Duplicate Content SEO Impact and Penalty by Google [2021]

Worried about how duplicate content might be hurting your SEO value and rankings? Or looking to learn how to fix it?

Duplicate content is among the top 3 things in SEO which can hurt your search engine optimisation effort. In this post, we talked in detail about the issue and the solution. If you still feel overwhelmed then getting help from a professional SEO copywriter could be a wise decision.

Duplicate Content SEO Penalty
Duplicate Content SEO Penalty

Table of contents

  1. What is duplicate content?
  2. Why is duplicate content bad for SEO?
  3. Google Duplicate Content Penalty
  4. Internal Duplicate Content SEO Issues
  5. Cross-Domain Duplicate Content
  6. How to fix Keyword cannibalisation?
  7. Importance of SEO copywriter
  8. Duplicate Content Checker Tools

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is simply a repetitive or identical content that appears all across the internet among several URLs.

According to Matt Cutts, former Google’s head of search spam, presence of repetitive or similar content is normal as about 25-30% of web content is duplicate.

However, it can significantly lower your rankings. You may not get hardcore duplicate content penalty notification from Gooogle but your page will struggle to get any decent ranking.

Usually duplicate content is of two types:

  • Internal duplicate content: It occurs when there are multiple URLs with same or similar content on the same website.
  • External duplicate content: It occurs when your content appears on different websites across different domains and is indexed by Google.

In both cases, there are chances of it to be identical or near-duplicate content.

To have a better understanding and recognition of any case of internal or external duplicate content regarding your website, get in touch with our specialised and highly experienced SEO consultant today.

Why is duplicate content bad for SEO?

Duplicate content is a great threat to your SEO efforts. It will make the website unhealthy from search engine optimisation point of view.

Whether you have internal content duplication or cross-domain duplication, it becomes hard for Google to rank and importantly it may not add value to users. If a user has seen a piece of content already then the same content may not be worth it and this is simple enough reason not to have duplicate content.

Pure and authentic content not only adds value to users but also it has the potential to rank and acquire natural links.

if you ever came across the situation of sudden SEO ranking drop then mostly caused by content duplication or poor link building.

Unhealthy websites often struggle to get website pages indexed. You must work on your content quality if your pages are not getting indexed by Google.

Google Duplicate Content Penalty

With all the buzz around duplicate content SEO impact, it does get confusing for site owners about how Google exactly deals with it.

In general, there is no harsh penalty by Google for duplication content. Read Google’s official guide about the duplicate content penalty. Having said that, it is a curtain that ranking a website or a page becomes difficult if you have excessive duplicate content.

But it turns out that officially there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty by Google.

Google simply carries out a web deduplication process where it clusters all the duplicate URLs into one group. It then consolidates the URLs based on different properties like link popularity to the representative URL and as such ranks up the best content.

Google is smart enough to recognise other websites that deliberately copy and publish your content excessively to manipulate their rankings. In such cases, it has the full authority to penalise those sites.

Internal Duplicate Content SEO Issues

Internal duplicate content is one of the major SEO issues that can immensely harm your SEO performance. However, most of the time, it is created unintentionally.

Let us check out the primary causes of the development of internal duplicate content.

1. Keyword cannibalisation

Keyword cannibalisation occurs when different pages on your website (service page, blog category page, blog page, etc.) unintentionally target the same keyword and as a result, start competing against each other.

That makes it difficult for Google to interpret which page is suitable to rank on SERPs.

Ultimately it may cause multiple pages or an unwanted page to rank for that specific keyword phrase depending upon the number of internal links directed to the page.

Oftentimes none of the pages might end up in search results.

That can significantly lower the traffic and conversions of your website and weaken its authority. It’s like cannibalising your own website.

The ways to tackle keyword cannibalisation are discussed in the later sections of the post.

2. Faceted navigation on eCommerce websites

eCommerce websites generally use the sort by/filter features on their pages which causes the customers to view products based on colour, prints, etc. Although it is helpful for customers, your SEO efforts can be at a great disadvantage if not managed well.

In such cases, pages are considered similar even though the URLs are different and specific to the target keyword of the filtered content.

Also, change in the order of placement of the URL parameters doesn’t really matter since those URLs lead to the same page.

All these instances give rise to duplicate content that is highly damaging to your website and you will struggle to boost eCommerce sales to a great extent.

Getting help from eCommerce website design and SEO expert is the best way to solve this problem by introducing appropriate canonical tagging.

3. HTTPs vs HTTP, www. vs non-www., or trailing slash vs. non-trailing slash URL duplications

There is a possibility that your web content may be present at different URL variations of HTTPS or HTTP, www. or non-www, and trailing or non-trailing slash.

