At Molokini, we write huge amounts of original blogs, press releases and content that is then used on multiple channels in many ways. We also have a dedicated SEO team to support this function to ensure our content ranking potential is optimised. Quite often it’s for manufacturers that then provide content to dealers or local offices. We are often asked if duplicate content is bad, so here are our thoughts.
What is duplicate content?
The term “duplicate content” refers to a piece of content that is an exact replica or almost identical to an existing piece of content, often with slight variations such as specific keywords like brand names, product names, or locations.
There are two types of duplicate content: internal and external. Internal duplicate content occurs when the same content appears on multiple pages on a website, creating competition among those pages. External duplicate content occurs when the same content appears on different websites within a group, causing competition between sites.
A common misconception is that Google will penalise your website for having duplicate content. This is not the case in most circumstances unless the content has been stolen from another website and been passed off as your own. However, changing a few words won’t always prevent a page from being seen as duplicate content and can indirectly harm your search ranking and waste your crawl budget if incorrect pages show up in search results.
Google rewards unique and interesting content that is high quality and solves users’ queries. In terms of duplicate content, Google’s stance is as follows:
“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results. If your site suffers from duplicate content issues, and you don’t follow the advice listed above, we do a good job of choosing a version of the content to show in our search results.”
However, duplicate pages can cause problems like indexing issues, crawlability, and overall performance issues.
The Effect Duplicate Content Can Have on Your Website
Duplicate content may not have a direct penalty, except when copying from another website, but it can still affect Google Search results in other ways.
The main duplicate content issues that you will come across include:
- The wrong version of pages showing in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). For example, you’ve duplicated the UK page for the US version of your site, but the UK version is ranking for US searches
- Key pages aren’t performing as you expect in SERPs or experiencing indexing issues.
- Confusing crawlers and wasting crawl budget on pages you don’t want to index.
- Constant fluctuations or decreases in your core site metrics such as traffic or rank positions.
- Sending search engines confusing prioritisation signals which could cause other unexpected actions.
There is no clear guide from Google as to what content they will prioritise and deprioritise. However, they advise webmasters and content creators to create pages primarily for users and not for search engines.
Creating high-quality content that your users want to read, and will help them, will naturally increase the chances of your pages ranking better rather than trying to focus purely on getting your pages to rank highly without the user in mind.
It is important to regularly check your website for content duplication and minimise the risk by having a clear architecture, regular maintenance, and technical audits to be able to identify and fix any issues that are raised as soon as possible.
How can you Prevent Content Duplication?
To prevent content duplication on your website, especially for large or international sites, several strategies can be employed:
- Canonical Tags: Use rel=canonical HTML tags to indicate the main version of a page, reducing duplicate content issues.
- Duplicate URLs: Avoid problems with duplicate URLs by using consistent URL structures and setting up 301 redirects to the preferred version.
- Meta Tagging: Employ Meta robots to exclude specific pages from Google’s index, preventing them from appearing in search results.
- Redirects: Use redirects to guide duplicated pages back to the main version, particularly for high-traffic pages.
- Taxonomy: Organize content into topic clusters with unique H1 tags and focus keywords to minimize duplication.
- International SEO (Hreflang): Implement Hreflang tags for international websites to indicate the intended location and target audience for each page.
By applying these methods, you can effectively prevent duplicate content issues and improve your website’s search engine performance. Here is a link to Google Search Central which goes into more detail on how to implement these suggestions.
Duplicate Content – The Key Takeaways
The best way to avoid duplicates is by creating unique content for all your pages on your website. However, this is not always practical or achievable. As such, utilising a combination of techniques to stay on top of any duplication issues will put you in good stead to minimise any headaches duplicated pages may give you and provide your website with the best chances of ranking for the pages you want it to.
So what does that mean for Molokini and some of our clients? For example, a press release that needs to exist on a main .com site whilst also appearing in Canada, Australia and the US sites. And not to mention magazine websites that just re-use the press release. In this instance, as long as the brand’s websites are coded with the correct Hreflang, Google will have a clear signpost as to what should be delivered in each region. On magazine websites, we expect Google will understand that the content is a press release and hopefully our client will achieve a strong backlink!
If you need help with your SEO, please get in touch and one of our friendly SEO experts will be delighted to help.
Download our full insight on how duplicate content affects SEO here.