Does duplicate content affect SEO?

19 February 2020

SEO
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Why You Should Avoid Duplicate Content

There is no getting around the fact that duplicate content is bad. Whether intentional or not, it leads to a negative user experience, which is a big no-no in the eyes of Google. Duplicate content is flagged when content appears on multiple URL’s on the web. Because of this, it will confuse search engines in the sense that it will not know which URL it should rank higher on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). This can have a detrimental effect to the pages in question.

Search engines see duplicate content as two different directions signposting to the same destination. There are a plethora of reasons as to why duplicate content may be flagged, most of which are technical issues.

Let’s check out a few of the most common issues below & the best ways you can combat them.

On-page Issues With Duplicate Content

Inconsistent URLs

Any time an issue with duplicate content arises, I tend to find issues arising from WWW, HTTP & Trailing Slashes

  • URL’s that begin with or without “www”
  • http:// & https:// at the start of a URL
  • With & without a trailing slash at the end of a URL

If you find that any of your pages are affected by any of the above issues, set up a 301 redirect of the non-preferred version to the correct one. There is no version that has any SEO benefit to the other, but it’s recommended to use the version that is present throughout the site to help with consistency.

In addition to this, a common issue with eCommerce sites revolves around URL parameters. These can lead to search engines indexing a variety of URL’s based around the one product they are often displayed as very long query strings.

URL Parameters - Google Webmasters Example

Meta Titles & Descriptions

Ensure that each of your pages has unique title & meta description tags as well as headings that differ from other pages on the site. It’s been well documented that Google hates seeing duplicate meta titles & meta descriptions. It confuses them as too what the pages should rank for & they have been known to change both, should they find either irrelevant. Not only with this effect how search engines see your site but a well optimised title tag & unique meta description can be a great way to help increase Click Through Rates (CTR’s) to your site. To learn more, you can check out our post on the importance of Meta Tags.

Product Descriptions

One of the more challenging elements for any ecommerce company can be creating original product descriptions for all of their products, especially when a site contains hundreds of items. Not only do you have to create unique descriptions for each of your own products but competitors who are also selling the same items. It should also be noted that developers should design pages so that variations of your products are kept on the same page (Colours & Sizes) in order to avoid issues with duplication.

Rel="canonical"

Another issue can arise from a lack of the rel=canonical attribute. This lets search engines know that this page is a child of another, and all of the authority should be applied to the page that has been referenced in the tag.

Off-page Issues With Duplicate Content

You can bet your bottom dollar, that if you create content that ranks highly for a particular query, then someone will try to republish it on another site. There are a variety of ways in which it can occur.

Scraped Content

Scraped content is when you take content from one or multiple sources & publish it on your own site without reference to the original source. There are occasions when scraped content is easy to identify. Google will use a human reviewer to issue a manual action a site that go against their webmaster quality guidelines. If this is an issue with your own site, you will be notified in the Search console of your website.

Duplicate content is an issue for a huge percentage of sites, some report figures as high as even 30%. If you need some help with any of your SEO needs, touch base with one of our experts.