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by OppGenetix

Duplicate content is content that appears on more than one web page. Duplicate content can be exact word-for-word copies or content that is similar or slightly rewritten. One example of duplicate content would be creating a page that has the exact same content as the original page, except the location(s) mentioned in the new page are different.

In most cases, duplicate content is not a malicious or intentional practice — nearly a third of the web is estimated to be duplicate content. In fact, most duplicate content is accidental and/or non-intentional. Still, it’s not something you want to have because it is bad for SEO.

 

How duplicate content affects SEO

Duplicate content confuses search engines

Search engines take several factors into account when ranking web pages for search results: the number and quality of backlinks, domain authority of inbound links, quality of content, page load times, and more.

Duplicate content makes it difficult for search engines to judge which page is going to be more useful or more relevant to users.

Ideally, search engines try to find the original content and have it rank, but that isn’t always going to work.

 

Duplicate content dilutes search results and hurts rankings

Search engines rarely show duplicate content results to provide the best experience for users. Instead, they show either the original content or the version that appears to be the best result.

This means most of the duplicate content will not be shown or ranked, which dilutes the visibility of each duplicate.

 

Duplicate content hurts organic traffic

If one of your web pages has duplicate content, it may not be shown on the first or second page of the search engine results pages (SERP) or even be shown on the SERP at all.

When this happens, you can be certain your website will experience a drop in organic traffic.

 

How to avoid duplicate content

On-page fixes

Blogger creates original content for his website.

In the world of SEO, on-page refers to the content on a web page: text, images, videos, and so on. These “fixes” should help you avoid creating duplicate content.

Create original content

The simplest way to avoid duplicate content is to create original content. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s an issue we’ve seen with some of our clients. Before working with us, some have used boilerplate content offered to them. The problem with using pre-made or boilerplate content is that your website is not the only one using it, so you’ll be competing for visibility with other websites for the same keyword searches, effectively hurting your SERP position.

Writing your own content is a must if you want your site to rank on the first or second page of Google. If you’re not much of a writer, hire a content writer to do the writing for you.

Paraphrase

You don’t want your website repeating the same sections word for word too many times on different pages. When dealing with pages that host similar or related content, it may be best to paraphrase or rearrange sentences.

An easy way to do this is copy the text into a separate document (Google Docs is a great online word processor if you don’t have Microsoft Word or Pages; if you don’t have a Google account and don’t want to create one, Open Office is another free alternative) and start a new paragraph below each existing paragraph. Use that new paragraph to reword what the old paragraph says using different words or phrases.

Don’t worry if you use the same sentence here or there. The key here is not to have it be entirely the same or by changing things up by swapping out a word or two.

Don’t use a thesaurus for every word. It’s fine to use one every so often, particularly if there’s a word you want to use but can’t quite remember what that word is.

Google’s bots have the capability of reading websites similarly to how people do, so write like a human is reading your page. Using a thesaurus tool to change too many words can make your sentences awkward and unnatural and will likely lead to a drop in your SERP position.

Consolidate content

If you have a few web pages or blog posts that are very similar or highly relevant to one another, you can consolidate these pages or posts into a new page or post that combines the content all together.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not as difficult as you think. Consolidating relevant content into a new page or post is worth putting in the extra time because it’s creating something bigger and more in-depth than the original content would have done on its own. It’s also likely to give you a boost in the SERP rankings, as these pages aren’t competing with one another anymore.

Submit a DMCA takedown request

In the event that someone has plagiarized or stolen your content and placed it on their website, you can submit a DMCA complaint. DMCA is an acronym for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a U.S. law created in 1998 that criminalizes the theft of copyrighted works online.

The moment you create an original work (in this case, content), you own the copyright to that work. If someone takes your original content and places it on their website, they are violating copyright law and the DMCA.

You can send the offending party’s internet service provider (ISP) and/or website host a DMCA takedown request, which asks the ISP or site host to remove or disable your content from the offending party’s website. If your DMCA takedown request is validated by the ISP or site host, your content will be removed or disabled.

For example, you can send a DMCA takedown request to Google that would remove the offending web page from its SERP.

In some cases, the offending party may file a counter request to reinstate your content. If this occurs, you have 10 days to submit evidence to the ISP or site host to show that you have filed a court action against the offending party asking to restrain their use of your content.

Additionally, you have the option to sue for copyright infringement, which can result in up to $150,000 in statutory damages per work infringed and possibly criminal penalties.

When dealing with potential copyright infringement, we recommend consulting with a lawyer to review your legal options.

 

Technical fixes

Woman reviews website's code for ways to eliminate duplicate content.

Even if you’re already creating original content and following the on-page fixes, it is still possible to accidentally create duplicate versions on your website.

For example, if you happen to have a HTTP site that you switched to HTTPS, you might be creating duplicate versions for both HTTP and HTTPS sites. If you also have a print-only version of your website, that may also explain why there’s more than one copy on your website.

301 redirects

If you’ve consolidated content, you will need to set up 301 redirects from old “duplicate” pages to the new “original” page. 301 redirects tell search engines to ignore these old duplicates to go to the new page with updated, consolidated information. They guide users to the updated page as well, which makes a website easier to navigate and find the best information — two things that search engines look for when it comes to ranking pages high on the results pages.

301 redirects also can be used for seamlessly changing website domains or for sites with multiple URLs (HTTP vs. HTTPS or www. or non-www. sites).

Yoast is a fantastic SEO plug-in for WordPress sites that creates 301 redirects for you whenever you remove or rename a page.

Canonical URLs

Search engines want to find the original, or canonical, source of content. If your original content has been published on guest blogs or other online publications, the search engine is not always able to tell which website hosts the original content.

Adding a canonical attribute in the <head> section of a web page informs search engines which page is the original page. Essentially, it’s telling search engines which page is the one it should be indexing on the search results pages.

The following HTML code should be placed on every duplicate page’s <head> section. The URL needs to be the page you want to be indexed. You should also implement this code on the head of the original page (known as a self-referential canonical). Note that the canonical attribute code only works for HTTPS pages.

 

<head>…[code]…

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://example.com/home/” />

…[code]…

</head>

 

Alternatively, adding the Yoast plug-in to your WordPress site makes it simple to add the canonical attribute without having to go through your WordPress site’s theme or source code.

Block search indexing

You can also use a <head> section code known as “meta robots” to prevent search engines from indexing duplicate pages. Like the canonical tag, this only works on HTTPS sites.

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

You can also make this specific to Google:

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

And to Bing:

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”bingbot” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

Or:

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”msnbot” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

Note that this will not work if the page is blocked by a robots.txt file. If it is, crawlers will not be able to see the noindex tag, and the page will still be included in the search results.

The “follow” part of the tag indicates that even though crawlers won’t index the page for search results, they can still follow your site’s links, which can help determine where other indexed pages should be ranked.

Google Search Console

If you’re dealing with different domains (HTTP vs. HTTPS; www. or non-www sites), you can use Google Search Console to set the preferred domain you’d like Google to crawl.

As a general rule, Google prefers HTTPS over HTTP, so we recommend setting the HTTPS domain as the preferred domain. Plus, HTTPS offers site users extra security that HTTP lacks, making it the optimal choice.

 

For more information

If you’re not sure if duplicate content is an issue for your site, fill out our free digital audit form. We’ll let you know the areas where your website is strong and where it needs improvement — and if duplicate content appears to be one of those areas, you can start to create a plan to tackle those issues head-on.

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Why Duplicate Content is Bad for SEO