In this article, we’ll focus on the technicalities of what triggers duplicate content most frequently, as well as how to find and fix this common yet damaging issue quickly.
What is Duplicate Content?
Similar content that appears at multiple web locations (pages or URLs) is considered duplicate content. Consequently, search engines have difficulty deciding which version is more relevant to show users in search results for a given query and where to direct link metrics.
This issue can seriously hurt search ranking, and visibility due to diluted link equity wasting the crawl budget, so resolving it as soon as possible is crucial.
What Causes Duplicate Content Issues?
Although it seems like plagiarism, more often than not, duplicate content is created by accident and is usually the result of a technical error. The most common duplicate content triggers are as follows:
The leading causes of duplicate content are technical differences in URL parameters. For example, if a URL is accessible in both HTTP and HTTPS versions, has mixed upper and lowercase characters, both www and non-www variations live, or multiple, inconsistent endings, it can lead to the page being perceived as two separate by search engines.
Session IDs and Printer-Friendly Pages
Duplicate content can also be triggered by URL disparities in session IDs and print-only versions of webpages. When each website user gets assigned a unique session ID, it creates a new URL and, therefore, duplicate content. Printer-friendly pages can also trigger duplicate content issues as multiple page versions get indexed.
Copied or Scraped Content
Although intentionally plagiarized content exists and is self-explanatory, duplicate content isn’t necessarily always the result of malicious piracy intent. For example, when syndicating content, websites sometimes fail to link to the original article, causing search engines to end up with different versions of the same piece of content.
eCommerce sites often deal with scraped content issues as product information pages tend to contain generic manufacturer descriptions, with identical content copied and posted on multiple locations on the web.
How Much Duplicate Content is Acceptable?
Technically, an official limit for duplicate content does not exist, and according to Matt Cutts, around 25% – 30% of the internet consists of duplicate content. Nonetheless, you should still try to minimize duplicate content on your website to avoid having it negatively impact your SEO or ranking.
How to Find & Fix Duplicate Content Issues
Although Google won’t officially penalize it, duplicate content issues should still be caught in their tracks and resolved quickly to avoid unnecessary damage. It all boils down to finding duplicate pages, then deciding on the preferred version you want to keep to eliminate any duplication.
Locate Duplicate Content
Identifying duplicate content is the first step to take. Start by running an SEO audit using keyword research tools such SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs to crawl your site. Check Google Search Console to find URL variations that may be causing duplicate content issues and Google Webmaster Tools to check links to your website. You can also use Google to search for a snippet of text from your website or a plagiarism checker tool like Copyscape, Duplichecker, etc., to perform a duplicate content check across the web.
Use Canonicalization or Redirects
Canonicalizing the lower-performing page to the higher-performing page is how you consolidate URL-based duplicate content issues for search engines. Use a 301 redirect to the correct canonical URL, the rel=canonical attribute to mark the duplicate content page, or the Google Search Console parameter handling tool to fix things.
Create Unique & Original Content
Put your writing skills to work – edit, rewrite, or produce completely new original content and run it through a plagiarism checker to ensure it’s not duplicated. Avoid thin content and deliver nothing but unique, one-of-a-kind, and high-quality type of content to prevent duplicate content from occurring.