Duplicate content is described as content that appears on the Internet in more than one place. The “one place” this refers to is a location with a unique website address or URL so, if your site has the same content at more than one web address you have duplicate content.
The reason that this can cause problems is that if your site has multiple pieces of what Google calls “appreciably similar” content then it can be difficult for search engines to decide which version is more relevant to a given search query. This can have a negative impact on your rankings which is why duplicate content should be dealt with quickly if you are given a warning by Google.
Why you Should Worry About Duplicate Content
Duplicate content presents problems for both search engines and site owners according to Moz. The three main problems it causes for search engines are:
Search engines don’t know which versions of a page to include in the index and which versions to exclude.
Search engines don’t know whether to direct link metrics to one version of the page or divide the metrics between the different versions of the page.
Search engines don’t know which version to rank for query results.
The two main problems duplicate content causes for site owners are:
Search engines try to provide the best experience possible to a search engine user which means that search engines rarely show multiple versions of the same content. This dilutes the visibility of duplicate versions of a page because they will not be included in the search results.
If you have multiple versions of the same page it can be hard for other web sites to determine which page they should link to. Rather than having a single page with multiple inbound links, which is a major ranking factor, your inbound links are spread out among duplicate pages which dilute the impact of them.
How do Sites End Up with Duplicate Content?
In most cases, website owners don’t create duplicate content intentionally. Despite this, there is still a lot of duplicate content on the web. Some of the most common ways that duplicate content is created include:
HTTP vs. HTTPS pages –If your site has two separate versions, one that starts with “http://” and one that starts with “https://”, and both sites are live with the same content then you have effectively created duplicates of all of those pages.
Copied content – Content doesn’t only mean your blog posts or other editorial content, but also product information pages. Duplicate product information is a common problem for e-commerce sites because if many retailers are using the manufacturer’s descriptions of products then Google could view two different companies pages as duplicates of one another.
Thin Content vs. Duplicate Content
Thin content warnings, like the example below, can have a negative impact on your rankings as well. Thin content is content on your site that has little to no value to a user. When you think thin content think pages like low-quality affiliate pages or doorway pages that are meant to manipulate search engine rankings and get a user onto a site but offer very little value beyond that. If you are dinged for thin content on your site make sure to improve your pages that seem light on content so that you don’t risk harming your ranking or having your site removed from search engine indexes.
How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues
All the various fixes for duplicate content comes down to the same central idea: signifying to search engines which of the duplicates is the “correct” one.
When you have content on your site that can be found at multiple URLs you have a couple of tools to fix potential problems that search engines may have.
Redirect duplicate pages to original page – In most cases the easiest way to combat potential problems from a duplicate page is to set up a redirect from the duplicate page to the page you want to be considered the original. This will signify to the search engine which page should be ranked and will also distribute the positive ranking factors of duplicate pages to the original page as well.
Canonical linking – Setting up a canonical link is similar to redirecting a page. Suffice to say that canonical links tell a search engine that a specific page is a copy of another page and that the search engine should pay attention to the original page instead. Canonical links are written directly into the head of a page as well so they require very little time to implement
Noindex duplicate pages – Noindexing a page is another method that requires a simple tag in the head of a page. Using the HTML code tells search engines not to store a page in the index so there’s no chance that it will compete with your other pages for rankings.
Do You Have Persistent Duplicate Content Warnings? Contact a Professional SEO Company
If you feel like you have persistent duplicate content warnings and they’re more than you’re ready to handle, a professional SEO company can manage your content for you and prevent potential ranking problems. Running your business and maintaining your website at the same time can be difficult, but we can take care of it for you.
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