Duplicate Content and SEO: Why Should You Care?
Updated: Mar 29, 2019
Duplicate content has, is and always will provide a headache for website owners and SEOs.
From duplicate meta tags to CMS systems creating phantom URLs. The hazards can seem endless.
But, our main message here is – “Don’t fret too much”. Google’s own definition of Duplicate Content is as follows:
"Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar"
So the main takeaway here is to create as much unique content as humanly possible.
However, depending on the size of your business, 100% unique content isn’t always doable.
Should you be worried if your website doesn’t feature 100% unique content? Yes and no.
Google’s Matt Cutts stated way back in 2013 that they recognise duplicate content happens all over the internet.
“25-30% of the web is duplicate content”
Google understands that sometimes it’s unavoidable, and that it’s actually relatively ok!
Regarding duplicate content penalties therefore…there is none!
You can quite happily dispel all the myths that Google will penalise your website for it.
So, we now know that Google won’t proactively penalise you for producing duplicate content. We do know however that Google will reward those that do try to create rich, informative and unique content.
Therefore, if you do have the time and resources to create unique content, you will reap the benefits!
Why Else Should You Care About Duplicate Content?
If you have two different URLs pointing to the same piece of content, how does Google know which URL to rank?
In the same instance, Google won’t know whether to direct link metrics (trust, authority, anchor text etc) to one page or dilute it between the multiple pages.
This could cause some serious ranking issues without being addressed.
Size Does Matter
If you’re a smaller blog or localised website, then you pretty much have no excuse for not producing unique content (Sorry).
However if you’re a bigger player like a multi-national ecommerce website that deal with 1000s of products, sometimes shortcuts are taken to get content created and live quickly.
One of these shortcuts is to copy and paste content directly from the manufacturer’s website, straight on to yours, yikes!
This copy and pasting from website to website will definitely produce cross domain duplicate content.
You won’t be pro-actively penalised for it, but how will you stand out from the crowd if all your content is similar or exactly the same as others?
We’ve already said, Google rewards rich, unique and informative content. So do it!
Create engaging content that answers your searchers query. By all means use some of the concepts from the manufacturer’s website, but rework it and make it better!
How Do We Address The Issues of Duplicate Content
Product unique, rich, informative, helpful content. Simple. De ja vu anyone?
There are of course a few other more technical strategies to help fix existing duplicate content.
We’re a big fan of the crawling tool Screaming Frog to check for duplicate content.
Just stick in your chosen website’s URL and it will list all of its pages and details for you to view.
We’d recommend starting by pinpointing duplicate page titles, H1s and meta descriptions.
If you have the time and resource, try and write completely new, bespoke content for these. Optimising things like titles, h1s and descriptions can help Google understand more easily what your page is about, whilst also helping increase your click-through rates and engagement metrics in the search results pages.
Next, consider 301 redirects.
Example: A multi-national ecommerce website has a bug where amending a page H1 creates a new URL. This means there are now two URLs pointing towards the same page content.
Solution: Implement 301 redirects from the old URL to the new. This will ensure almost all of the link equity that URL has gained is preserved.
Utilise canonical tags.
Example: An online shop has a range of products that are very similar or almost identical. These products will have similar titles, descriptions etc. Google will try to index all of these different product URLs and therefore dilute link authority.
Solution: To ensure only one product is indexed by Google, implement canonical tags on the products you don’t want indexed, which point to your ‘master’ product. This is informing Google that you realise you have duplicate content, and want to direct their crawl spiders to just the one page.
So there you have it.
Duplicate content is definitely something that should be on your radar as a marketer or website owner. But, it’s not as frightening and apocalyptic as some would have you believe.
Push all the scaremongers’ to one side and ask yourself the question:
Am I producing relevant, rich, engaging and informative content?
If you answered yes, pour yourself a well-deserved cooling beverage and sit back in the knowledge that you’re creating content that Google (and other search engines) will love.