Duplicate content is a misunderstood issue. As more publishing platforms develop across a wide range of channels, it’s easy for content to appear in more than one place.
Conventional wisdom has always stated that duplicate content is inherently a bad thing. Indeed, search engines like Google have certain restrictions and policies in place to deal with duplicate content.
But knowing what duplicate content its, how it can affect search, and what you can do about it will ensure that your content is where it needs to be for maximum visibility and SEO results.
What is Duplicate Content?
Content is considered to as duplicate when it is shared by more than one page. For example, a guest blog post that also appears on the writer’s own website may be viewed as a duplicate.
But there are three main classifications of duplicate content that will give you a better understanding of how to identify it:
A cross-domain duplicate can occur when two distinct websites share identical pieces of content, such as the guest blog post example above.
Near duplicates occur when only a portion of one piece of content also exists on a second page. This includes images and text, and can often occur in in ecommerce product pages and catalogs.
But when the entire content is the same as that of another page on a separate URL, this is known as a true duplicate.
The Impact of Duplicate Content
Search engines try to manage duplicate content in order to provide the best results for their users. Search crawlers consider any unique URL as a distinct page. In many cases, more than one URL will lead to the same content. This can be intentional or unintentional.
When it is intentional, it’s most likely in an attempt to manipulate the rankings on search pages and gain a higher level of traffic. But this can negatively impact the experience of search engine users.
When this occurs, search engines can penalize sites and lower their rankings. This is done in order to ensure that they not show the exact same content repeated in their search listings.
What to Do About Duplicate Content
There are a number of ways to deal with duplicate content. Once you’ve identified what URLs share existing content, you can use such things as a 301 redirect, rel=canonical tag, and “noindex, follow” avoid any penalty.
The 301 redirect is important when you’ve identified a higher page authority for one URL. The redirect will remove any unwanted competition with the other page on SERPs.
Using the rel=canonical tag is a less time-intensive method. By adding this tag to the head of your page, you essentially let the search engines know that it is a copy of another “original” page.
The following is an example of what that would look like:
<head><link rel=”canonical” href=”original URL” /></head>
You can also use the “noindex, follow” to address duplicate content. It notifies the search engines that a given duplicate page should not be indexed.
Add “noindex, follow” to your meta robots tag as follows:
<head><meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow” /></head>
Understanding what duplicate content is and the ways in which you can avoid its impact on your SEO will ensure that you maintain rankings while getting the most visibility for your content and business.
If you still have questions about duplicate content and how to address it, let us know in the comments below.