Feel like you’re seeing double? Well, you don’t want to inflict this on your potential customers either. With the Internet being a vast sea of content, duplication of that content is inevitable, and sometimes intentional in an effort to cheat the system and rank higher in Google, or, sometimes it’s simply born out of laziness. The following article outlines what duplicate content is and why you should care about whether your site is riddled with it.
Who Cares About Duplicate Content?
Google, oh and your users as well. Think about it, would you want read the same exact content on each page or website you visit? It’d get pretty Groundhog Day wouldn’t it? Now, while Google does care about duplicate content, they don’t tend to penalize you unless you are being intentionally malicious:
“There’s no such thing as a “duplicate content penalty.” At least, not in the way most people mean when they say that. … There are some penalties that are related to the idea of having the same content as another site—for example, if you’re scraping content from other sites and republishing it, or if you republish content without adding any additional value.” – GoogleBlog
However, that still being said, there are still several good reasons, from user experience to your search result rankings as to why you should clean up your duplicate content.
What Causes Duplicate Content?
There’s a handful of reasons why a website might render duplicate, or nearly duplicate content. Some is purely by “accident”, a fault of the website’s structure or framework that it’s built on. Other times, it’s purely human error or intention.
Server or Content Management Platform Generated
If the platform that your website is built on creates dynamically generated pages that are based upon how a person uses or interacts with your site this can create numerous versions of the same page.
is a duplicate of www.widgets.com/pink-widgets
www.widgets.com/pink-widgets?color=pink&cat=3 is a duplicate of www.widgets.com/pink-widgets?cat=3&color=pink
Potential Bad User Experience? Yes. Penalized by Google? No, however it does make it harder for Google to know which version of the page it should show in its search results. If you leave it up to Googlebot it will choose for you, and it may not be the page you ideally want representing your brand in search.
For the example above the typical, and easiest solution to scale, is to just have Rel=”canonical” tags placed on the original version of each and every page on your website within the <head> section of the page.
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.widgets.com/pink-widgets”>
HTTP vs. HTTPS or WWW vs. non-WWW pages
If your website can render (be viewed in a web browser) as any of the following with the full URL intact, you might have a duplicate content problem:
Again, this makes it harder for the search engines to know what version of your website is the correct one. It can make a huge mess and dilute your search equity, resulting in a poor rankings all around.
Close your eyes and point. Just kidding. But really, you will need to choose one version of your site and stick with it, then 301 redirect all other versions of your site to the one true version. Quick piece of advice, if you are able, have your site built so that you have a SSL Certificate and the site renders as HTTPS. More and more Google is pushing for all websites to render secure, and if we are going to play in their playground it’s not a bad idea to take their advice.
Scraped or copied content from others
I get it, sometimes coming up with good and original content is a real pain in the a$$, but copying content word for word from Wikipedia isn’t going to help you either. Google, and other search engines, are smart. If that original content was already in their index they are going to know you just copied it, so it likely won’t bring any search value to your site. Additionally content that doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say doesn’t bring any value to your users either.
Bite the bullet and write your content, or hire someone to write it for you.
Copied content across same website
If you have multiple pages across your website that share the same, or very similar content, they could suffer from being seen as duplicate pages.
I think Google provides pretty good advice on this one:
“Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.”
When is Duplicate Content Not an Issue?
There are cases when you can have duplicate content on a website, for instance, reposting a blog post on your site that originally published somewhere else. If you are doing this with the full knowledge of the original author with credit linking back to the original article this should not be an issue so long as you understand that the chances of you outranking the original article are very slim. If your goal in this instance is only to share content that you feel your users will find useful, then go for it.
Where Can You Find More Info About Duplicate Content?
Some great resources to learn more about duplicate content and what you can do about it include:
Why Care About Duplicate Content?
For all the reasons stated above, which I think are pretty good ones, but also because by creating unique and relevant content on your website you will rise above the noise of all those other sites that aren’t creating value for their users. Unique content is better content, especially if it’s content that really helps to better inform and guide a user in making an informed decision about a particular topic. You should care because at the end of the day it will boost your brand and your visibility in search, and will help contribute to your bottom-line.
Running a company and controlling your online presence takes hard work, consistency and a dedication to growing your customer base and brand awareness across all owned and earned channels. If you need assistance in determining if your website is suffering from too much duplicate content and need help correcting this the team at CloverLabs can help. Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s see how we can help you succeed today!
Passionate about digital marketing and helping small businesses succeed online, Shannon has over 15 years of online marketing experience. She loves sharing her knowledge with others to help them become better marketers.