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The Best Way to Deal with Duplicate Content for SEO

The Best Way to Deal with Duplicate Content for SEO.

Duplicate content can hurt SEO and ranking. So, you may lose traffic. So, fixing the issue of duplicate content is an essential part of SEO. There are several ways to fix the issue. The best way is not to create it intentionally.

But, the problem is your site may contain duplicate content even if you did not create it intentionally.

And Google may discover it easily beyond the way you think. 

So, before publishing content, checking your site with an effective tool is the smart way to eliminate or fix duplicate content.

How to deal with them depends on the type of duplicate content your site contains.

This article will help you understand the meaning of duplicate content, the reasons for its existence on your site, and the ways to fix the issue.

Let me explain first the meaning of duplicate content.

How to deal with duplicate content

What is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content means the content of a  webpage that's similar to the content of other location(s) or URL. Other location(s) or URL includes the other page of the same website.

This means if the same content appears on multiple URLs of your site, you have duplicate content. If your site contains duplicate content, you may suffer ranking.

Google defined it as ''substantive blocks of content within or across domains''. A contains that exactly matches word by word or nearly similar to other content is duplicate.

To summarize the above:
  • There are two kinds of duplicate content-
Internal Duplicate- Duplicate within the same domain
External Duplicate- Existence of duplicate content in multiple domains.
  • Duplicate content means exactly identical and includes nearly identical.
  • Duplicate content may be created intentionally to cheat search engines or non-intentionally (by mistake or for other reasons).
Whatever may be the reasons, intent, and types of duplicate content, you should handle them correctly.

Duplicate content matters because they confuse Google (and other search engines) to display the correct results on the search pages. They create a bad user experience (UX).

When more than one URL contains similar content, Google doesn't know which URL to show on the result page of the search queries.

Further, with the linking of different versions of the same content, the difficulties may become worst.

Most new bloggers overlook or neglect this area. You shouldn't do like them. That's why you need to learn the right ways to deal with them.

Causes of Duplicate Content

The existence of duplicate content may or may not be intentional. In fact, in most cases, it is not created deliberately for deceptive purposes. You may ask how does it happen if not the deliberate creation.

There are many technical and non-technical reasons for it, and in some cases, it happens due to minor mistakes.

In this section, I'll explain some of the significant causes of duplicate content.

  • Different URL versions of the same Page

One of the most common causes of content that appears multiple times is different versions of URLs. 

For example, HTTP vs. HTTPS on the same page and WWW vs. non-WWW versions of an URL.

If we put together different versions of your website, they look likes:

Although the target URL is the same, Google considers them different URLs with the same content, meaning duplicate.

In other words, if multiple versions of URLs of a page are visible on Google (or other search engines), your content will be considered a duplicate.

  • Use of URL Parameters 

Different parameters are used with URLs for tracking, filtering, recording, searching, translating, and other purposes. They create the problem of duplicate content.

Look at the following URL: product? search=widget.

Additional parameters are added at the end of the URL. 

Offen, an URL contains more than one parameter. For separating each parameter, the ''&'' sign is used.

In the eCommerce sites, you'll find different parameters of URLs that are used for different sizes and colors and other variants of the same products.

Whatever may be the purpose, Google treats every parameter-based URL as a new page.
Thus the problem of duplicate content arises.

  • Multiple Pages with Similar Content

When your site contains more than one page with the same or almost similar content, they are duplicates. In this situation, Google will show only one of them on the search queries.

  • Product Specifications and Descriptions

If you deal with affiliate products or sponsored products, the probability of creating duplicate content is high as the product descriptions and specifications are provided by the manufacturer/ sponsored company.

Thus, all the marketers or sellers use the same product description and republish it in multiple locations. Eventually, lots of identical product page content appears on the web.

  • Static Pages created using Third-Party Softwares

When you use the third-party software to create the Privacy Policy or other legal documents of your site, you create duplicate content.
Many people use the same software for creating the legal documents of their sites that are nearly identical.

  • Content Syndication & Distribution

If you allow other websites to republish your blog posts on their sites, it is known as content syndication. The leading syndicators have a wide range of networks. 

Many sites allow syndicating their content because of the multiple benefits that all I'm not going to discuss here.

Simply, from the marketing perspective, syndication is good. It also helps establish your brand. But from an SEO perspective, risks are involved that include the problem of duplication.

Because of the syndication, a piece of your content is present to multiple websites. So you should be careful while syndicating content. 

So, how to perform effective syndication that will solve the issue of duplication?

From the different versions of syndicated content, Google shows the one which they think appropriate for each search query.

So, there is no guarantee that your preferred version will appear on the search result each time.

You can manage the issue well if you- 

  • ask the sites on which you're syndicating your content to link back to your original content, and
  • request the sites on which your original article is used are to implement the ''noindex'' tag to prevent  Google from indexing their versions.

Social Media and Guest Posting platforms:

The problem of duplication happens when you publish your blog posts to social media and guest posting sites. 

