Search engines try to provide the most relevant piece of content against search queries and scan content meticulously to understand its relevance. SEO marketers must ensure that it becomes easy for search engines to determine the relevance of their content so that it figures in the search results. This simple task can become quite complex and confusing for search engines if it encounters appreciably similar content spread across many places on the internet. This is a typical example of what Google means by duplicate content, and it is understandable why search engines are so much averse to it. Duplicate content makes the task of search engines difficult in deciding which version of content is most relevant to the search query.
It does not search engines alone that find duplicate content problematic, but it is also bad for site owners who run the risk of losing search rankings. Due to the confusion search engines are not only unable to determine the relevance of content; they also face confusion about directing the link metrics to any single page or keep it separated between various versions of similar content. Overall, search engines are in a fix about which content to present against the search query.
On the other hand, duplicate content reduces the visibility of content that damages SEO prospects. When faced with duplicate content search engines might pick content by leaving out a more compatible version. Problems also arise when other sites want to link with the content that has some duplicates, and this can dilute the link equity if links point to multiple pieces of content. Ultimately, the content does not garner the visibility it deserves.
The fallout of duplicate content
Search engines come down heavily on duplicate content and penalize websites that use duplicate content because it hinders the functioning of search engines and can even damage its reputation by preventing them from providing the best experience with the most relevant answer against search queries. This is the view of the SEO experts at Rise Online, a Birmingham based SEO company. The penalty though not imposed formally by search engines, is evident from the loss of search rankings due to duplicate content.
Duplicate content, copied content and thin content
Duplicate content is not the same as similar content appearing at other places of a website. According to Google, there is a technical origin for duplicate content. When the same content appears at various places, it is surely duplicate. The distinction between duplicate content and copied content acquires a lot of importance in the context of determining search rankings. And again, there is thin content that Google despises. If the content is identical in all respects and matches text to text or slightly tweaked to make it appear different, it is undoubtedly duplicate content. Poor quality content written for the sake of filling spaces constitutes thin content that does not have any value and can do more harm than good.
Duplicate content creation can happen erroneously if you repost any content not being aware of its existence at some other place. Content may appear duplicated if the same page is accessible via multiple URLs.
Effect on user experience
Duplicate content is bad for marketers because it has a negative effect on user experience. When visitors look upon content as fresh only to discover that they have consumed it earlier, it leads to gross mistrust, and they would never come back to the site once again.
Whatever might be the reason for duplicate content creation, it is important to get rid of it at the earliest. As you read on, you will come to know about some ways of fixing duplicate content issues.
Rel = canonical
Using the attribute rel=canonical is a traditional method of fixing the problem of duplicate content. The attribute tells search engines to treat a given page as a copy of a specified URL. On knowing about the page origin, search engines would consider all links, ranking power, and content metrics related to the page for crediting it to the specified URL. Remember that you must add the rel=canonical attribute to the HTML head of each duplicate version of the page by replacing the URL of the original page with a link of the canonical page.
Fixing duplicate content finally boils down to specifying which duplicate content is the correct one. The easiest way of doing it is to set up a 301 redirect from the duplicate page to the page that contains the original content. This puts an end to the chances of multiple pages competing against one another for ranking by consolidating all pages into a single page that is authentic and relevant. The signal of relevance impacts the popularity of the content, which in turn improves the ranking prospects.
Google search console – preferred domain and parameter handling
You can set the preferred domain of your site by using Google search console and even set the preference for parameter handling that tells Google about the need for crawling several URL parameters differently. Depending on the kind of issues you face with duplicate content and your URL structure, this is a plausible solution. However, this is a Google-specific solution that will not work for other search engines.
Other methods of duplicate handling content
- It is extremely important to maintain consistency in internal linking across the website. Depending on the choice of the canonical version by webmasters, all internal links should flow to that URL only. If www. XYZ.com is the canonical version then all internal links must go to HTTP:// www. XYZ.com instead of http://XYZ.com/partial.
- Be careful when syndicating content and ensure that a link goes to the original content from the syndicating website and not to any other variation of the URL.
- To prevent content scrapers stealing SEO credit of your content, it is safer to add a self-referential rel=canonical tag to your existing pages.
Staying vigilant on your website and checking content closely is the best way to identify duplicate content, and the sooner you detect quicker, you can resolve the issue.