How Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?

December 4, 2023 | Advanced SEO

Do you fear appearing twice on Google when someone hits the ‘search’ button?

It could be a quote, a boilerplate, or even product details on your e-commerce site that you copied from a brand.

The fact is, it’s impossible to be 100% duplicate content-free on the internet, no matter what. 

However, that doesn’t mean that anybody is free to copy and paste the content they see online without getting noticed.

Sure, you can still rank if you have duplicate content on your site, but your SERPs are going to be seriously messed up and, eventually, your SEO score.

Effects of duplicate content on SEO

So, your last resort is to handle it smartly.

Smart GIF

Many marketers simply state that duplicate content is terrible, and they move on without reading Google’s guidelines on it, which brings us down to one question: How can you count on them if you have no idea what duplicate content is, and how to fix it?

Don’t you worry; by the time you’ll finish reading this, you’ll know,

  1. What is duplicate content SEO?
  2. How can you spot non-original content both internally and externally? 
  3. How to find out if it’s affecting your SEO internally or externally?

According to Google, duplicate content SEO means significant blocks of content within or across different domains that are entirely the same or similar. 

However, most of the time, this isn’t deceptive in origin. 

Now, it’s pretty straightforward to understand that, as per Google, there are two sorts of duplicate content on websites,

  1. On the same domain (internal)
  2. On several domains (external)

Why Doesn’t Google Encourage Duplicate Website Content?

Google does not encourage duplicate content on websites for several reasons considering them from two perspectives, search engines, and site owners.

Duplicate content creates the following problems for search engines,

  1. The search engines get confused about which version of the content is to be considered for indexing.
  2. They have no clue whether to distribute the link metrics (link equity, authority, anchor text, trust) to multiple versions of the content or to direct them to a single page.
  3. The search engines do not know the best content version that should be ranked for relevant search queries.

Now let us examine the duplicate content SEO impact on site owners,

  1. Search engines dilute the page visibility of each duplicate web page to ensure providing valuable search results. 
  2. Link equity gets diluted by spreading among several duplicate content. That, in turn, hampers visibility and search rankings.

Does Google Penalize Duplicate Content?

No, you won’t get flagged or penalized for duplicate content. 

There is no Google duplicate content penalty per se, but it sure leaves it puzzled. 

However, it’s next to impossible to eliminate all duplicate text from blogs, social media, and websites.

That is why, Google won’t implement a manual action as a duplicate content penalty and come after to wreck your ranking (usually).

Duplicate content is a problem

Consequently, if you have copied and pasted content that already has plenty of appearances online, Google uses that as an indication to overlook your site. 

To Google, identical or almost identical content won’t help searchers as much as high-quality sites would. 

Result?

Low traffic or leads and even lower SERP ranking.

Tip: Always strive for great on-site design and unique content SEO to stay in Google’s good books. 

Duplicate Content and SEO

As mentioned, there is no duplicate content Google penalty, but Google surely wants you to get it right. 

Google filters out matching blocks of text and sometimes won’t even show your site on the SERP. 

The reason?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZY7EmjbMA&pp=ygUoSG93IGRvZXMgR29vZ2xlIGhhbmRsZSBkdXBsaWNhdGUgY29udGVudA%3D%3D

Well, it’s because search engines treat such content as spam, mainly when aiming to trick or manipulate the search. 

That means if your entire site is flooded with forged content, don’t expect Google to rank it above genuine, more actionable content. 

How Duplicate Content SEO Issues Happen?

Duplicate content exists everywhere; in fact, nearly 30% of the internet consists of SEO duplicate content, and interestingly, many webmasters don’t even intend to create it.

Matt Cutts’ view on duplicate content

Hence, website owners must be aware of what is considered duplicate content by Google.

Here you go!

Types Of Duplicate Content On The Same Domain

Following are the main types of duplicate content that can appear on the same domain,

Boilerplate Text

A Boilerplate is any content that is spread across different sections or pages within your website.

It can be the “about us” section, homepage or navigation bar, sidebar, and other elements.

Boilerplate text

A great tip would be to remove pages that contain identical text or Meta descriptions so that search bots don’t see them as duplicates. 

However, the boilerplate text doesn’t affect your SEO ranking, as bots are intelligent enough to see that it’s normal and don’t detect it as malicious.

Having said that, nothing beats writing a unique Meta description for every page, as no one minds more click-throughs after all.

Always remember these two points if you want to avoid being flagged as a ‘duplicate.’

  1. Each page must include an exclusive Page title and Meta description in the HTML.
  2. All headings and subheadings must also be unique.

Parameterized Duplicate Content

Many duplicate content issues arise from URL variations mainly because parameters and URL extensions form multiple versions of the same content.

Parameterized duplicate content

In most cases, e-commerce websites are a victim of this issue.

