Duplicate content is an SEO issue that can affect websites across a range of industries. While Google has stated that they don’t penalize sites with the same content, it can still hurt your search engine rankings.
Often, duplication happens unintentionally. This could include tracking parameters on ecommerce product pages or printer-friendly web page versions with similar content to the original.
It’s a Rank Signal
We all know that quality content is essential in the SEO world, but it can be easy to fall into traps when creating and publishing your web pages. One such trap is duplicate content. This can happen when the same information appears on multiple URLs on the Internet and can cause various problems for your website and its rankings.
A primary issue when you check content duplication is that search engines must clarify it. This is because they don’t know which version to rank for query results or which to prefer.
Additionally, search engines can be forced to waste their crawl budget on duplicate content versions, which means they don’t have the resources to crawl and index new and updated pages as quickly. This can be a huge problem for websites that update frequently, such as ecommerce sites.
It’s a Signal of Authority
Despite the misinformation on the Internet, content duplication is not a penalty-inducing issue. The main concern is that search engines need to recognize which version of a piece of content is the original, whether on your site or an external domain. The process of specifying this information is called canonicalization. This is important because it prevents bad actors from stealing content and republishing it to manipulate search engine rankings. It also helps Google ensure that the most valuable and authentic answer is shown for a query instead of multiple versions of the same content.
However, just because duplicate content is not a penalty-inducing factor does not mean it’s not a problem for SEO. This is especially true for brands with multiple locations and those that utilize content syndication. In these cases, it’s difficult for Google to know which page to rank, and one place could end up ranking higher than another for the same keyword.
It’s a Signal of Clutter
In a search engine’s eyes, duplicate content is clutter. They want to show the most valuable original answer for each query, but they can’t do that when they have multiple copies of the same page floating around.
This can happen in several ways, from scrapers republishing your blog posts to ecommerce sites using the same product descriptions for the same items. Regardless of the cause, your visibility on search engines suffers when this happens.
In addition, if your duplicate pages receive links from other websites, that link equity is spread across all the copies and not to your preferred page, diluting the impact of those inbound links. To avoid this, you should always use a rel=canonical tag to specify the original version of a web page. You can learn more about this from this week’s Google Search Central SEO office hours with John Mueller. This will also help prevent duplicate content from hurting your SEO rankings.
It’s a Signal of Fraud
Generally speaking, duplicate content negatively impacts SEO rankings. This is because Google tries to index pages that contain distinct information. This means that when there’s the same content across your website, search engines aren’t sure which page to rank, and users won’t get the best information when searching for specific topics.
In some cases, this can lead to a penalty (although it’s super rare). At the very least, it leads to fewer indexed pages because Google doesn’t want to spend its crawl budget on duplicate pages that don’t add value.