate content, meaning that both can become affected negatively.
- When another website shares a piece of content on their site, and links back to that original piece, it is called a backlink or inbound link. If some websites are linking to one of the duplicates, and other websites linking to the other duplicate, this can reduce the link equity of both content pieces.
And what is the overall result of this? A piece of content that does not get the ranking it deserves, simply because of its duplicate.
How To Fix Duplicate Content Issues
Fortunately, there are ways to fix duplicate content. More often than not, site owners do not intentionally create duplicate content. In fact, it is thought that up to 29% of the web is duplicate content! We have listed below a couple ways that you can fix any duplicate content issues you may be experiencing, so you can take back those lost rankings.
A 301 redirect is the process of forwarding one url to another url. In the case of duplicate pages, this involves creating a redirect link from the duplicate page to the original page, so the web crawlers and search engine users are taken to the original page. So, what is the result? Well, the duplicate pages stop competing with one another. It also results in a stronger relevancy and overall page popularity.
A canonical tag (aka "rel canonical") is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. This fixes the issue of the search engines being unable to find the original content, and keeps your website duplicate content free.
The canonical tag places a large importance when it comes to handling website management and resolving duplicate content issues. This is because sometimes you cannot avoid duplicate content, and like we have mentioned before, one of the biggest issues with duplicate content, is that it makes it difficult for the search engines to know which piece of content is the original. The canonical tag fixes that.
For example, let’s say that you have multiple products and there is something common to all of them - a set of features, pricing or something else. You will need to have different pages (URLs) that may only have a different title like Product A Pricing or a Pay Now button link. Without setting up a canonical tag, they may all be flagged as duplicate content.
Meta Robots Noindex
Another method that can be used to help tackle the problem of duplicate content is the meta tag, “meta robots”. This tag, when used in conjunction with “noindex: follow” will say to the web crawlers that you want the links on the web page to still be crawled, but not added to the indices (index). Search engines like to be able to view everything within a website, so it is good practice to allow a web page to be crawled, whether duplicate or not, to prevent any penalisation by search engines for not allowing them to view certain content.
How To Check For Duplicate Content
Do you think that your website may display evidence of duplicate content? Well, don’t worry as there are many different tools you can use to check. One of our recommendations is Copyscape. Simply type in your website URL and within a matter of seconds, it will show you any website URLs that show evidence of duplicate content. You can then make sure that you implement one of the fixes above to get rid of the duplicate content.
A similar tool to Copyscape is Siteliner. This tool offers the exact same features as Copyscape, with an additional benefit of displaying site stats, such as, average page size, average load time, numbers of words per page etc.
Another tool you could use is Google Search Console, however with updates to the platform, it is not as clearly shown in the analysis whether content is in fact duplicate content or not, so to be best sure, we recommend sticking with Copyscape or Siteliner, as these are by far the most useful, and widely used tools for checking for duplicate content.
So, do you think your website may include duplicate content? Now is the time to check and take back those potentially lost rankings!
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