Will I Be Penalized for Duplicate Content?

2018/11/02 08:00

duplicated content

A closer look at how duplicate content really affects your SEO rankings.

There are a number of different debates around SEO rankings and the factors that can make or break your website – duplicate content is one of them.

There is a lot of different information floating around about whether or not duplicate content can affect your SEO rankings but the truth is that many people are still misunderstanding how Google treats duplicate content.

What is duplicate content & why does it matter?

Duplicate content is defined as any copy that appears online in multiple places. This means that content needs to appear at one or more URLs for it to be deemed a duplicate.

When a search engine runs into duplicate content, it causes two potential issues:

  • Google doesn’t know which version of the content to rank and include in search results
  • Google isn’t clear on where to direct metrics such as authority, trust and link equity

On the website owner’s side, duplicate content can affect them in the following ways:

  • The visibility of duplicate content is greatly reduced since search engines need to decide which version to index
  • Link equity is also spread out too thinly when third-party sites need to decide between duplicate pages too

Does Google penalize duplicate content?

In 2008, Susan Moska created a post that cleared this issue up. She stated that there is no such thing as “duplicate content”. Let’s explain this a little further.

Google doesn’t actually penalize duplicate content, it merely filters duplicate results so that only certain versions are included in search results. It’s important to keep in mind that Google’s main goal is to provide searchers with the best answers and results for their search queries, which is why it doesn’t make sense to show similar results on page one.

Google’s algorithms are designed to sort through duplicate content by placing similar versions of content into a group, after which the preferred URL is then displayed in search results. Google uses several different signals from each website to determine which URL’s content should be displayed. Basically, Google will also try to determine which URL is the original source of the content and display that one.

The only time that a website would ever be penalized for duplicate content is if it was proven that it was being done to manipulate search results.

Fixing duplicate content issues

If you have picked up on any duplicate content issues on your site, there are a few things that you can do to correct them. Before we get into these methods though, it’s important that you always allow Google to crawl your duplicate content. Always give Google the option to make the final call on your content for the best results.

  1. Implement a 301 redirect. One of the easiest ways to correct duplicate content is to use a 301 redirect to point the duplicate content to the original content. If you are running a WordPress site, there are a number of plugins available that make this process very simple.
  2. Use the Meta robots noindex tag. Using the noindex Meta tag is another easy way to handle duplicate content. To use this tag, add content=”noindex, follow” to the HTML in the header of each page that you don’t want Google to index. It’s recommended that you use this tag when you have duplicate content issues relating to pagination.
  3. Apply the rel=”canonical” attribute. This method will tell Google that a particular page is a copy of another and that any link or content metrics should be applied to the original URL. This attribute would also be added to the HTML in the header of each duplicate page.
  4. Use parameter handling. Website owners also have the option to tell Google whether or not it should crawl your URL parameters differently. You can set up your preferred domain and parameter handling in Google Search Console but it should be noted that if you use this method to handle duplicate content, it will only apply to Google.
  5. Be careful when syndicating content. If you will be syndicating content, be sure that URL that is used to link back to the original content is not a variation of the URL.
  6. Internal links should be consistent. When linking internally on your site, it’s important to be consistent. If you’re going to use the www version of your site for internal links, make sure that all URLs are the same. For example, make sure that all internal links point to https://www.mywebsite.com and not https://mywebsite.com too.

Duplicate content is definitely something that webmasters should be aware of and address but unless you’re deliberately trying to manipulate search engines, there is no reason for Google to penalize your website.