The thought of the company website being burned to the ground by Google’s mysterious creatures behind the curtain has been known to cause marketers around the globe to shake in their boots. Though Google clearly publishes their guidelines on duplicate content, many won’t take the time to read them.
Learning about what duplicate content is and the most common ways to avoid being penalized can go a long way for the health of your website and ultimately the success of your digital marketing efforts.
What is Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content is identical text or images tags that appear on the internet in multiple locations. When search engines are attempting to analyze a web page for its relevancy to a given search query, multiple sources of identical content can be confusing to search engine robots that are interpreting a piece of work.
Google, for example makes use of its Panda algorithm to analyze the content of a webpage and prevent websites with poor-quality content from ranking high in its results pages.
Why Is Duplicate Content Bad?
- Remember that search engine bots aren’t real people. They also won’t try to take over the world as we know it. Search engine robots are only trying to read your content and understand what it is about. When looking at two identical blocks of text, they might get confused. They will not be able to determine which version of the content to index or who had the original piece of text, ultimately hurting both web pages.
- The strength and authority of your website will be affected. We generally refer to the power that SEO holds as “Google Juice”. When we have duplicate content, Google doesn’t know whether to pour this juice into cup A (our-site) or cup B (the second version of the duplicate content). With a lack of instructions, you’re going to end up thirsty and there is a good chance that neither pages will rank in results.
Common Culprits of Duplication
1. Secure v. Non-Secure
If your website has both a secure (HTTPS) and a non-secure (HTTP) version of your content, search engines could be indexing both versions and registering them as duplicates. This is very common when switching from a non-secure site to one that utilizes an SSL certificate to deliver added security. When both versions of the live website exist and are not redirected, search engines are not sure which URL to rank for a given keyword phrase. Technically speaking, your pages are competing against each other for the exact same position and will cancel out the other page’s potential success.
2. Syndicated Content
It is a common practice to syndicate your own website’s content to other third-parties for use and attribution, or for a website to amass news articles from outside sources to improve the user experience. Due to the possibility of duplication, it’s important to set guidelines for the third-parties responsible for publishing your content and understand the potential implications of aggregating news from an outside source.
If you are a pushing your unique content to a third party, request that the publisher use a rel=canonical tag on the page in which the article is published. This tag can be used to let search engines know that you are aware that there is duplicate content in existence and that your website is the true author of this unique content.
<head> <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.socialseo.com” /> </head>
Example of a Rel=Canonical Code Snippet
Another potential solution to your duplicate content problem could be to have the third party publisher noindex their copy of the text. This suggests to search engines that they should not index the additional copy of the content and provides the clarity that will help your content rank in search results.
<head> <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow” /> </head>
Example of a noindex Code Snippet
3. Copy and Paste
It may become tempting to copy and paste certain parts of your website’s content when you’ve crafted a winning sentence or idea. This is common when a website includes the same boiler-plate text in the footer of every page, or you have very closely related products or services that you are describing on multiple pages. Always remember that Google and other search engines read through the text on your pages to determine the content’s relevancy to a particular search query. When implementing the same paragraph of text on multiple pages, you confuse the robots and potentially prevent any of those pages from ranking in search results.
Add Duplication Checks to Your Monthly SEO Plan
Duplicate content is often easy to avoid and fix if it’s already present on your website, if you know where to look. Failing to alleviate this common issue can prevent your newest content from hurling off into outer space, never to be seen again. Adding duplication checks to your monthly SEO plan can help to optimize your website for the best SEO performance, while ensuring that your users receive the best user experience and content available.