Tackling SEO Duplicate Content: Proven Solutions


The phrase “duplicate content” is one of the most dreadful in content marketing. You’ve probably heard horror stories about how search engines punish websites if they detect as much as a duplicate title or phrase on multiple pages.

In most cases, publishers don’t intentionally create duplicate content. Some phrases are bound to appear over and over again because of common usage. But it’s a growing problem. In fact, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes said about 60% of the web is actually duplicate content!

Before we start tackling SEO duplicate content, let us first define what it is.

What is considered duplicate content?

Duplicate content refers to blocks of content that are substantially similar or identical across multiple web pages or websites. It can occur within a single website or across different domains. 

As search engines aim to provide the most relevant and diverse search results to users, duplicate content presents a challenge in determining which version should be indexed and displayed — potentially leading to a poor user experience.

While Google does not impose a direct penalty for duplicate content, it may filter out or demote pages with duplicate content in its search results. This means that your website’s visibility may suffer, and the affected pages may not rank as well as they could if the content was unique.

In this blog post, we’ll guide you through the process of identifying and resolving duplicate content issues that may be affecting your search engine rankings. We will cover strategies for avoiding duplicate content, implementing canonicalization, utilizing 301 redirects, and analyzing your results to ensure optimal performance.

So let’s dive in and conquer those pesky duplicates once and for all!

Table of Contents:

What is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content refers to the presence of identical information on multiple URLs or locations online. If the same content appears at different web addresses, it can be classified as duplicate content.

But what qualifies as duplicate content? Does it have to be an entire webpage? A block of text? A sentence or phrase?

Here is Google’s definition of duplicate content:

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content in the same language or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

In other words, duplicate content can refer to any piece of content on your website that appears in multiple locations, whether it’s a product description or an entire blog post.

How to Spot Duplicate Content

The most common way to find duplicate content is to run a plagiarism scanner or manually search for specific phrases from your articles.

There are several types of duplicate content you should be aware of:

  • Internal duplicate content: This occurs within a single website when multiple pages have similar or identical content. It could be unintentional, resulting from content management system (CMS) issues, URL parameters, or different versions of the same page.
  • External duplicate content: This happens when identical or substantially similar content exists on different websites. It might arise from content syndication, scraped content, or website cloning.
  • Near-duplicate content: This refers to content that is very similar but not identical, often found across multiple pages within a site. It could be slightly rewritten content or content with minor variations.

Example of duplicate content from Backlinko

Why Tackling SEO Duplicate Content Matters

Before we begin tackling SEO duplicate content, it’s important to understand the consequences of publishing duplicate content on your website.

Duplicate content can lead to:

  1. Lower search engine rankings: When search engines encounter duplicate content, they may have difficulty determining which version to include in search results. As a result, search engines may choose to filter out or demote these pages, causing them to rank lower or not appear at all in search results. This can lead to reduced visibility and loss of organic traffic.
  2. Diluted ranking signals: Duplicate content can split the ranking signals across multiple pages instead of consolidating them on a single authoritative page. As a result, none of the duplicate pages may rank as well as they could if the content was unique, affecting the overall SEO performance of your website.
  3. Poor user experience: When users encounter duplicate content, it can be frustrating and confusing. If they click on multiple search results that have the same or similar content, it diminishes their trust in your website. This can result in a negative user experience and lead to decreased engagement, higher bounce rates, and reduced conversions.
  4. Lost backlinks and authority: When multiple pages on your website contain duplicate content, the backlinks earned by those pages may get divided between the duplicates. This dilutes the authority and value of each individual page, potentially leading to a decrease in the overall backlink profile and the associated SEO benefits.
  5. Missed indexing and crawling opportunities: Search engines may spend resources crawling and indexing duplicate content instead of discovering and indexing new, unique content on your website. This can hinder the discovery and indexing of important pages, resulting in missed opportunities for those pages to appear in search results.

Here’s an excellent illustration from Moz:

To avoid these pitfalls, follow these actionable tips:

Create original content: The best way to prevent duplicate content is by creating original, high-quality content that provides value to your audience. This helps differentiate your website and reduces the chances of duplicate content issues. Invest time in researching topics relevant to your niche and offer fresh perspectives on them.

Scan your content with Copyscape or Siteliner: Copyscape helps you detect instances of plagiarism while Siteliner scans your site for duplicate pages within its domain. These tools are essential in identifying potential issues before they affect your SEO performance negatively.

Tip: If you use Content at Scale for content creation, Copyscape is built into the tool, so you can run plagiarism scans on all your content created in CaS.

request plagiarism scan in content at scale

Avoid boilerplate texts and template pages: If you’re using boilerplate texts or template pages across multiple URLs on your site, consider customizing each page with unique information specific to that URL’s purpose.

Use canonical tags: If you have similar content across multiple pages, specify the preferred version using canonical tags. This helps search engines understand which version should be considered authoritative.