For instance, on a fashion brand website, if you have filters to sort products by color, you’ll most probably get,

  1. https://www.myntra.com/men-casual-shoes?f=Color%3ABlack_36454f 
  2. https://www.myntra.com/men-casual-shoes?f=Color%3ANavy%20Blue_3c4477 

That is called faceted navigation

Simply put, one object, many faces, which means the pages are almost the same but have differently written URLs causing the number of pages to grow and, ultimately, more duplicate content issues.

Moreover, different users will connect to different variants depending on the recent filter they were on. 

Always remember that there can be many filters, so the number of possible facets can be huge.

That causes link signal dilution by making every version visible to bots instead of making just one link prominent. 

Different URL Structures

Often, organic search experts forget to specify their preferred version of the URL. 

As a result, they might seem the same, but search engine bots think they are two different URLs.

  1. WWW (http://www.mysite.com) and without www (http://mysite.com), two different URLs contain the same content, but www is a subdomain.
  2. HTTP (http://www.mysite.com) and HTTPS (https://www.mysite.com). Both look similar, right? But Google thinks otherwise. They are different URLs with the same content so that bots will detect them as duplicate content.
  3. The same goes for trailing slash at the end of a URL (http://www.mysite.com/) or minus trailing slash (http://www.mysite.com).

Types Of Duplicate Content On Different Domains

Following are the main types of duplicate content that can appear on different domains,

Scraped Content

Content scraping is when a site owner lifts off from other high-quality sources on the internet to drive more organic traffic. They may,

  1. Copy/paste the exact content
  2. Steal content from other sites, tweak it a little, and publish it as their own

Web scraping

Site owners who scrape content can also use spinning tools and automated programs to “rewrite” or spin the scraped content they smuggled from other sites.

However, e-commerce sites must know the pros and cons of web scraping before implementing the same.

However, scrapers usually give themselves away. Somebody can easily spot scraped content, as some scrapers are too lazy to swap branded keywords in the content.

So, what are the stakes for using scraping content? 

Of course, you’ll be penalized by Google’s manual action. Here’s how it works,

  1. A human reviewer at Google will evaluate your site’s pages to see if they conform to Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.
  2. If you are caught manipulating Google’s search index, your site’s ranking will drop significantly, or Google will eradicate it from SERPs.

Also, if you notice any traffic drops and want to check if it’s caused by manual action,

  1. Go to Webmasters Tools in Google Search Console
  2. Check warning messages if you’ve been flagged for “artificial” or “unnatural” links, as you can see below,

Tip: When you’re done fixing all the issues listed in the manual action report, you can ‘Request Review’ to get your site back on the SERPs. 

Copied Content

Copying content from someone’s site without their consent is also wrong in Google’s eyes.

If you cannot produce original content for your visitors, hire someone to do it for you, or consider other work lines, as copied content can’t save itself from Google bots.

Copied content is not a good idea

Your site’s future will be in jeopardy—Google may remove it from search pages or demote it to one of the last SERPs. 

Syndicate Content

Content syndication is growing in popularity among content marketing circles.

It’s when you willingly permit other websites or blogs to repost the content that was probably initially posted on your site.

Content Syndication

However, don’t confuse it with content scraping as your consent doesn’t matter to site scrapers.

Many elite websites syndicate content to drive more traffic since it makes their content stand out more and helps them reach a greater audience.

How To Identify Duplicate Content?

As you already know, duplicate content is prone to hamper the image and ranking of your website; they must be identified and taken care of. 

The following are the most effective ways to check for duplicate content on your website,

Use Google Search

An easy way to find SEO duplicate content is to use Google search.

Checking duplicate content using Google Search

You need to take a 2-3 sentence long piece of text from your site and put it “in quotes” as a search on Google to see if your content has been plagiarized.  

Keep An Eye On Google Webmaster

Google webmaster alerts for duplicate content

You can use the Google Search Console webmaster tool to get regular alerts about duplicate text.

Look For Crawler Metrics

The crawler metrics in your Webmasters dashboard also contain valuable insight into the pages crawled by Google. 

If you find them crawling everywhere on your website, either you have inconsistent URL references, link text, or probably need to apply ‘rel canonical’ tags.

Crawler stats

To Check Crawlers:

  1. Sign in to your Google Webmasters account.
  2. Next, select the ‘crawl’ option on the left panel to open the expanded menu
  3. Now tap ‘Crawl Stats’ to see crawler activity

Use Crawler Tools

You can also get different (free and paid) site audit tools that can search crawlers to catch multiple types of non-original content and detect other URL issues.

Open source web crawler tool

The above methods will surely come in handy to identify duplicate content SEO.

How To Fix Duplicate Content?

Now as you have identified duplicate content on your website, you must be eager to know what is the most common fix for duplicate content.

