August 16, 2022

Google and other search engines have a problem: duplicate content. Duplicate content is similar content that appears at multiple URLs on the internet. Search engines can’t determine which URL should be displayed in search results. This can impact a website’s ranking and make it more difficult to find the right URL. This article will help to identify the causes and the solutions.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content refers to content that is found on multiple URLs. Search engines can’t determine which URL should be listed higher in search results because multiple URLs contain the same content. They might prefer one URL over another and therefore rank them both lower.

This article will focus on the technical reasons for duplicate content and their solutions. We recommend this post: What’s duplicate content. If you want to gain a wider perspective on duplicate content and how it relates to copied or scraped material or keyword cannibalization, then you should read this article: What’s duplicate content.

Let’s take an example to illustrate the point.

You can think of duplicate content as being at a crossroads with road signs pointing in two directions to the same destination. Which one should you choose? The final destination may be slightly different, but it is still the same. While you might not mind that you don’t get the answer you were looking for, a search engine must choose which page it will show in search results. It doesn’t want the same content twice.

Do you want duplicate content on your website?

Your rankings will be affected if you have duplicate content. Search engines will not know which page to recommend to users at the most. All pages that search engines consider duplicates are at risk of being ranked lower. This is the ideal scenario. If your duplicate content problems are serious, Google could take manual action against you. For example, if you have extremely thin content and word-for-word copy content, this could result in you being penalized by Google. If you want your content to rank well, ensure that every page has a reasonable amount of original content.

This is not just an issue for search engines. It can frustrate users who search for a page if they don’t find what they are looking for. As with all aspects of SEO, it is important to address duplicate content issues that impact user experience and search.

Duplicate content: Causes

There are many reasons to duplicate content. There are many reasons for duplicate content. Most of them are technical. The same content is rarely placed in two different places by the same person without clearly indicating which one is the original, except if you copied a post without permission and then published it accidentally. It feels strange to most people.

Content syndication and scrapers

You or your website usually cause duplicate content. However, sometimes other websites may use your content without your permission. Because they don’t always link back to your original article, the search engine can’t “get” it and must deal with another version. This problem will only get worse the more popular your site is.

The order of parameters

Another reason is that CMSs don’t use clean URLs. Instead, they use URLs like /?id=1&cat=2. ID refers to the article and cat to the category. While the URL /?cat=2&id=1 will produce identical results for most websites, they are completely different for search engines.

Comment pagination

You can paginate your comments in WordPress (and other systems). This causes the content to be duplicated across the article URL and the article URL +/comment_page-1/,/comment_page-2/, etc.

Print-friendly pages

Google will generally find printer-friendly pages if your content management system makes them and links them from your article pages unless you block them. Ask yourself this question: Which version would you like Google to show? You want it to show your article and not your ads.

WWW vs. nonWWWW

Although this is the most common search engine error, it can still be a problem. Search engines sometimes make mistakes when determining if there is duplicate content on WWW or non-WWWW sites. Both versions of your site should be accessible. I have seen a second but less common situation is HTTP vs duplicate content. This is where the same content is served over both.

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