If you own an online business, you know that getting a high ranking on search engines is crucial if you want to gain better online visibility. So, what happens when you post a piece of content that happens to have multiple similar or same versions online? Here’s how duplicate content functions and how it can affect SEO.
What is Duplicate Content?
According to Google, duplicate content is when substantive blocks of content either across or within domains are similar to other content or completely match other content. For the most part, this content is not deceptive in its origin. This kind of duplicate content appears in more than just one place on the Internet. It mostly appears within the same domain.
What is Duplicate Content in SEO?
Google aims to deliver unique, high-quality, informative, and rich content in search results. In the past several years the quality of search results has been constantly improving since Google’s algorithm has been drastically advancing as well. When content is duplicated on more than one web page, Google detects it and tries to filter out the pages in order to push out the right content.
It can be quite confusing for Google when it detects the same content repeated on a few different web pages unless there are signals that direct the Google search engine towards the master page. Otherwise, Google has a difficult time ranking these pages with repeated content. When it comes to SEO, Google will never place a penalty for duplicate content. However, the search engine will filter out the identical content and that can cause your web pages to have lower rankings on search engines.
Is Duplicate Content Damaging for SEO?
In short, yes, duplicate content can be damaging for SEO but not always when it comes to manual actions or Google penalties. More often than you would think, webmasters accidentally end up creating most of the cases of SEO duplicate content.
Even though it’s not technically a penalty, duplicate content can make an impact on search engine rankings. When offered several pieces of completely identical content, search engines struggle to properly rank them and determine which version of the same content is the best one. Since it confuses search engines and makes their job harder than usual, duplicate content is a real nuisance for SEO. The engines have a hard time deciding what versions of content to include and which ones to exclude from the index. The search engines don’t know if they should keep the link metrics separated between several versions of the content or direct all of the link metrics to one page. Lastly, search engines have a goal of offering the most relevant search query results to online users. If there are multiple identical pieces of content, search engines will struggle to find the right version for query results.
When duplicate content SEO appears, webmasters usually struggle to keep up their rankings and they undergo huge traffic losses. The following are the two biggest issues that most often lead to these kinds of losses:
- The main goal of search engines is to ensure the most efficient and satisfying search experience for online users. In order to deliver this high-quality experience, search engines will most likely avoid offering and sharing multiple versions of the same content, whether it’s only similar or completely identical. When deciding which version is more insightful and relevant to the user, search engines end up diluting the visibility of both versions of the same content.
- In cases when there are two pages containing identical content, link equity will also dilute. This is due to the fact that other websites will be choosing between these options when they want to link the relevant content. Instead of linking to one specific page, these links will spread across all of the available versions of the same content online. Considering the fact that inbound links are one of the most common ranking factors, this can significantly impact the visibility of your content in the search results.
Overall, duplicate content itself will not cause manual action or penalty. Google will most likely go through similar or identical content and filter it out to show the best version of all of the pieces of the content offered. This is mostly because the users are looking for a specific and most relevant piece of information and Google aims to deliver exactly what the users ask for. They want relevant content, accuracy, and authenticity. Unless it’s made to manipulate search results, duplicate content will not be enough to cause manual action. The worst case scenario with duplicate content is that the less desirable versions will get pushed down by search engines and receive less online visibility and traffic.
Knowing how to handle duplicate content and make the content work in your favour to help your SEO ranking is not an easy task. If you’re just starting a small business, you may need help from experts who will teach you how to navigate some of the most crucial SEO strategies.
Numerous companies in Australia offer services to those who want to learn more about SEO. You can contact and consult a professional SEO company in Sydney where SEO experts will make sure to deliver satisfying results and ensure your content and web pages receive higher rankings on search result pages.
How to Duplicate Content on the Same Domain
However, there are ways you can duplicate content on the same domain. The following are the two main and most common ways that duplicate content can appear within the same domain and how you can handle these occurrences.
HTTP vs HTTPS & www vs non-www pages
There can be two possible versions of a website in case the website has already acquired and installed the SSL certificate: https:// and http://. Most of the websites will also include the ‘www’ prefix before the rest of the link is typed. This points out that there may be more than one version of every page that is simultaneously fighting for a better ranking and higher visibility in the same category. These are some of the examples of what that looks like:
When all of these pages are separate and offer the same kind of content, the website will most likely have a problem with duplicate content. The same goes for the use of trailing slash. If a web page is making use of the training slash, the duplicate pages will be created as separate pages. The same happens vice versa. Here is an example of such an occurrence:
These two URLs look like they are completely identical pages and they look like they will lead to the same content. However, if there is no 301-redirect that points from the less-desired to the more desired web page, Google will view and rank these two pages as if they are completely separate from one another. In that case, the trailing slash will cause problems with duplicate content.
Certain URL parameters like analytic code and click tracking can generate URL variations that often cause duplicate content issues.
These URL parameters are additional parts of the URL that are often visible right after the ampersand, equals, or question mark signs. These additions to URL links are usually found on e-commerce websites. The purpose of URL parameters is to provide services based on specific product groups or relevant search entries. On one hand, they can help online users narrow down their search and find relevant content more easily. On the other hand, this feature can harm the web page rankings since they accidentally create numerous identical pages and lead to duplicate content problems.
To avoid this issue, some content management systems choose to rely on session IDs. In short, a session is like a brief history showing actions that a certain user has taken on the website. ID sessions ensure that these actions are maintained and the next time the same visitor comes back to the same web page, they can retrace their previous steps and continue where they left off. For instance, when a user adds products to their shopping cart, those items are stored away in an ID session and once the visitor comes back they can continue shopping without having to add the same products to the cart again.
In conclusion, while duplicate content can cause some troublesome issues to the SEO ranking of your page, if you understand how duplicate content works and what mostly causes these issues, you can easily dodge them. Understanding how search engines function and detect similar pieces of content can help you distinguish your similar content and help it get visibility on the Internet.
Nick is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged on projects for Platform 24. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby.