Duplicate Content in SEO: Why Does it Happen and How do You Fix it?

Duplicate content on websites happens more often than you think and it’s bad news for SEO. It becomes a problem because it makes it hard for search engines like Google to find certain pages, since duplication impacts search visibility. This affects the ranking of a web page profoundly, and you therefore lose traffic. Although rare, in some situations you may even get a penalty from Google for duplicate content. 

Despite the risks, 25-30 % of all internet content is duplicate, without people necessarily intending to create it. Yes, even innocent duplication is a significant problem. 

This article will discuss what duplicate content in Search Engine Optimisation is, why it’s a problem, and how to fix it. While you may not be able to fix everything, you’ll be able to benefit your search engine optimisation to some extent.


What is Duplicate Content in SEO?

Duplicate content is content from two different online pages, that is either exactly the same or just slightly different from each other. It can be two pages on one site, or it can be across domains or multiple URLs.


How Does Duplicate Content Affect Your SEO?

Search engines use many guidelines to rate your pages’ value. For one thing, each page or URL has to provide content that is distinctively unique, or other pages will be preferred to yours. Also, when other pages link to yours, this can affect your ranking positively. 

Now, if the content on yours is very similar to another, the search engine doesn’t know how to rank your page. There’s a big chance that its ranking will drop and it will appear lower in the search results. 

Furthermore, you may have two URLs with similar content, for example www.digitalinsider.com/duplicate and www.digitalinsider.com/blog/duplicate. Some people may link to your first URL and others to your second, instead of all the links benefiting one single page. Therefore, it reduces that content’s chances of earning a high search engine ranking.


What Causes Duplicate Content?

Misunderstanding the Nature of a URL

One of the main causes of duplicate content is that Content Management System (CMS) managers and web developers don’t plan efficiently for SEO and URLs. This may simply be a lack of skill.

For some, the two URLs www.digitalinsider.com/duplicate and www.digitalinsider.com/blog/duplicate are understood as one page, not two. The CMS software will enable you to navigate to one page via several URLs. That is because how you identify content in these systems is not via their URLs, but through a CMS identity number.

This is why you need to educate your web developers, programmers and CMS managers about SEO and URLs, and the problems of rankings.


Naming of URLs Related to Tracking and Sorting

Another issue occurs where you need to track and sort what happens on your page. If you have a page www.digitalinsider.com/duplicate/?source=rss, then you might be able to find out where the source comes from, but the URL will confuse the search engine. 

This goes for every item you tag on to the end of your original URL. It’s best to give it a different name altogether.


Session Identities

When you have customers shopping on your website and you track them, for instance when they put something in their shopping cart, then you have to give them a session identity. That identity has to be kept somewhere, and sometimes it gets added to the URL. Unfortunately, this can damage your ranking.


WWW and Non-WWW Content

Sometimes you have content that is accessed via similar addresses, one with ‘www’ and another without ‘www’. The same can happen in terms of your site resolving under both ‘http’ AND ‘https’. You need to stick to one form of either to avoid SEO problems.


Comment Page Problems

Sometimes your comments section adds to the URL. So, you’ll see www.digitalinsider.com/comment -1, and www.digitalinsider.com/comment -2, and so forth. This demotes you in the page search.


Scrapers or Content Syndication

Another issue is people copying your content exactly and pasting it on their own websites, changing nothing or little. They do it without your permission, and don’t create a link to your original article either, which you now know causes confusion. This is plagiarism, and is called scraping or content syndication.


Order of Content Naming or Identification

A CMS will often name the parameters of URLs in a different order, for instance /?id=1&cat=2, and /?cat=2&id=1. This is acceptable for CMS, but not for SEO. The two will register the same content on the CMS, but hurts your SEO rankings.


Duplicate Product Descriptions

Many websites sell the same products, so will have exactly the same description for a product.


How to Identify Duplicate Content Problems

Search engines can help you identify duplicate content on your site. All you need to do is add the word ‘intitle’. To use our example, type this in: site:digitalinsider.com intitle: “keyword x”.


Your search engine will show you all the pages across the web that relate to that keyword. You can then manually fix the URLs of the various pages or use some of the solutions below. You can even type in the complete title of your article, or full sentences contained on the page to check if they’ve been scraped.


Duplicate Content


Canonical URL

A simple solution is adding a canonical nomenclature to your primary page. You write it as rel=“canonical” before your primary web page. No one else sees that part except search engines. It helps protect your content from scrapers, and it helps to prevent duplication.


Train CMS Managers, Web Developers and Programmers

Make sure to train your CMS managers and web developers in SEO and duplication issues. Using the necessary guidelines, they can improve current content and prevent future problems. It’s a matter of educating your team.


Redirect Duplicate Content

Sometimes your systems can’t prevent duplicate URLS. In that case, a solution is to redirect your duplicate content to canonical URLs. You can ask developers or the experts at Digital Insider to assist.


Link to the Original Content

If you can’t control the <head> section of your site, then link back to the original content either above or below your article. Do this particularly in your RSS feed. Some plagiarists or scrapers might omit this, but others won’t, giving search engines a good indication of the original source of the content. So, at least you can control illegal copiers to some extent.


Other Quick Solutions

  • Disable session IDs that link to URLs in your system settings.
  • For duplicate printer-friendly pages, simply use a print style sheet.
  • Where order of content naming or identification varies, simply have your developer create a script that makes it all appear in the same order. (This is called the URL factory)
  • For tracking link problems, use a hash tag-based system instead of naming URLs for tracking.
  • Pick either ‘www’ or no ‘www’, and redirect one to the other. The same goes for ‘http’ or ‘https’.
  • Disable the comment URL pagination under your website settings.
  • Make sure your product descriptions are unique. 


Duplicate content occurs so easily but you have to fix it in order to improve your search engine results and improve stats such as CTR and traffic volumes. The solutions are sometimes fairly simple but if this seems overwhelming, we’re here to help. 

Our experts can assist in making sure you reduce duplicate content to an absolute minimum on your site. Simply contact us at Digital Insider. We will connect you with an expert and it can all start with a free website audit if you wish. 

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