How Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?

How Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?

When it comes to the best search engine optimisation practices, quality content creation is one of them. If you tailor your content marketing strategy properly and create quality pieces that are relevant to your niche and your target audience, the results will only follow. It’s the key to getting more traffic and being recognised as a relevant and credible source by Google. 

However, this is not the only practice that has to be done correctly to get better search engine rankings. You also need to pay attention to other search engine ranking factors, one of which has a direct correlation to content. Duplicate content is something that can happen without you knowing, so we’ll shed more light on this topic and help you understand how duplicate content can affect SEO. 

What is duplicate content?

First of all, what is a unique piece of content? When something has only been published on a single source or a single page, and it hasn’t been duplicated anywhere else, it’s a unique piece of concept. In light of this, anything that is on the other side of this can be viewed as duplicate content. Meaning, that if the same piece of content appears on any other page on the website or anywhere else externally, like on another website, it can be viewed as a duplicate piece of content. So, anything that appears on two websites will be viewed as a duplicate piece of content.

Are there different types of duplicate content?

Yes, there are different types of duplicate content. By differentiating between these, you can learn how to fix your duplicate content issues and prevent them from happening further. In all honesty, while duplicate content can happen on purpose when someone republishes your piece of content, it can also happen without any malicious intention. But first, let’s differentiate between two types of duplicate content.

You need to learn the difference between internal duplicate content and external duplicate content. Internal content is blocks of text, pieces of content that appear across your website. So, this content is published internally. If it’s duplicated, it means that you’ll have identical chunks of text or pieces of content appear on several pages of your website. There will be several URLs on your website with the same chunks of content and that’s why it’s viewed as internal duplicate content.

On the other hand, you can also have external content and external duplicate content. External content can be published in the form of a blog post or article on another domain that is different from yours. So, this piece of content is published externally which leads us to the definition of external duplicate content. External duplicate content is a piece of content that has been indexed on two or more different domains. 

For example, if you have a product that has a detailed description on your website and another website lists that same product with the same description, that piece of content can be viewed as duplicate content. This happens often and it isn’t done on purpose. However, there will also be those websites that simply copy/paste your blog post and that can be considered as intentional duplicate content creation.

How can duplicate content even happen?

There are two ways this can happen – unintentionally and on purpose. Either way, these issues can be undone, so how they happened isn’t that important. The most important thing is how to deal with it and avoid any issues caused by duplicate content. For example, unintentionally copying the same piece of content across several internal pages or having the same URL structures, can be easily identified if you have an SEO agency on your team. They will perform an audit of your website and come up with a list of issues and solutions to each one to help you boost your rankings.

How does duplicate content affect SEO?

We’ve come to the most important question. How does duplicate content affect my search engine optimisation practices and what I can do to prevent that? Most people fear that they might receive a Google penalty for duplicate content. However, this isn’t something that can happen that easily. In some cases, it does happen, like when there’s a clear copyright infringement because one website scraped entire content without properly naming the source of a website. 

But, it’s worth mentioning that duplicate content affects your rankings because Google might read this as a single to not rank you. After all, that content has already been published somewhere else, or on another internal page, so this page is not as relevant. If this happens, you might be tanked for pages that are not as important and you also might observe a decrease in website traffic and your website performance.

Use redirects

If you do determine that you have cases of duplicate content on your website, just implement 301 redirects. A 301 redirect is a useful option because it sends a signal that the original page should be indexed, and not the one the crawler lands on. A redirection, thus, serves to point to the original piece of content or a page that is more relevant and should be ranked in comparison to other pages. 

Make sure to implement these properly and don’t overdo them. If there are too many 301 implemented, it’s a clear signal to the website owner to work on content creation or to fix the current website structure and optimise it to remove obsolete pages or outdated website structure.

Use canonical tags

Implementing a canonical tag is another strategy to deal with duplicate content on your website. This means that you’re sending a signal out to crawlers to treat a page containing this attribute as a copy of another page and to attribute all the link power to the original page and view it as superior to all other pages. By doing this, the page with duplicated content will be treated as an inferior page and it won’t be indexed, thus it won’t rank nor compete against the page you want to be treated as the original and superior page.

Exclude a page from being indexed

By implementing tags like noindex or no-follow you’re sending a signal to Google that you don’t want a page to be indexed. But, this practice can be confusing to google, so try to use them as sparsely as possible. Just make sure the page can be crawled even though you don’t want it to be indexed by Google. This is a common practice if you simply can’t delete a page or add a 301 redirect to it for some reason.

Check for duplicate content

Next, you need to perform duplicate content analysis. We’ve already said that duplicate content can happen unintentionally if you’ve copied the page and forgot to include redirects. So, you need to check for duplicate content to know which steps to take before Google indexes the wrong page or decided to rank you lower on SERP.
This is important because you don’t want your website to suffer because of duplicate content. There are many tools you can use to make sure your content is plagiarism free. Try several until you find one or more than one that you like. For example, Copyscape can help you find exact matches, and Grammarly also uncovers plagiarism and helps improve your writing. Next, you can use Duplichecker, Siteliner or PlagSpotter to check for duplicate content.

Monitor content

Now that you know that your content is plagiarism free so you won’t risk having duplicate content on your blog or across the website, you should also monitor content. You can also utilise the tools we’ve listed to monitor your original pieces of content and find duplicates of it across the world wide web. Maybe someone decides to scrape your content and publish it on their website without linking to you as the source of content. Especially if that website has higher domain authority than your website, Google might favour it over you just because it’s already been considered as a high authority website. 

Scraped and syndicated content

While scraped content is something you didn’t approve of, syndicated content is a piece of content you agreed to be published somewhere else with the appropriate link to you as the source.  If the content is scraped, you can report it to google. If you’ve syndicated your content, make sure to do this properly to avoid sending mixed signals to google, which might favour the other site better than the original source of content, that is your website.

In conclusion

Even though duplicate content can happen to the best of us, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored. While you might not be penalised for this, you might lose valuable traffic and get ignored by google, resulting in lower search engine rankings. Make sure to address this issue properly and give your best to always have fresh and new content on your website.