Duplicate content is content that appears on the internet in more than one place. That “one place” is a unique website address or URL so, if your site has the same or “appreciably similar” content as Google refers to it, then you’ve got duplicate content.
Duplicate content can cause problems because if you have multiple versions of the same page, search engines can be difficult to decide which version of the page is the most relevant for a given search query. This can negatively impact your rankings in search results, which is why duplicate content warnings should be dealt with quickly.
Why Worry About Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content causes problems for both search engines and site owners, according to Moz. The three main problems it causes for search engines are:
Search engines don’t know which versions of a page to include in the index and which versions to exclude.
They don’t know whether to direct link metrics to one version of the page or divide the different page versions’ metrics.
Search engines don’t know which version to rank for query results.
Duplicate content causes two main problems for site owners as well:
Search engines aim to provide the best experience possible for a search engine user, which means that search engines seldom show multiple versions of the same content. This dilutes the visibility of duplicate versions of a page because search engines won’t include them in search results.
Other websites will have a hard time determining which page they should link to if you have multiple versions of the same page. Rather than having a single high-quality page with multiple inbound links, which is a major ranking factor, your inbound links are spread out among different identical pages, which dilutes the impact.
What Causes Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content is rarely created on purpose by website owners. Despite this, there is still a ton of duplicate content out there on the internet. Two of the most common ways duplicate content ends up on websites are:
HTTP vs. HTTPS pages –If your site has two separate versions, one that starts with HTTP:// and starts with HTTPS://, and both sites live with the same content, it has effectively created duplicates of all of those pages.
Copied content – This applies to more than just your blog posts and other editorial content. If you are an e-commerce website and use manufacturers’ descriptions for products on your site, you could have the same content as other sites selling the same items. Google could then view your page and a page on another site as duplicates of one another.
Thin Content vs. Duplicate Content
Like the example below, thin content warnings can harm your rankings as well. Thin content is content on your site that has little to no value to a user. When you think thin content, think of pages like low-quality affiliate pages or doorway pages that are meant to manipulate search engine rankings and get a user onto a site but offer very little value beyond that. If you are dinged for thin content on your site, make sure to improve your pages that seem light on the content so that you don’t risk harming your ranking or having your site removed from search engine indexes.
How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues
There are many ways to fix duplicate content issues, but they all function on the same central idea: telling search engines which duplicate pages is the “correct” one.
If you have content on your site that exists on multiple different URLs, there are a few simple tools that you can use to fix the possible problems associated with duplicate content.
Redirect duplicate pages to the original page – The easiest way to avoid duplicate content is to redirect duplicate pages to the page you want to be considered the original. This tells the search engine which page should be ranked and will transfer the positive ranking factors of duplicate pages to the original page.
Canonical linking – Setting up a canonical link is similar to redirect a page. Basically, canonical links tell a search engine that a given page is a copy of a different page. The search engine should rank the original page instead. Canonical links are also written directly into the page’s head, requiring little time to implement.
Noindex duplicate pages – Noindexing also only requires a simple tag in the head of your duplicate page. Pasting the HTML code tells search engines that you don’t want the specific page indexed, so there’s no chance that it will compete with your other pages for rankings.
Need Help with Duplicate Content Warnings? Hire a Professional SEO Company
If you’ve had trouble dealing with duplicate content warnings and you think that it’s time to call in help, then it’s time to call a professional SEO company. An SEO company can handle your content and website maintenance to focus more on running your business and less on chasing down duplicate content on your site.
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