For example:

  • https://www.example.com
  • https://example.com
  • http://www.example.com
  • http://example.com
  • example.com/inner-page (without trailing slash)
  • example.com/inner-page/ (with a trailing slash) and more

Ideally, you must present one page with one URL and if you can’t manage using one URL then you must use appropriate canonical URL. The default implementation of Magento is a great example which has this kind of issues.

The best way to prevent such issues, use 301 redirects to direct all the contents to a single desired page. Use our preferred URL testing tool to ensure you have one version of the URL.

5. Localisation

If you are providing the same content to different regions like Australia or the UK, then that can become an issue of duplicate content.

Such multi-regional contents are often close to near-duplicate content because of only a few changes in the time, location and other aspects.

However, if you are translating the content, then that isn’t considered as duplicate.

You can use the href lang attribute to help Google understand the relationship between the different versions and help it to show the right version of the content in front of the right people.

6. Tags and category pages in WordPress

Many tags and category pages do have the chances of creating duplicate content.

Archiving tags and category pages, tagging excessively and nearly similar tags and categories would possibly give you the exact copy of the original content.

You can blog unnecessary directories using robots.txt.

7. Tracking URLs and Session IDs

Tracking and Session IDs information are extracted through parameterised URLs, and so it may give rise to several duplicate contents.

Make sure to use canonical tags in the URLs and convert them to SEO friendly versions and without any tracking parameters.

Duplicate Content on Different Domain/Site

The reasons why external duplicate contents are created include-

1. Scraped Content

It is when a different website completely copies your content and publishes it on their site as a tactic to manipulatively generate traffic to their sites.

Such contents are simple to find out, and Google reserves the right to take down such websites.

So if you feel like your content has been scraped, you can request the other site for taking down the copied content or adding a canonical link to your site.

In case the site doesn’t comply, you can file a copyright infringement notice against it with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), and request the removal of the copied pages from the search engine index via Google.

2. Syndication

It occurs when a third party website republishes your content such as blogs, articles etc. in compliance with you or vice versa.

Syndication is beneficial for your website to gain exposure.

But if you want content syndication without any issue of duplicate content, then the best way is to link the syndicated content back to the original site.

Also, make sure that your syndication partners’ URL doesn’t contain any parameters. That way you won’t lose any traffic.

How To Fix Keyword Cannibalisation?

Keyword cannibalisation causes the pages of your website to compete against each other, which eventually leads to cannibalising your own website.

How to find cannibalisation issue?

There are few ways you can check if you have keywords cannibalisation issue on your website.

  1. Do a manual audit of website pages with similar content or theme.
  2. Use Google search. Just type: site:your-site.com = “Keywords related to cannibalisation”.
  3. Use third-party tools like ahref or SEMRush.

The process to solve Keywords cannibalisation

Once you have collected the data of all the pages that are getting killed due to keyword cannibalisation, it’s time to fix those issues. There are a few ways in which you can do that.

Method 1:

Create similar pages set and merge them into one big mother highly authoritative content and redirect those pages to the merged page.

Example:

  1. example.com/blog-writing
  2. example.com/benefits-of-blog-writing
  3. example.com/generate-traffic-using-blog

Now, all these 3 URLs are very similar in nature where 2 and 3 can be merged into 1 and also implement 301 redirects to the main content.

Method 2:

If you can’t merge them due to specific reasons then you can use noindex or canonical URL

Importance of SEO copywriter to manage duplicate content penalty

SEO copywriting is a vital component of any website. Professionally written content makes a greater impression on users and it also helps the website rank well. So knowing how to write SEO friendly content is very important.

An SEO copywriter has the skill and experience to write a professional and engaging content which will be great for users and search engine optimisation. An expert has depth knowledge of good vs bad SEO. They are equipped with the best SEO tools to efficiently produce healthy website content.

Moreover, an SEO copywriter is much better at aiming the target audience and in a more persuasive way.

Duplicate Content Checker Tools

Manually searching the web for a duplicate content can be overwhelming. So it is recommended to use plagiarism tools for faster results.

Since there are many paid and free duplicate content checker tools out there, it can get difficult to determine which is best for your website. However, the top two widely used tools include:

  • Siteliner: It is a free tool to check plagiarism. Simply, paste the URL of your content in the box and learn about all the duplicate contents, number of external or internal links, page loading speed and more SEO factors from the results. Moreover, you can also download a PDF version of the scan results.
  • Copyscape Premium: It is a paid plagiarism checker tool that delves deep in the web to find out a duplicate to near-duplicate contents. It also has a free version, but that doesn’t really give you desired results and the number of times you can search for a text is also limited.

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