Have you ever wondered how duplicate content affects SEO? To answer this question, you first need to take a look at what constitutes duplicate content and what types of duplicate content exist. But, the first thing you need to keep in mind is that every single site is vulnerable when it comes to the threat of duplicate content.
Because of that, we will explain to you how you can find duplicate content and determine the degree to which it affects your SEO ranking. This is very important, especially for starters who are going over the SEO checklist. So, let’s start from the beginning.
What is duplicate content?
The shortest way to put it is: duplicate content is every piece of content that is either identical or very similar to another one. When the contents are identical they are called exact duplicates and when they are very similar they are known as near-duplicates. The distinction between them is in the amount of difference between the copy and the original one.
To be honest, since we live in the 21st century, many things have already been said and written. Therefore, the similarity between contents is pretty much unavoidable. But, there is a huge difference between blatant copying and a natural similarity.
Different types of duplicate content
When thinking about how duplicate content affects SEO, you must consider the matter in two ways:
- Internal duplicates
- External duplicates
Both of them are equally important. The first one regards the issue of duplicate content within one domain, while the second one regards the problem of cross-domain duplicates. In both cases, you can encounter exact and near-duplicate content.
The internal aspect of how duplicate content affects SEO
The internal aspects can be summed up in 4 key areas:
- On-page elements
- Product descriptions
- URL parameters
- Elements around the URL
On-page elements. Each of your pages has to have a unique page title and meta description. Also, the headings need to be different on all pages. That is the best way to ensure that internal content duplication is avoided.
Product descriptions. This one is for those who have eCommerce businesses. So, in the same way, that online reviews affect SEO, duplicate content does also. Original content in these cases requires a much longer time to write and optimize. That is why you should avoid having variations of your product on different pages. Ideally, they should all be on the same page.
URL parameters. Without getting into too much detail, we will give you the basic information you need. So, some websites use URL parameters to create page URL variations. These can, in some circumstances, lead to the indexing of different versions of the URLs. You should avoid this, whenever possible.
Elements around the URL. What we mean by that is the www, HTTP(S), and trailing slash (/) elements, that are often overlooked. So, to check for these issues, you just have to take a section of unique text from your most valuable landing pages, put it in quotes, and search for it on Google. The search engine will automatically find that exact string of text and display it. If it pops up on more than one page, you have a problem. To find out why this is happening, you will need to take a look at the three elements mentioned earlier. The most common way to fix this problem is to set up a 301 redirect to the preferred version of the text.
The external aspect of how duplicate content affects SEO
So, in comparison to the internal aspects, the external ones are fewer in numbers, but much more significant. For instance, if you have a lot of valuable content, chances are that it will be republished on other websites. Even though this might seem flattering at first, it isn’t good. The reason being that your ranking will inevitably be driven down. There are two ways that duplication can occur regarding the external aspect:
- Scraped content
- Syndicated content
Scraped content. The problem with scraped content is pure and simple stealing. So, one author steals content from another website to increase organic visibility. Even though it may be easy to detect sometimes, it can pose a big problem, especially if you are a starter. The result of this can be that your content can be flagged for trying to manipulate the search index. Consequently, you will be ranked much lower or even be removed from the search results altogether.
Syndicated content. So, syndicated content is just a fancy term for republished content. But, the circumstances are vastly different. While in the first case, someone just steals your content and republishes it, here you volunteer to share your content on another site. Believe it or not, this has some real-world benefits. For example, it makes your content much more visible and can lead to an increase in traffic to your website. Therefore, “trading content” is not so bad since you can become more visible, which is the point of SEO.
Always check for duplicate content
Although it may seem like a big hassle to check for duplicate content, it might be a good idea to do it. If you have a lot of content that is declining in ranking, it’s mandatory to check for copies on other websites.
We mentioned the exact-match method. Just copy a few sentences, put it all in quotations and search for them on Google. The quotations are important because this is the way to tell Google that you want this exact text to pop up in the search results. If there are multiple search results, someone has copied your content.
The other way to do it is to use the free tool Copyscape to check for duplicate content. If the text you’ve originally written is scraped, Copyscape will find it and you can then decide what to do next.
To answer the question at hand…
Duplicate content can affect your SEO in different ways. Some are good, most are bad. That is why you need to be on the lookout. While Google doesn’t impose penalties for duplicate content, it still filters identical content. So, in the context of effects, the filter serves as a penalty in the form of a loss of rankings. If you don’t pay attention to this your SEO efforts will pay off much later.
Duplicated content simply confuses the search algorithm and forces it to choose between identical pages that need to be ranked. In that sense, it is likely that the original content won’t be ranked as high as the copied one. Exactly because of this, you need to be on the lookout for copycats.