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Duplicate Content – Why it happens and how to fix it

by | Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is exactly what it sounds like– the content that is an exact copy or a near copy of the content that exists on multiple web pages, either within the same website or across different websites.

If I republish this article on my site or another website, it would be considered duplicate content, and having a significant amount of duplicate content can greatly affect your Google rankings.

what is duplicate content

However, if you write it as “Slow and Steady aces the SEO race,” it still remains duplicate content.

How is Duplicate Content harmful to SEO?

Lowers Google Rankings

Having duplicate content on your website can greatly affect your Google rankings. The copied content or duplicate pages are mostly at risk of being ranked lower as they do not add any value to the visitors.

Affects SEO Performance

When multiple versions of the same content are available, search engines struggle to decide which one to include in their search results. This, in turn, lowers the SEO performance of all versions of the content as they compete with one another.

Backlink Dilution

Duplicate content also leads to backlink dilution. This is because when two or multiple versions of the same content are available at many URLs, each of those may attract backlinks from different sources. This way, instead of having all the backlinks on one page, they are divided into two or more pages.

Therefore, the only way to impress Google is by providing unique, authentic, and informative content.

Common Causes of Duplicate Content

Multiple URLs leading to the same page

This happens when Google detects different URLs pointing to the exact same page. For example, a page can be accessed using:

  • URLs with either HTTP or HTTPS 
  • URLs with or without “www” 
  • URLs with or without the trailing slash

multiple urls as cause of duplicate content

Therefore, if your site is indexed and accessible through separate versions, i.e., with http:// and https://, this indicates that you have created duplicates of these pages. The same applies to the with and without “www” versions (“www.xyz.com” and “xyz.com”). In such cases, Google treats these as duplicate pages leading to duplicate content issues.

Sessions Id

Sessions IDs are often used to track visitors and may store visitor information for web analytics. Therefore, a “session” is a short record of what the visitor does on your site, and a unique identifier, known as the Session ID, needs to be stored somewhere to keep this session active. 

Some systems resort to incorporating Session IDs in the website’s URLs. Because each Session ID is unique to a specific session, this results in creating new URLs with the exact same content, giving rise to duplicate content.

Content Syndication

Content syndication is a strategy that involves publishing content on third-party websites with the goal of reaching wider audiences. However, it can lead to duplicate content if not managed properly. It can happen when websites do not link back to the original article; therefore, the search engine reads it as duplicate content.

Localization of Content

In terms of localization, duplicate content issues can arise while using the exact same content to target people in different regions worldwide who speak the same language.

For example: If you have a separate website for the Canadian and the American market, both in the English language, then there’s a good chance to find a lot of duplication in the content.

Google is smart enough to detect this and usually clubs these results together. However, you can implement “hreflang” attribute in the head section to prevent this duplication issue.

Product Pages

In the case of e-commerce websites, many scrapers copy the product description. This happens when different websites sell the same products, and all use the manufacturer’s descriptions of those items, leading to duplicate content that appears at multiple locations across the internet.

Another scenario is when e-commerce websites use different URLs for the same product.

URL 1 (full-price product): “https://topshop.com/tops/red-top.html”

URL 2 (discounted product): “https://topshop.com/clearance/tops/red-top.html”

Technically, two separate URLs lead to the same product page, giving rise to duplicate content.

duplicate content due to product pages

Generic website templates

New websites might use pre-generated templates without making heavy edits. For instance, WordPress websites can use themes that come with ready-made text for common pages like “Contact” and “About Us” pages. When many people use the same template, that can lead to duplicate content formation.

Print-Friendly Web Pages

Some websites have a print-friendly webpage at a separate URL. This page which is accessible through a separate URL technically contains the same content but is printable, leading to duplication.

For example: 

www.xyz.com/page-a/ (non-print friendly)

www.xyz.com/print/page-a/ (print friendly)

You can implement a canonical URL leading from the print-friendly version to the normal version of the page to avoid duplicate content.

How to Fix Duplicate Content

301 redirect

301 redirect is an HTTP status code that permanently redirects one URL to another, i.e., from the old page to the new one. 301 redirect easily fixes duplicate content issues on the website by automatically redirecting all users who request an old URL to the new one.

301 redirect to fix duplicate content

Use Canonical Tags

A canonical tag, or “rel canonical” is a method of conveying search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page. It is placed in the <head> section of the web page and prevents duplicate or identical content problems. These canonical tags help search engine bots to index only the original version and avoid duplicate ones.

This is what a canonical tag looks like

canonical tag to avoid duplicate content

Use a Sitemap

Choose one canonical URL for each of your pages and submit them in a sitemap. When you list all your pages in a sitemap, Google will decide which pages (if any) are duplicates, based on the similarity of the content. 

Giving preferred canonical URLs in the sitemap is an easy way to tell Google which pages are the most important ones on your website, especially if you have a large website.

Redirect your Website Properly

Ensure that your site redirects accurately. This means that all the different versions of your website (if they exist) should end up on the same page. To elaborate, if you switched the “www” version of your website to the “non-www” version, then your “www” version should automatically redirect to the “non-www” version of your website. The same is applicable in the case of http and https versions.

redirect url to original website

Other Strategies

  • Disable Session IDs in your URLs by going to the system’s settings.
  • Avoid using separate URLs for print-friendly web pages.
  • Disable comment pagination on your website (The paginated comment pages show the original content with just different comments at the bottom).

How to Check Duplicate Content

Use SEO Tools

You can check duplicate content by using SEO tools like Siteliner

  • Siteliner is an easy-to-operate tool that only requires your site URL to run a quick scan for your website.

siteliner homepage

  • Once you press the “go” button, Siteliner quickly provides a complete report about your website’s duplicate content.

siteliner duplicate content analysis

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool that helps you provide insights into your website’s performance in the search results. In Google Search Console, you can check the search results tab under “Performance” to find URLs that might be leading to duplicate content issues.

The usual issues that occur can be:

  • HTTP and HTTPs versions of the same URL
  • “Www” and “non-www” versions of the same URL
  • Same URLs with and without the trailing slash (/) 
  • Same URLs with uppercase and lowercase letters

This way, you can keep track of the duplicate URLs that have been receiving clicks and fix them using the discussed strategies.

Simply Google It

One way to find duplicate content is to check the website’s indexed pages in Google. You can do this by simply putting the website address in Google “site:yoursitename.com”

check duplicate pages in google

The number of indexed pages you get should align with the number of pages you created manually. The increase in the number of indexed pages is an indication of a significant amount of duplicate content.

Wrapping Up

To conclude, understanding the reasons behind duplicate content issues is crucial for maintaining a strong online presence. As discussed in the article, duplicate content issues can arise from various sources, including multiple URLs, content syndication, session ID, product pages, etc.

After understanding the reasons, the next extremely crucial step is fixing these duplicate content issues to enhance the SEO performance. You can follow the strategies discussed in the blog to mitigate the impact of duplicate content issues and optimize your website for search engines.

If you are interested in knowing more about such strategies, especially SEO-related, then feel free to contact us.

We would be more than happy to help your website ace the search engine rankings.

 

Navneet Singh Final

A young enthusiast who is passionate about SEO, Internet Marketing, and most importantly providing tremendous value to businesses every day. Connect with him on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter: @nsvisibility

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