Why Duplicate Content is a Big No-No

Have you had issues about duplicate content in your website?

Duplicate content is content that shows up in more than one place across the Internet. You can have duplicate content within one domain or across different websites, so long as it exists in a unique website address or URL.

But duplicate content is not limited to blog posts and product descriptions on your ecommerce webpage. It can be the boilerplate text on your webpages (usually appearing as footer or header text), the markup on the page (characters or symbols that indicate how the document should look when printed or displayed), or even a quote you cited from your favourite blog.

What sucks is that, as much as you want your content to be 100% unique, it’s just so difficult to do.

It becomes particularly problematic when Google search comes into play, especially when talking about duplicate content across different websites. Search engines can’t decide which content version should rank based on a search query. As much as possible, search engines won’t show multiple versions of the same content, so they’ll be forced to pick one that is most likely the best result. If you’re one of the least important duplicates, then, so long!

But relax, Google understands. It won’t penalise you for duplicates.

It does, however, discourage you to do so. Google’s Panda Update stops webpages with poor-quality content from ranking in search results, duplicate content included. So if you don’t want to get crushed by the Panda, here’s what you can do:

  • Be consistent with your URL

Let’s say I have www.brandshack.com.au/, brandshack.com.au, http://brandshack.wpengine.com and http://brandshack.wpengine.com/. To me, they’re all the same. Sadly, Google bots consider them four different URLs. So it’s best to maintain consistency in your URL structure. You could stick to either the www or non-www, or just the HTTPS – and be consistent.

  • “Canonicalise” your content

Another option is to organise your webpages according to categories and tags. This will tell Google that the webpages are copies of each other and should be treated as such. By using canonical links, search engines will show both URLs in search results.

  • Use meta tags

Meta tags can offer a solution in dealing with duplicate content – particularly the “Noindex” meta tag. When you use the noindex meta tag, you are telling Google not to index the page but permit it to crawl the links to and from the page. This guide will show you how to use noindex meta tags.

  • Set up Redirects

If you’ve just recently restructured your website, chances are you’d get duplicate content issues. Setting up 301 redirects is the best solution. The 301 will reach from the old URL to the new URL so that search engines will not consider the webpage duplicate content.

  • Avoid article spinning

Website owners often resort to spinning articles to quickly populate their site with fresh content. But you have to be careful: Google might come across your page as a duplicate and filter your page from showing in search results.

  • Be careful when republishing content

Content syndication is a great way of gaining traffic. However, Google most of the time counts them as duplicate content. So if you are planning to syndicate content, best to ask third-party sites to credit you as original creator and link back to your site with the proper anchor text.

I’d like to think duplicate content is the “evil twin” who always gets you into trouble. It will not land you in jail—as Google puts it— but it could ruin your chances of getting good business. So long as you understand how duplicate content can affect your site and know how to avoid them, you’re sure to get the good rankings you deserve.