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The Negative Effects of Duplicate Content [and how to fix it!]

Every business seeks to grow by leveraging top-notch website optimisation techniques and unique content marketing. Google’s algorithm has become much stricter concerning user experience, making the presence of duplicate content counter-productive. Why? It’s difficult for Google to establish whether or not a piece of content is relevant if it appears on more than one web page. Unfortunately, most small business owners aren’t aware of this issue.  


The solution? Focus on creating original content reflecting your expertise, experience, authority, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) to boost your online visibility and increase organic traffic to your site. 


This article will discuss duplicate content, its effect on small businesses, and how to mitigate its negative impact on website visibility. 


What is Duplicate Content?


Duplicate content is exactly what it sounds like; it’s content on one web page that is identical, or similar, to content on another web page. 


Why is this a problem? When there is more than one web page with the same content, it is difficult for search engines, like Google,  to determine which is the most relevant to link to on its results page. Consequently, the website will most likely lose traffic and have poorer rankings.


One study found that about 29% of web content is identical. Most of the time, site owners do this unintentionally, with one of the major culprits being URL variations. Parameters like analytics codes and click tracking can also lead to duplicate content. Even the order in which these parameters appear in a URL structure can cause duplication issues. 


If several websites sell the same products manufactured by the same brand, identical content, such as product information pages, can be found in multiple locations across the website. This is a common problem experienced by e-commerce websites. 


Sites with separate versions of “site.com” and “www.site.com” with similar content create duplicate content. The same applies to https:// and http:// websites. 


Why Does Duplicate Content Occur?


Below are some of the most common causes of duplicate content:


HTTP vs. HTTPS or WWW vs non-WWW


Duplicate content can occur unintentionally when a site has both https:// and http:// versions. You've essentially created duplicates on each page if you have the same content in both versions. The same applies to websites with site.com and www.site.com.”


Scraped or copied content


Scraped content is essentially stolen content from another website that has been changed slightly. It’s a lazy way that some people use to try to pad their website and enhance their SEO rankings. Ironically, this only hurts their chances on the search engine results page since Google’s algorithm doesn’t like duplicate content. How does Duplicate Content Affect Small Businesses?


Most small businesses focus on boosting their brand awareness and building their reputation online since it’s a more affordable way to attract new customers. However, they aren’t aware that creating duplicate content harms their website from an SEO point of view


Having similar web pages in your domain can cause the following issues:


Poor UX and missed rankings


Google algorithms rank and index unique and distinct web pages with original content. This means that if your site has duplicate content, Google will only rank one of the pages, which might not be your preferred version of that content. This means that organic traffic might get directed to a page that hasn’t been optimised for your audience, leading to poor user experience.


Keep in mind that improving user experience has an ROI of about 9,900%, so eliminating or lowering duplicate content is well worth the effort. 


Indexing issues


Googlebot crawls both new and existing pages on your website to monitor changes. Google allocates a specific bandwidth and budget per website, which you can view in the Search Console. So, a website with duplicate pages overworks Googlebot, leaving less resources and time for newly published pages. Once the crawl budget is depleted, you’ll struggle to index new content. Crawling inefficiencies are a substantial issue for websites because they become worthless if the content isn’t indexed. 


Self-competition


Another reason duplication is a severe SEO issue is that you are competing against yourself! This means lower organic traffic, as Google could rank syndicated web pages more highly than those with original, unique content. An author would want to divert from this, and although it’s rare, you might even get penalised for duplicating content. Your site could be de-indexed, and Google may refuse to index newly published pages. 


How to  Identify Duplicate Content


Now that you know what duplicate content is and how it affects your site, let’s jump into how you can identify it on your website:


Using online crawlers 


Use reliable online crawlers like Oncrawl to identify and solve duplicate content issues. Go to your website crawler and get the duplicate content report by clicking the “Duplicate Content” tab. You’ll get results as shown below: 


Screenshot of "Oncrawl" tool

Using plagiarism checker tools


There are several plagiarism checkers with advanced algorithms to detect duplicate content. These premium plagiarism tools provide reports to verify proof of originality. Some of these checkers include Grammarly, CopyScape, Plagium, and Plagiarismcheck.org.


Utilising Google Search Console


GSC is a free, simple way to check for identical content on your site. The tool crawls your website and reports any errors. It analyses your site’s metric impressions, such as click ranks, impressions, average CTR, and duplicate content.


Click on “Pages,” and the duplicate content will be shown as in the image below. With GSC, you’ll get detailed insights on:


  1. Presence of both HTTP and HTTPS versions of the same URL

  2. Coexistence of www and non-www versions of the same URL

  3. URLs with or without trailing slashes “/”

  4. URLs with or without query parameters


Screenshot of Google Search Console tool

How to Fix Duplicate Content?


Duplicate content makes it difficult for search engines, like Google, to consolidate the relevance of your content. So, fixing duplicate content should be a priority. Here are effective ways to resolve the issue:


Implement a 301 redirect


301 redirect is the best and easiest way to combat duplicate content. Combining several pages into one page stops self-competition and creates a more relevant signal. 

 

Use Rel=canonical tags


The rel=canonical attribute informs Google that a specific page should be treated as a URL copy. It helps you specify your preferred version to give it a ranking power.


Use meta robots noindex


You can add a meta robots tag to the HTML of every individual page that you don’t want to appear on the search engine’s index.  


Follow content syndication best practices 


Content syndication is a valuable strategy for dealing with duplicate content. Ensure you give attribution to the original content creator or owner and utilise canonical tags. Syndicated content, when done properly, can boost your web traffic and increase your reach.


Wrap Up


Small businesses should be mindful of the impacts of duplicate content on their websites. While identical content might seem harmless, it affects search engine visibility, online reputation, and user experience. SERPs and Google strive to deliver valuable and relevant content to their users, which means they could penalise your website by lowering its ranking if it’s not conducive to good UX. This will reduce organic traffic and decrease visibility. 

To mitigate these risks, small businesses should create valuable, original, and unique website copy. Ensure all blog posts, product descriptions, and service pages offer genuine value to the audience. Implement the best practices, such as redirects, consistent URL structures, and canonical tags. 


Investing effort and time to produce high-quality and authentic content can enhance the online presence of small businesses. Combined with the best SEO practices, original content can improve online visibility and attract substantial organic traffic.


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