When you publish your original blog post to different platforms, including social media, you're into the trap of duplication.

Likewise, the duplication issue arises if you publish your original blog post to a guest posting site.

Content repurposing helps you get rid of the issue. Convert a single blog post into many pieces through repurposing, then distribute them to several channels.

  • Scraped/ copied Content

Sometimes, website owners steal content from another website(s). This is known as scraped content. Often, they use rewriting tools to do some modifications.

 But, Google is smart enough and can detect the scrap easily.

If you copy content from someone's website and paste it to your own site to manipulate Google's ranking, it violates the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

 In such circumstances, the affected pages or the entire website will not be shown in the Google search results.

The major causes of duplicate content are discussed here. 

The other reasons include paginated comments, localized URLs, a Print-friendly version, a trailing slash version, and more.

Is the Mobile version of My main Site is Duplicate?

Instead of a responsive design, some publishers use a  separate version of their sites for mobile devices. 

If you have a separate mobile version of the same content that exists on the web version, A separate group of Google bots will crawl the URL of your mobile version. So, Google will not treat the different versions as duplicates.

Penalty for Duplications

Is it true Google penalizes for duplicate content?

Firstly, the answer is ''NO''. 

We don't have a duplicate content penalty. It's not that we would demote a site for having a lot of sites.


But this is not to encourage your site to have duplication. Rather, it is an opportunity to fix the issues of duplication.

Although Google doesn't impose a penalty for duplicate content, they hurt SEO.
Furthermore, you can't deny the natural consequences. So, try to minimize them and use the proper way to fix the issues. 

Finally, If your site has lots of copied content created intentionally to manipulate Google, You're in trouble. 

Many sites are not getting AdSense approval because of the issues of thin content and duplicate content. Google will not show malicious content in the SERPs.

And, if you don't fix them, Google may remove such type of duplicate content or the entire site.

  • What Google Say About Duplicate Content

Google won't display more than one URL with the same content on the result pages, so avoid creating duplicate content. 

Although most of them are non-deliberate and non-malicious, in certain cases, website owners create them deliberately to manipulate rankings and get additional traffic.

The deceptive practices not only create difficulties to search engines but generates a poor user experience. Google suggested some steps to be taken to resolve the duplication issues. 

Google further clarified, when your site suffers from duplicate issues, you should follow its advice. Otherwise, Google will choose a version of your content that they think appropriate to show on the search results.

Why Duplicate Content is Bad for SEO?

Both internal and external duplication is bad for SEO. Otherwise, there would have been no need to publish this article.

Assume that you have two pages on your site with similar articles - Page X (original) and Page Y (Copy of page X). 

Google won't show duplicate content on the search, and it doesn't know which one is original.

In this case, Google will ignore both the pages from indexing. So, both pages will struggle to rank.

The major impacts of duplication on SEO are-

Dilution of Link Juice

A large amount of duplication may dilute your ranking efficiency. When content is available on multiple pages, each page may gain backlinks. 

Eventually, link juice or link equity splits into multiple URLs, which is bad for SEO.

But, there is no reason to panic because Google handles duplicate content efficiently. So it is not always a problem.

According to Ahref

In simple terms, when they detect duplicate content, they group the URLs into one cluster. They then select what [they] think is the ‘best’ URL to represent the cluster in search results” and “consolidate properties of the URLs in the cluster, such as link popularity, to the representative URL.

Wasted Crawl Budget 

Crawl budget means the number of URLs that Google crawls and indexes on your site within the specified time. 

If the number of pages on your site is more than the crawl budget, you're going to have non-indexed pages on your site.

So, duplication may cause wasting your crawl budget. A lot of SEO efforts are needed to improve the crawl budget.

Ranking of Single URL

When multiple URLs exist, Google will show Only one URL on the search page, which they think original on the result pages. It doesn't guarantee that it is your URL.

How to Identify Duplicate Content

Identifying duplicate content on your site is an integral part of SEO. There are several ways to do that. It can be detected during site audits if you use appropriate site checking or auditing tools. 

For checking external duplication, there are two ways- Manual checking and using a  plagiarism checker.
  • Manual checking
You can check manually with the Google search bar. Copy a small section of your article and paste the copied text with the ''quotation'' mark into the search bar of Google. Don't use too long text.

If the text snippet exists on other sites, Google will show them on the result page. This means you're the victim of duplicate content. Although the process is lengthy, you can do a random check of some text of your article.

  • With a plagiarism checking tool
Tons of plagiarism checking tools are there a free version. You just copy the text and paste it into the specified field. But because of limitations of the number of words, you may not check the entire article at once.

But, this plagiarism checker allows you to enter up to 10000 words that I think suitable for you. The good news for you it's a free tool.

To find the internal duplicate content, I use Siteliner to identify them instantly. It's great free software with lots of features, although the premium version is there.

I love this free and first tool as it's easy to use. Just paste the URL of your site in the specified box and press enter, your report will be ready within a minute.

If you want to check broken links of your site, no need to search for an additional tool, you'll get it in the report.

