Duplicate content might be the silent killer on your website pulling your SEO performance down and burying you in the search results. Find out what it is, why it matters and what to do about it in this article.
Most likely you have seen duplicate content a fair bit, whether you release it or not. It is simply content that is found in multiple locations across the web. Duplicate content can hurt your rankings/sites visibility because search engines don’t want to return multiple results to users which contain pretty much the same information.
It matters a great deal because, if a search engine was to return multiple results for a given search which all contained identical (or really similar) content, searchers would become frustrated. They would likely seek better search engines and the company would become less profitable and valuable.
Duplicate content is often created by mistake when using content management systems (CMS). For example, if you accidentally publish two versions of your site, one with a www. before the domain name and one without, these would contain the same content and be considered duplicates.
Sometimes search engines can work out when this is done innocently and commit to using only one version, but in any case you put your site at risk of being viewed as spammy or lower-quality.
To identify duplicate content, copy random sentences from your website and search them in Google with quotation marks wrapped around them. If you see multiple results returned, with the copied sentence highlighted in black, you could be suffering from duplicate content issues* (especially if many of those results are from your website).
*If you see spammy sites being returned, but your site is ranking at the top for these searches, it doesn’t necessarily mean duplicate content is an issue (search engines will know those spammy sites have copied your content and wont penalise you for it).
Fixing Duplicate Content
If you discover duplicate content across your site, you will need to fix it. This will be done in a number of ways depending on your goals, priorities and personal preference.
These are some ways to fix it:
- Set all but one versions of the content to noindex (so you stop search engines returning them in the search results).
- Re-write all but one versions of the content.
- Merge the duplicate pages into one master page.
- Completely rewrite all the content on your site (if when doing the sentence test above other websites are ranking higher than you).