Duplicate Content Do’s and Don’t’s
We often run into duplicate content scenarios when people want to use the same content for a sister company. Typically, it’s more cost-effective to rebrand a blog or white paper and publish it to the sister site than to start from scratch. But what price do you pay when it comes to your site’s SEO?
Duplicate content is content that lives multiple places on the internet—both in and outside your website. People might accidentally upload the same piece of content in numerous places, or it could be a technical error. Yoast says, “For instance, your site could be available on both www and non-www or HTTP and HTTPS — or both at the same time, the horror!”
Why does duplicate content hurt your SEO?
While many think they’re being penalized for duplicate content, it’s more so that it presents technically technical issues for search engines. Here’s why:
- The search engine doesn’t know which URL to provide in its indices. And because of this, an unattractive URL might show up as the search result (think: a URL with a UTM code). People might be less likely to click an unsightly URL, thinking that it could be spam or a virus.
- Having the same content live on two separate URLs can cause backlink confusion. The search engine consolidates the links and selects which one it thinks is best to represent the set of URLs. While this sometimes fails, and the same listing will show multiple times, other times the search engine might not select the right landing page.
- Have you heard of “site crawlers”? Google uses crawlers to find new content on your website. They follow links from your existing pages to hunt down new pages on your site. They also revisit your old pages occasionally to look for any changes. By creating duplicate content, you’re making more work for the crawlers. “That can affect the speed and frequency at which they crawl your new or updated pages,” Ahref says. “That’s bad because it may lead to delays in indexing new pages and reindexing updated pages.”
- If you’re duplicating your content on another website, you create competition with yourself. And, if you don’t win, the other site will outrank your own—the original. There are enough competitors out there, and the last thing you need is to add one more.
A few causes
- URL parameters. While we love UTM codes, search engines can get confused as you make more URLs for the same page.
- Google is case-sensitive, so be sure you use one case when you use links on social media or internally on your website.
- Being inconsistent with your slashes can lead to confusion, as well. For example:
Google sees these as two different links, and that can confuse its algorithm. Stay consistent when naming your links to avoid this issue.
- Some people create “print-friendly” and mobile URLs (i.e., bluestardesign.com/print/blog or m.bluestar-design.com). Similarly, this creates confusion for the search engine. To resolve this, canonicalize the URL.
- Using tags can also confuse search engines. Some experts recommend removing tags altogether to prevent any SEO issues. If you don’t want to eliminate your tags, you can limit each page to one tag. When you give one page several tags, the page will show up under multiple pages with multiple links. Limiting the page to one tag — while it still shows up in a second place on your site — reduces the impact of your tags.
- Your comments section could also be impacting your SEO. Have you ever gone to a website, and the page reloaded when you went to page two? Having several comment pages duplicates the URL, having a similar effect as above. To avoid this, turn off your comment section.
SEO is complicated, to say the least. By reducing the number of places your content lives, and keeping it on one website and at one URL, you’ll increase your rankings. Learn more about your SEO and simple mistakes you could be making.