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How to Find and Fix Duplicate Content in SEO

A duplicate page or piece of content has the same (or substantially similar) wording as another page on your website. Google won’t be able to determine which version of that content is the original one or which is most relevant to a user searching for it when this occurs.

If you have duplicate content on your website, it can negatively impact your business brand and your audience’s perception of your knowledge. You should take action right away to fix it. Continue reading to learn what duplicate content is, how to find it, and how to resolve it.

Duplicate Content in SEO: What Is It?

Duplicate content exists when you have the same sentence or paragraph groupings in two or more different URLs of your website or the same entire piece of content. If someone browses your site and sees some content on one page, then visits your site later and sees similar content associated with another URL, this is duplicate content.

What are the problems associated with duplicate content?

Let’s say you just finished a book, and you’re looking for a new one to read. You ask ten friends for suggestions and eagerly await their responses.

Getting ten different book titles so that you can review and decide which one to read is the best outcome in this case. The worst possible outcome would be to get the same exact book title from all 10 of your friends and, after reviewing that title, decide it’s not for you and have to ask again. Therefore, you want to find a book that fits your criteria as many times as possible by getting a variety of different options.

It is similar to Google’s search results page approach. If Google gives their searchers ten pages that are nearly identical, they severely limit their chances of providing the searcher with information that matches their search criteria. When you click on all ten web pages in the search results only to see the same information, how frustrating would it be?

Google prevents duplicate pages for the same search terms from showing up. Therefore, if your page is nearly identical to another webpage online (on your site or on another website), only one of them will rank.

Duplicate Content Can hurt SEO

Every SEO knows that Google frowns upon duplicate content, and often within the first few months of doing SEO. Years ago, black hat marketers used to write tons of pages on a single site in an attempt to get more traffic.

Today, Google and other search engines are way too smart for that. You can’t duplicate content and trick search engines or users into thinking your website is more authoritative and original.

Users are now directed to the most relevant results for their queries based on context, using (literally) hundreds of ranking factors. Google looks at:

  1. Date of publication
  2. Content and length of URLs
  3. Completion of the page’s topic
  4. Authority in the domain
  5. Selection of keywords
  6. Density and placement of keywords

 

These are some of the most important factors Google considers when ranking a page, but they are not the only ones. Within these parameters, the more original and authoritative your content is, the less likely it is to be perceived as duplicate content.

The Best Way to Tell if Your Site Has Duplicate Content

You can check your site’s duplicate content by going through it page by page and making sure there are no identical words. It is fine if you see a few sentences or series of words that are the same here and there. You can also take snippets of text in quotes and search for them in Google to see if there are any other matches.

A few words strung together across multiple pages is not real duplication for Google. The first sign that you have duplicate content is when entire sentences or paragraphs are repeated. (If you see more problems than duplicate content, you should conduct a full SEO audit.)

You can quickly see if your website has any duplicate content with SEO Review Tools, free Duplicate Content Checker. If any of your URLs or websites contain duplicate content, this tool will show you the URLs that contain duplicate content.

In order to figure out why duplicate content was created in the first place, take note of these sites. It’s sometimes just an accident; other times, it’s proof of someone in your company cutting corners – and sometimes, another website copied your content.

It is imperative that you identify any instances of duplicate content on your website and address them immediately. If you don’t find any duplicate content, celebrate! That means you and your team understand the importance of top-notch content marketing.

Duplicate content causes

It is helpful to understand how duplicate content occurs so you can prevent it in the future. Here are some of the most common causes of duplicate content:

In order to create original content for your website, you need to make sure that you and your team have the time and space to do so. Many people know that all content should be original and ethical. Duplicate content is usually caused by people who feel that they must complete a large number of projects in a short period of time. If you give your team enough bandwidth to complete work, you’ll likely never see duplicate content.

You don’t structure your content well. Even great writers can sometimes miss crucial SEO elements, like making sure your subheadings are used properly (and that they’re original). It is a form of duplicate content if you use the same header on every page of your site. You’ll get lower rankings on your otherwise valuable content if Google sees unique content and keywords but similar headings.

Despite the fact that duplicate content and duplicate SEO optimizations aren’t the same, they often overlap. For example, if you use the same anchor text for all of your internal links, Google eventually notices. The result will be that your content won’t perform as well as it could.

Duplicate content: How to fix it

It might seem you are hoping we’ll give you a quick-and-easy, push-button solution. Unfortunately, it is not that simple, and the correct solution will depend on your situation. Here are some possible solutions:

  1. If you plan to keep the pages on your website, but the content isn’t original enough, then you need to revise the content.
  2. Use 301 Redirects to combine pages of similar content.  301 redirects automatically send people from one duplicate page to another. This eliminates duplicate content since there is only one page that can be accessed online. In cases where you have multiple duplicate pages or pages that are overly similar, this can be an effective solution.
  3. You can use the rel=canonical tag on your duplicate pages to tell Google which page is the “main” among similar pages without redirecting. This tag tells search engines which URL of your duplicate pages is the primary page that should appear in search results. The code to add is <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.yourdomain.com/the-url-you-want-to-rank-in-Google.html” />.
  4. “No Index” can be used to hide duplicate pages from Google. For example, you can add the meta name “robots” content=”noindex” /> to the duplicate page to let all search engines know that you do not want the page to appear in searches. You are not redirecting the traffic in this case; you are merely removing one of the pages from the search results.

Some of these options are fairly technical, so we recommend discussing them with your web developer.

The best way to prevent duplicate content in the future

You’ll need to remove duplicate content from your site manually, but you’ll want to use a tool like Duplicate Content Checker moving forward to identify and prevent it if it ever occurs again. By setting standards for publishing new content on your website, you can avoid duplicate content in the future. Make sure all your website content is original.

Keyword Cannibalization challenges

Having multiple pages on your website with similar topics can also make it harder for Google to decide which page should be ranking in Google. This is known as keyword cannibalization.

To decide which articles to combine, you should conduct a blog content audit if you have multiple blog articles on similar topics. 

If you need help

If you have duplicate content on your site, you should take action and remove it immediately. Boulevard Digital Marketing offers one-time SEO projects to audit and tune up your website, as well as monthly SEO management services, including ongoing audits, technical fixes, content development, link building, consulting, and reporting.

Request a quote for SEO services here.

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