Use parameter handling and URL structure: If your website generates different URLs for the same content due to parameter variations, set up proper parameter handling or use URL structures that consolidate the content under a single URL.

Noindex thin content pages (optional): If certain low-quality pages don’t provide much value but still need to exist on the website for other reasons (e.g., legal disclaimers), consider adding a “noindex” tag to prevent search engines from indexing them.

Monitor User-Generated Content (UGC): If your website allows user-generated content such as comments or forum posts, be vigilant in moderating and removing duplicate submissions. This ensures that your site remains unique and valuable to both users and search engines alike.

By taking these steps, you can steer clear of issues with replicated content and boost your SEO effectiveness.

Fix Duplicate Content with Canonicalization

If you have similar content across multiple pages, specify the preferred version using canonical tags. This helps search engines understand which version should be considered authoritative.

Canonical tags are a lifesaver when it comes to SEO and duplicate content – they help search engines identify the original source of a page, ensuring it’s indexed and ranked correctly.

Google’s guide on consolidating duplicate URLs offers valuable insights into using canonical tags effectively.

Adding Canonical Tags to Your Web Pages

To implement canonicalization, add a <link rel="canonical"> tag within the head section of each web page with duplicate content issues, pointing to the preferred URL or “canonical” version of that page.

Self-Referencing Canonical Tags for Unique Content

Use self-referencing canonical tags as a preventive measure against potential future duplication issues for unique pages without any duplicates.

Cross-Domain Canonicals for Syndicated Content

For syndicated content from other sources or republished work, use cross-domain canonicals pointing back to the original source to maintain proper attribution and avoid ranking penalties due to duplicated material across different domains.

Using Google Search Console for Verification and Troubleshooting

Verify that your canonical tags are implemented correctly and monitor any potential issues using Google Search Console (GSC).

Use the URL Inspection tool within GSC to check individual URLs for proper canonicalization and ensure search engines recognize them as intended.

Implementing canonicalization is essential to help address duplicate content issues on your website. It helps search engines understand which version of a page should be indexed and ensures proper credit is given when using syndicated or republished content.

Screenshot from Semrush

Eliminate Duplicate Content with 301 Redirects

If you have different versions of the same content or have moved content to a new URL, implement 301 redirects to ensure that search engines recognize the correct page and transfer the ranking signals.

These redirects permanently point one URL to another, consolidating your site’s authority into a single version of the page.

  • First, use tools like Screaming Frog or Ahrefs Site Audit to identify duplicate pages.
  • Next, choose your preferred version of each page to be indexed by search engines – this is your “canonical” URL.
  • To set up the redirects, use .htaccess or Nginx for server configurations, or plugins like Redirection or Yoast SEO Premium for WordPress.
  • Always test your redirects to ensure they’re working properly, and update any internal links pointing to redirected pages.

With 301 redirects, you can eliminate duplicate content and improve your site’s SEO performance – like a magic trick for your website.

Screenshot from Moz

Analyzing Your Results After Tackling SEO Duplicate Content

So, you’ve tackled duplicate content. Now it’s time to measure your SEO performance.

First things first: Google Analytics. This powerful tool helps you track key metrics like organic traffic, bounce rate, and average session duration.

A noticeable improvement in these areas indicates success in reducing duplicate content issues.

Next, monitor crawl errors using Google Search Console. Fewer crawl errors related to duplicate content mean your efforts are paying off.

Evaluating keyword rankings can also provide valuable insights into how well search engines understand your site’s unique content. 

Semrush, for example, is a fantastic resource for tracking changes in keyword positions over time.

Here are some more metrics to track after tackling SEO duplicate content:

  • Increase in indexed pages: A higher number of indexed pages signifies that search engines recognize more unique content on your website.
  • Better visibility score: Improved visibility scores indicate better overall SEO performance and less confusion caused by duplicate content issues among search engine crawlers.
  • Rise in organic traffic: An increase in organic traffic shows that users find value in the originality of your site’s information and visit more frequently as a result.

Screenshot from WebFX

Conclusion

Don’t freak out about SEO duplicate content – it’s a common issue, but there are ways to tackle it.

One strategy is to use canonicalization, which tells search engines which version of a page is the original.

Another effective method is to use 301 redirects, which send users and search engines to the correct page.

Regularly analyzing your results is key to ensuring your efforts are paying off.

Remember, unique content is king, so focus on creating original, high-quality content that sets you apart from the competition.

Categories SEO
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About the author

Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is an 8x author and a leading strategist around creating exceptional content and presence that lasts online. As the VP of Marketing at Content at Scale, she helps marketers achieve insane ROI (3-10x their time back at 1/3rd the cost) in a new era of AI as a baseline for content production. She's been named in the top 30 of all content marketers worldwide, is the founder of Content Hacker, and recently exited her 100-person writing agency with a desire to help marketers, teams, and entrepreneurs find the keys of online success and revenue growth without breaking.

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