Well, there is no such one-stop solution.

However, the following are the most effective ways to fix duplicate content,

Standardize Your Link Structure

If you’ve made it this far, you don’t need to recap how inconsistent URLs are the biggest killer of your SEO gains.

The only way to fix that is to bring consistency to your link structure and employ canonical tags correctly on different pages on your site. 

Unfortunately, Google no longer has the “preferred domain” settings in Google Console.

However, you can still tell Google which version of the domain you prefer by the following methods,

Use Rel= “Canonical”

Thankfully, to combat content duplication, Google has created Canonical tags to organize your content and help bots differentiate between similar search categories and tell them which pages to show.

Rel= “Canonical”

By adding a canonical tag to your chosen content URL, search engine bots easily see the canonical tag and get the link to the source page. 

Moreover, all duplicate page links are counted under the source page, so your SEO value stays intact.

You need to perform the following steps to implement a canonical tag,

  1. Choose the page you prefer as the canonical version. 
  2. Add a rel=canonical link from the non-canonical page to the canonical one. If we pick a shorter URL, the other URL will link with it in the <head> section

Set Up A 301 Redirect

Content duplication often results from moving to a new domain or changing the link format. 

To tackle that, set up 301 redirects from duplicate to resource content pages to keep bots free from confusion.

301 redirects

The bots go to the URL, see a 301 redirect, and go to the original resource page, so the ‘correct’ page is ranked on the SERPs. 

You can also use a reliable 301 redirect checker tool to instantly provide you with the redirect path.

Apply Meta Robots Noindex

Another solution is to use noindex Meta tags to stop some pages from indexing.

Noindex Meta tag

The noindex Meta tag tells the search engine bot not to index a particular resource, so it ignores the duplicate pages’ links. 

Use A Sitemap

Creating an SEO-friendly sitemap will always be beneficial for your website.

XML sitemap

Sitemap is basically the blueprint of your website, an XML file that helps search engines understand which web pages of your website are to be crawled and indexed.

If you provide a detailed sitemap, the search spiders access the sitemap straightaway and instantly find detailed information like priority, location, last modification date, and update frequency of the web pages. 

Conclusion

Even though Google has no penalty on duplicate content, the threat is still out there and pretty much alive and affects thousands of websites daily. 

Someone somewhere might be using your original work, and you might not even know.

So if you’re fighting a long hard battle to knock duplicate content SEO out, keep going. It might be taxing, but it will be well worth the returns you’ll get at the end. 

The good news is that most non-original content issues can easily be fixed if you understand what it is.

Hopefully, this guide will enlighten you more about duplicate content and the issues surrounding it so you can improve your rankings and get rid of scrapers and stealers.

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38 Comments

  1. Great post. Thank you for sharing valuable information. please keep sharing more post. Awesome post. Keep it up.

  2. Great to know how much content might affect my website quality. Thanks for such a detailed article.

  3. Hii,
    I like reading your article. I like the way you have explained everything.this article is really informative and useful. thanks for sharing this amazing article with us.keep sharing

  4. blog is very helpful for me. Thank you for sharing every single detail.Thanks for sharing this post. Very useful post. Keep updating such a valuable post. keep it up.

  5. In SEO content is the king duplicate content may affect in your ranking thanks for the value information.

  6. Duplicate content affects the and image of your business. This is great thanks for sharing!

  7. Such useful content! Precise and quite informative. For a business like me in the SEO world, it’s totally helpful for me.

  8. I must say this is very helpful and easy to understand. Please don’t stop writing. I can see why my cousin sent me to this website. I like more of reading than watching on youtube.

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  10. Hi Baldwin. Good to hear that you are a sports enthusiast. Reading your blog enlighten me about duplicate content. Learn a lot from it and will use it in the future. I am an aspiring SEO Specialist and starting a career.

    Many thanks 🙂

  11. Your blog post was a pleasure to read, and I found the information you provided to be incredibly helpful. I appreciate the effort and thought you put into creating this content, and your passion for the topic shines through in your writing. Your insights have given me a new perspective and expanded my knowledge on the subject matter. Thank you for taking the time to share your expertise!

  12. Insightful blog! Understanding the impact of duplicate content on SEO is crucial for website owners. Time to optimize our content and rise in SERPs!

  13. Finally got clarity on the impact duplicate content on SEO. Thanks for shedding light on this crucial topic.

  14. I found this article to be incredibly informative and insightful. As a website owner, I’ve always been curious about how duplicate content can affect search engine optimization and overall website performance.

  15. Thanks for this insightful blog post. It really clarified the importance of maintaining unique and valuable content on my website. I’ve since then made necessary changes, and my site’s ranking has improved significantly. Your explanations and tips were amazingly useful for me. Keep up the great work!

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