Duplicate Content: Introduction, Penalties & FAQs

Duplicate content

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content refers to the presence of identical content on the same website or different domains over the internet without canonical tags, to define them as copies of the original content.

The duplicate content can be completely similar or even similar to an appreciable extent. Duplicate content is not always created to deceive search engines or visitors but can also be used to provide various options to share and view the content.

Types of Duplicate Content

There are two types of duplicate content:

  • Malicious Duplicate Content

  • Non-Malicious Duplicate Content

1. Malicious Duplicate Content

Malicious duplicate content is the type of content that does not add any value to the topic and is created purely to manipulate the search rankings and visitor experience.

Types of malicious content:

  • Content scraped from other website and republished

  • Content copied and published from various sources without the canonical tag

  • Multiple pages on the website targeting the same topic with the same content

2. Non-Malicious Duplicate Content

Non-malicious duplicate content is the exact content repeated across the same domain, usually because of the chosen CMS design and without malicious intent.

  • Duplicate content across the same domain, such as two versions of the same page, for example, a readable and print version on a website.

  • Blogs: By design blogs and CMS apps generate duplicate content, such as the same content falling under archives, tags, and new posts listed on the home page.

Both of the above types can be handled by adding a no-index tag to one of them.

However, if you do not add a no-index tag to either one then search engines will crawl both forms of content and pick one of them for the SERPs.

Does Google Penalize Duplicate Content?

No, Google does not penalize duplicate content, and there is no such thing as “Duplicate Content Penalty”, however, this only applies if your website has duplicate content that is not meant to manipulate Google search engine rankings.

In short, malicious duplicate content is what gets penalized and non-malicious duplicate content is not.

Content that gets penalized include:

  • Content generated using a program

  • Content that does not make sense

  • Webpages with no content

  • Hidden content on webpages

  • Scraped content

These are few forms of content that can get you in trouble.

According to Google:

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.

Source: Google Search Central

How does Google treat duplicate content pages?

When Google finds duplicate pages on a website, it would gather all URLs of the duplicate content, and once done, it would begin analyzing all URL’s to find one that stands out as the main URL and finally, look into the ranking factors such as authority links pointing to the URL based on which it is then ranked in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Google is smart enough to understand duplicate content and also analyze them.

However, this can be bad.

You are allowing the search engines to make the decision of the best suited URL for the topic out of all the duplicate content URLs it has selected, which means this can either be beneficial or even hurt you.

Personally, I would recommend that you take control of your duplicate content pages and add a no-index tag to then or a 301 redirect tag to ensure that you specify which URL needs to be treated as the original one and leave nothing on chances.

Lastly, do not block the search engine bots from crawling your duplicate pages such as adding a disallow statement in the robots.txt file, as this will make Google not to find all the duplicate URLs and compile them into a cluster, which will lead Google to consider each duplicate URL as a unique page and this will hurt your rankings and site authority.

Steps to Solve Duplicate Content Issues

As mentioned earlier, instead of letting Google decide which duplicate content page is worth being listed in the search results, you should take it upon yourself to ensure the targeted URL is treated as unique and other duplicate pages are not considered as a competition.

Here are the steps you can take to solve duplicate content issues:

Use 301 Redirect

Assigning a 301 redirect from the duplicate page to the original page, is considered the most effective way to deal with duplicate content.

Achieve this by adding the 301 redirect to the .htaccess file to send users along with search engine crawlers to the relevant page.

Add rel=”canonical” Tag

Add rel=”canonical” tag to your duplicate pages to tell search engines that the page is in fact a copy and they should considered the other URL as the original one.

This will ensure that search engines will assign more value to the original page rather than waste it on the duplicate pages.

Fix Content Management System (CMS)

Your content management system could be generating duplicate content, thus it is highly important for you study and analyze your CMS, to ensure it is not doing so or even if it is, then it is wise to find out what kind of duplicate content is it generating.

Most commonly, few CMS platforms generate duplicate content in the form of archives thus, it is better to find these and fix it as soon as possible.

Insert no-index Attribute

Adding a no-index tag to your duplicate pages will ensure that search engines do not list the duplicate pages to the search engine results pages.

Search engines will be able to crawl the duplicate pages and also see the link within those pages however will not consider it to be listed in the search results. This will ensure that the original page remains the valid one and gets all the attention from search engines.

Keep URLs Clean

Duplicate content can also be caused by using URL parameters and having multiple URLs can lower the authority of your original URL. This should definitely be avoided and you can do this by not creating URL parameters in bulk however if you have to then add 301 redirect to your URL parameters.

You can also use a cookie in order to set the tracking ID’s but ensure that your content is visible even when the cookie is disabled.

Duplicate content on third party sites

If you have added duplicate content to third party sites then it is advised to ensure you add the rel=canonical to that page to showcase that it is copy to the search engines.

In case, you find that the third party has copied and published your content without your permission, then it is best to report the website to a third-party host for content copyright violation, you can also ask Google to deindex the page in question by filling this form.

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