Duplicate content report of techazu
Duplicate content report summary

Internal duplicate content-techazu

More things you can check as the report includes: 
  • Average page size
  • Average page load time
  • Average words count per page
  • Text to HTML Ratio
  • Internal and External Links
  • And more.
You can download your site report. The free version has a limitation of checking that is once every 30 days per site.

How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues

  • 301 Redirect

The best way to handle the internal duplication is 301 redirect, aka permanent redirect. 301 redirect is the easiest way of fixing the duplication issue when you found a bunch of delicate pages on your site.

When you find duplicate content on your site, set up a 301 redirect from the duplicate page to the page you want to rank.

When Google visits a page of your site and finds a 301 redirect, it arrives at the original page via a duplicate page. 

This helps Google identify your original page without any confusion. 

The good thing is Google considers all links to a duplicate page as the links to the original page. So, you're not losing the SEO value of links.

Using 301 redirects is a smart way of passing the SEO benefits of all duplicate pages into a single original one. 

  • Canonical Tag

Using rel= canonical tag (also known as a canonical tag) is another smart way to deal with duplicate pages. 

You can prevent the problems of duplication with canonicalization. This tag tells Google the specific URL is the ''master copy of your page'' means the original. 

In other words, the page on which the canonical tag appears is treated by search engines as a duplicate of the specified page.

Canonicalization is better than blocking your duplicate pages through the robot. text or ''noindex'' tag.

Make sure your home page contains a rel= canonical tag because many people link to your home page in several ways that create the problem of homepage duplication.

The main difference between canonicalization and a 301 redirect is the visibility of URLs to human users.

When you use a 301 redirect, the users will be redirected to the desired page automatically. They'll not see the duplicate page on which a 301 redirect is active. 
But, when you canonicalize, they can see all the pages.

When a site uses different URL parameters, canonicalization is the ideal way to deal with duplication.

A strategy of a periodical website audit can help you inspect the canonical tags. 

  • ''Noindex'' Meta Tags

In the SEO guide for beginners, You'll find an overview of meta tags. Different meta tags are used to provide important information to search engines about a website. ''Noindex'' is a specialized form of meta tag that's relevant here.

You can prevent Google from indexing a page that contains duplicate content by using the noindex meta tag in the HTTML code of the page. Noindex tag tells Google's robot not to index that page.

If you add a ''noindex'' meta robots tag to a page, your page will not be shown in SERPs. So, this is a powerful tool to handle duplicate issues.

Apart from duplication, the ''noindex'' directive in the meta robots tags are used for other reasons that include-
  • Pages with thin content
  • Pages under construction
  • Pages with sensitive information
  • Different pages of e-commerce sites, etc.
Be careful when using the ''noindex'' tag. You shouldn't use this tag to the HTML codes of a valuable page. A  page with the  ''noindex'' tag is usually treated as ''nofollow''. 

If you want that search engine should crawl the links of a  page with noindex meta tag, use the following tag-

<meta name= ''robots'' content= ''noindex follow'' />

The ''follow'' tag after ''noindex'' tells Google not to ignore the links.

  • Consistency in Internal Linking

 Maintaining consistency while linking is one of Google's recommended ways to handle the issue of duplication. Be consistent in internal linking

You shouldn't link to different versions of URLs at different times. Always link to the preferred version of URLs. 

  • Reduce Nearly Identical Content

If you find multiple nearly identical content on your site, minimize them by combining multiple pieces into one.

Suppose you two blog posts on your site with two apparently different topics:
  • ''Benefits of Content Marketing  with Instagram''
  • ''Benefits of Content Marketing with Facebook''.
You can merge the two nearly identical articles into one with a Title-
 '' Benefits of Content Marketing With Social Media''

The newly merged page will rank better than the old nearly duplicate pages.

  • Minimize Boilerplate repetition

According to Rankmovers, almost all websites have boilerplate content. It may be the part of your main content, legal document, sidebar navigation, and so on.

Simply put, boilerplate refers to reusable text that is used repeatedly on different pages of a website and in several places on a single page.

You'll often find boilerplate text to a header, a footer, or a sidebar of a standard website, even on the well-ranking sites.

Although repetition of boilerplate doesn't harm your SEO and Google smartly differentiates it from other types of malicious duplication, their Guidelines recommend minimizing the repetition.

According to Google, Instead of adding a lengthy copyright text on the bottom of every page, inserting a brief summary, and linking to the main page is good practice for minimizing boilerplate.

Keep Learning:

Final Thought

You're not alone in facing the problem of duplicate content. So, it happens everywhere on the web. In fact, 25%-30% of the content on the web is duplicate.

The claim of a site with 100% unique content is invalid. The good news is Google doesn't treat duplicate content as spam.

If you're honest and not involved in deceptive practices, Just follow the tips provided above to fix the issues. 

No need to be worried much as Google is smart enough and its algorithm can handle non-deliberate duplicate content.

Hope you enjoyed the article. Do share it with more bloggers so that they can get benefits from it.


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