Has this ever happened to you?
You have a really great idea for a new blog or piece of content for your website.
You spend ages developing it, researching it, building it, writing it and turning it into something you’re proud to see up on the World Wide Web.
And then you notice that the same article was written about two years ago and you’ve just created a duplicate.
All that time wasted.
But duplicate content presents another huge problem for websites.
It can kill your SEO results.
So, let’s have a look at this issue of duplicate content, what it is, and why you should avoid it.
What is duplicate content?
Duplicate content is a piece of content that is the same as something that already exists on another website.
It might not have been done on purpose, but the same content exists in two different URLs.
And it’s a problem.
Why is duplicate content a problem for SEO?
Duplicate content is a problem because it confuses search engines like Google and makes it hard for them to figure out which page they should rank in search.
Sometimes, this can be duplicate content across two competing websites.
But, other times, it’s duplicate content on two URLs belonging to the same website.
Now this SEO game is difficult enough without competing with yourself, and that’s what duplicate content is making you do.
If Google finds duplicate content, it won’t know which to include in search, and which not to show.
Google won’t know whether to give all the page authority to one page (which makes it rank higher) or dilute it across all the pages (which impacts rankings).
If Google is splitting the page authority between two of your pages because of duplicate content, then neither page is going to rank as high as it could have done – and you’re just handing your competition the advantage.
You also run the risk of ruining your link building opportunities.
If you have two similar pages with information other people want to link to, they might not all link to the same page.
So instead of one page having 100 links and ranking higher, you could have two pages with 50 links each, with neither seeing any particular benefits.
And it’s not like you can just delete one of the pages and ask everyone linking to it to link to the other version because you made a mistake.
That’s just embarrassing and doesn’t exactly make you look professional does it.
Why does duplicate content happen?
Often, the reason duplicate content is a problem is because the site owner doesn’t know they’ve got duplicate content in the first place.
It could be that they have different versions of their website, with both carrying the same content.
This happens when site’s pay for a https:// website, but continue to maintain the https:// version.
Google will just crawl both pages (because they’re both still live) and bang, you’ve got a duplicate content problem.
Duplicate content is a particular problem for Ecommerce websites.
That’s because these types of websites often have similar products, with similar categories and similar descriptions that use a lot of the same language.
Often the only information in the description that is different is the colour or size of the product.
More often than not, this happens when the retailer decides to use the manufacturers description that comes with their order – which every other retailer also has access to, and which a fair few use.
How do you find and fix problems with duplicate content?
The easiest way to identify duplicate content is to run a site audit on your website using a tool like ahrefs.
You’ll get a full list of pages carrying the duplicate content so you can see how big an issue it is.
Once you’ve figured out where the duplicate content is, there’s a few things you can do to fix it.
A canonical tag is a signal to Google which page is the “right one” that the search engine should rank.
All you have to do is add one of these tags into the page and it will show Google which is the right page to index.
This is a typical way of dealing with duplicate content when you’re optimising older content for new keywords etc or combining two pages on the same topic into one longer piece of content.
In this instance, you can add a 301 redirect to the duplicate pages, which will send users to the page you want them to find.
This will also help search engines rank the right page for you.
Just be wary about adding too many redirects as eventually this might start to negatively impact your results.
Another way of dealing with duplicate content, is simply to tell search engines not to index a particular page that you don’t want to rank.
You do this by adding a no index tag to the page.
Search engines will still crawl the duplicate page, but will just not index it.
Deal with duplicate content to save your SEO
Whichever way you choose to deal with duplicate content on your website, it is important that you deal with it.
Mostly, it’s a pretty simple fix for an issue that can have serious, long lasting implications for your results.
If you’ve taken a lot of time building the authority of your website or creating a high authority asset on a page, the last thing you want is for the authority to be diluted because you have something similar elsewhere on your site.
Need help finding and fixing duplicate content?
If you want to see if duplicate content is harming your website’s SEO, get in touch with us today for a free technical SEO audit.
We have a range of SEO analysis tools which we use to audit your site, identify any problems you might be having, and provide a report and roadmap for how you can fix it.
If you want to bring us in to do the fixes, we can talk, otherwise we’ll give you the information to be able to do it yourself.
The audit is free, and it might show you something you need to fix that you didn’t know about.
Where’s the downside?