Duplicate content issue – how to detect, fix, and prevent it?
Unique, valuable, and well-optimized – this type of content has the highest chance of ranking well in search engines. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the first of those qualities. Identical or very similar content found under different URLs is not rewarded by Google. Therefore, it may prove to be an obstacle to gaining more organic traffic to a website.
From this article, you’ll know:
- What is duplicate content and under what circumstances it arises
- How does duplicating content affect SEO?
- How to detect and fix duplicates, and how to prevent them in the future?
What is duplicate content?
Duplicate content is a piece of text that shows up in more than one place on the Internet. Duplicated texts found on different websites are poorly ranked by Google, which can result in lower visibility in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Remember, longer parts of the text can also be considered duplicate content. That’s why it’s so important for SEO to pay attention to the uniqueness of the text.
Firstly, we should focus on the fact that we can deal with both internal and external duplicates. The former refers to situations where a certain text exists under various URLs across one domain, whereas the latter refers to duplicate content that can be found on different websites.
Where does duplicate content come from?
Duplicated texts may stem from various sources. An unfair, but unfortunately, common practice is theft of the text. Ethical issues are one thing, but the “copy and paste” method may simply not work. There are, however, people who, instead of creating content from scratch, take a shortcut and take advantage of other people’s property. Sometimes, the owners of the websites do it on purpose, but there are also situations where they’re not even aware of the fact because they outsource the work to dishonest copywriters.
We should emphasize the fact that external duplicate content does not always stem from bad intentions. Sometimes, we can see it in online stores that use pre-made copies from the manufacturers’ websites or delivered by distributors. When dealing with such a situation, keep in mind that your competitors may also have had the same idea. Crawlers who scan websites are getting more accurate and pay more attention to the uniqueness of the text. That’s why it’s so important to create it by yourself
Internal duplicates, on the other hand, can be the result of technical issues like a lack of proper redirects. We can also observe it in situations where there are various models of the same product offered in the online store, for example, different color options or sizes, with each of them having its own subpage. Sellers also usually copy their texts when they place their offers on other platforms like eBay or Amazon.
Why is text uniqueness so important
In cases where the exact same text appears on different websites, Google crawlers can have trouble deciding which result is closest to answering the question asked by a user. The browser rarely displays duplicated content in high positions. That’s why it will most likely select only one website. As a result, the owners of websites that feature duplicated content can notice decreases in rankings, with lower organic traffic following.
What’s more, intentional copying of content from other domains is also perceived as unethical. After all, it’s nothing more than a theft. In the real world, if you’re caught taking someone else’s property, you’ll be faced with appropriate punishment, dictated by the law. Similarly, in the virtual world, our website can be punished by Google if the algorithms notice the use of someone’s text. The punishment can take different forms, for example, the application of a special filter or the removal of the page from indexation.
SEO specialists explain that such situations are a rarity and can only affect us in the case of serious abuse of the rules and obvious attempts to manipulate the search results. However, it doesn’t change the fact that a website that features duplicated content most likely will show up in lower positions in search results, compared to a situation where it would feature original content. Google rewards those with high-quality, unique content.
Onto duplicate content – how to check if the content is unique?
Now that we know what the consequences of duplicating content are, it’s worth checking if the pieces we publish are original. The seemingly simplest method of detecting duplicates is using Google and typing in longer pieces of text into the search bar. Placing them in quotation marks allows us to narrow down the search results to only those fragments that feature the exact text we typed in. It’s a time-consuming solution, but sporadic checks of a few sentences can successfully detect duplicates.
Tools like the duplicate content checker
Various tools can help us check the uniqueness of the text. Some of them are used not only by website owners, content marketing or SEO specialists but also by students or university employees. Anti-plagiarism control is one of the stages of university thesis submission. Dedicated software allows for verifying whether the thesis is the work of a single student or whether it copies other sources (if yes, then to what degree). This kind of solution may be applied to SEO as well. Content creators have a wide range of tools to choose from, like the Plagiarism Checker. All you have to do is paste the text in a proper field to see its originality.
What’s more, there are other solutions that allow for detecting duplicate content (often referred to as duplicate content checkers), for instance, Siteliner and Copyscape, though their systems differ from anti-plagiarism tools. In these tools, we only provide a link to our website. The program will then search for duplicated content along with addresses where it can be found. Thanks to it, you can quickly and easily scan your entire content. Some SEO tools also have a feature for detecting duplicate content, for example, Screaming Frog.
How to deal with duplicated content?
If the problem stems from our own actions, the solution seems rather simple – to replace the existing content with a new one. Depending on the situation and the degree to which we duplicated the text, we can edit it (for example, by using different wording, synonyms, or the order), or expand it (by adding new fragments if a subject can be expanded). When we deal with a short or low-quality piece of text, it’s worth thinking about writing it from scratch.
Let’s say that you run an online cosmetics store, and you offer the same product but in different packages of various sizes – 100 ml, 300 ml, and 500 ml. To avoid internal duplication (i.e., a situation where each of the three subpages features the exact same product description), you don’t have to begin anew every time. Sometimes, all you have to do is add some modifications to your base text. Edit the fragments of the content while trying to showcase the unique features of each version of the product. You can mention that a smaller packaging of the product can be a perfect match for hand luggage on a plane, and a bigger one would be a more economical solution.
External duplicates, on the other hand, can be a result of unfair competition. So, what should you do if you do everything by the book and someone else copies your texts? Firstly, you should try to contact the company that copied the content. Perhaps you’ll be able to have them remove it. If it doesn’t work, you can also report the incident directly to Google.
Other ways of fixing duplicate content
In the case of the unaware creation of duplicate content, you can use other solutions tied to technical aspects of the website. With the changes listed below, you can either make them yourself or with the help of a developer. Some of them are:
- creating canonical links, i.e., pointing the search engine to the main URL,
- setting up 301 redirects to point the search engine and users to the proper pages,
- avoiding patterns and unfinished pages that don’t feature unique content,
- excluding unwanted pages from indexation with the help of the “noindex” metatag,
- making sure that structures of URLs and internal linking are coherent.
More tips on how to fix duplicate content with these solutions have been covered in this Google guide.
Better to be safe than sorry
Using someone else’s text and replacing a few words or sentences in it is not a good thing for successful content marketing and developing a position and website authority. That’s why, from the beginning of the work on positioning, we advise you to adhere to the fair play rules and place your bet on content that has been made to answer the needs of your website. Ethical actions that are in line with search engine rules are part of the White Hat SEO strategy that has been recommended by specialists.
Of course, you have to be prepared that it will require more time and money. But remember, this is the only way of achieving success without risking decreases caused by duplicated content or competitors suspecting you of foul play. In order to do so, cooperating with a trustworthy copywriter or a content marketing agency may seem like a good idea. They will certainly provide you with high-quality, unique content, written in a substantial way with all the linguistic correctness you require.
Before we go, we have one more important suggestion for you. As it’s with everything, we should also maintain a healthy relationship by keeping our content unique. For instance, when writing about certain subjects on your company blog, you probably won’t be able to stay away from similar wording or terms. Luckily, you don’t have to be afraid that those will be considered duplicates, and you won’t have to force yourself into using different synonyms. Unless you copy and paste entire blocks of text, of course.
Content filled with keywords won’t be enough to rank high in the search results. Google algorithms reward high-quality and unique content. If there are other identical or even similar articles under the same URL, browsers will have a hard time deciding on which one is the best fit for the received question. In this case, duplicate content may indeed be an obstacle to acquiring high rankings. That’s why it’s crucial to check the uniqueness of the content on your website and introduce solutions that may help you solve the problem or avoid it in the future.