How Does Duplicate Content Affect Your SEO?
You’ve heard time and again that you shouldn’t have duplicate content, but very few people talk about why. Many search engine optimizers, or SEOs, simply state that it’s bad, without offering any explanation.
But how can you comply with their suggestions if you aren’t even sure what duplicate content is, much less what to do about it? That’s why we put together this article. Keep reading to find out what duplicate content is, how it can affect your SEO, and what you can do to fix it.
If you'd like to speak with a specialist about duplicate content, or suspect that you have duplicate content on your website, you can reach us at 888-601-5359.
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What is duplicate content?
First, it’s critical to understand what duplicate content means. Essentially, it’s content on one page that is exactly or almost exactly the same as the content on another site or page.
For example, consider a website with several landing pages that are geo-targeted for different locations. The content creator may think it’s enough to use all of the same copy, and just change the name of the state or city they are targeting. And while that would certainly be convenient, it clutters your site with pages that are basically the same.
Duplicate copy can also exist if a company has multiple websites. If your company thought it was a good idea to purchase two URLs and host identical sites with the intention of attracting more traffic, I have bad news: if the content is the same for both sites, it’s duplicate content. Even if the company is the SAME company, it doesn’t matter.
Regardless of the reasoning behind having pages with the same copy, it’s duplicate content. But what does that matter?
Why is duplicate content an issue?
Some companies wonder why duplicate content is an issue at all, especially if the duplicate content is at their own site. The problem stems from people stealing content from other sources and using it as their own.
Look at it this way: you spend a lot of time and effort to create your content. How would you feel if that content could just be stolen without penalty by your competitors? Wouldn’t that make you angry? Of course! And that’s what Google aims to eliminate with duplicate content penalties.
The other problem with duplicate content is that the search engine doesn’t know which page to rank. If your site has two pages with identical content, which one should Google serve to searchers? Which one is more relevant?
Google’s algorithms are written to do a lot of things, but they can’t make these decisions between two identical pages. So when Google spots duplicate content, it may not rank either page.
What can happen if you have duplicate content?
In recent years, Google has been trying to crack down on duplicate content with a vengeance, and many sites have been penalized for having identical copy both within their sites and with other sites.
Being penalized by Google is a huge problem, because it immediately affects your ability to show up in search engine results when potential customers search for businesses like yours. Instead of ranking on the first page of a Google search, you could be relegated to tenth—or even not at all.
That can be disastrous, and even if you remove the duplicate content from your site, Google won’t automatically lift the penalty. You could be left out of search engine rankings for months. Can your business afford that?
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What can you do about duplicate content?
Many site owners in the past have asked us, “how does SEO affect duplicate content?”, so if that’s what you’re wondering, you’re not alone. But the truth is, the best way eliminate any possibility of being penalized is by removing the content.
Examine all content and tags
While it’s fine to repeat some words and phrases, it’s not fine to have entire blocks of text that are the same. Take the time to examine the pages on your site and look for any instances of duplicate content, and make a list of the pages you need to work on.
Set up 301 redirects
There are certain signals you can send to Google to help its bots effectively crawl your site. For example, you may want to indicate a 301 redirect at a page that has the same content as another page.
Make sure any syndicated content is on appropriate sites
Do you have syndicated content, such as an article that’s been picked up by many websites, or a press release that’s being run in several online news outlets? You shouldn’t experience a penalty for this content as long as the site at which it’s located is legitimate.
Ensure that all of your content is fresh going forward
Now that you know why duplicate content is such an issue (and how much of a pain it can be to eliminate it after the fact), be sure to avoid it in the future. You may even want to run all content through a program such as CopyScape or Duplichecker to avoid issues of unintended plagiarism.
Better yet, create a blog for your website to ensure that there is always fresh content being created. Any kind of new content is great for your site, and although it won't get rid of duplicate content or lessen it's consequences, its a great best-practice for your website.
Check that your content hasn’t been duplicated on another site
If you discover that another website has lifted your content, take action immediately. Let Google know, and make your voice heard.
You should be able to prove that you had the content originally, which will reduce your chances of being penalized—and heighten theirs. You may think that small enough sites aren’t worth worrying about, but a penalty is not worth the risk.
Do you need help eliminating duplicate content on your website?
If you need help eliminating duplicate content on your site, or if you aren’t sure how to check for it, WebFX can help!
Feel free to contact us! Our dedicated team is more than happy to work with you and ensure that your site is optimized to rank as well as possible in search engines.
Ready to start your Internet marketing and design campaigns? Call 888.449.3239 or contact us online today to learn more about how WebFX can help with your SEO challenges.