Duplicate content is an issue that many website owners have to tackle. Put simply, duplicate content issues occur when a web page’s content exists in more than one location/URL on the internet. There’s no evidence to suggest that search engines will penalise websites for duplicate content but it does make it more difficult for the likes of Google to identify which is the best page to show to users in search results.
How It Happens
There are a few different reasons why the issue can occur; at a basic level you may have two pages on your website with extremely similar content, or maybe you’ve ‘borrowed’ content from somewhere else on the internet. Duplicates can also be made if your website creates multiple URLs for the same page on your website. For example, you may have a printer friendly version of a particular page. You may also have older versions of a page on another domain, perhaps if you’ve moved from an HTTP to HTTPS version of your site. These instances are commonplace on websites and it is our job as SEOs and website owners to help the search engines understand which pages we want them to show people for the right content. Here are a few things you can to help.
One tactic which is considered best practice is to use 301 redirects to point any old pages to the version you wish to be seen by both the user and search engines. If pages with duplicate content are both ranking well, a redirect will consolidate this effort and stop the pages competing with other, hopefully driving one even higher.
Although it may sound confusing, a canonical tag is basically a sign post which tells the search engine which version of a page you want to rank for. It works by placing the tag on the pages that include duplicate or similar content and pointing back to the original URL. This will then point all of the link authority back to the specified URL. These tags work well for pages that have similar content that can’t be redirected.
Another tag at your disposal is the meta tag – robots – no follow. This simple sign post can be used to tell Google and other search engines not to index a particular page. You could place this on the duplicate page to stop Google crawling both pages and thus not treating it as duplicate content. Some content management systems will allow you to automatically deploy canonical and no follow tags, otherwise, you will need to ask your website developer.
Create Original Content
Search engines love original content so you should make sure that every page you create for your site is unique, informative and has a purpose. If you have two pages with very similar content, consider whether you need to keep both pages running. Either consolidate the pages or make changes to them both to give the content a noticeable distinction for both the user and search engines.
Remember, duplicate content is not going to directly impact your website rankings in search results. But if you can correctly show search engines the strongest page for the content on your site, you’ll be improving the effectiveness of your site’s search presence.