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A common myth about duplicate content is that it results in a Google penalty. As the search giant states in the Google Search Central guidelines: it doesn’t. Google acknowledges that most cases of duplicate content are benign. Even so, doing nothing about duplicates can hurt your site just as much as getting penalized, BestWeb believes that you will experience a negative effect on your search rankings and find your optimization efforts sabotaged.

Duplicate content completely matches or appears significantly identical to another piece of content. Duplicates live on more than one location on the web. When we say location, BestWeb is referring to the URL or unique web address, for example, http://www.example.com/index.html.

You can create dupes, as Google calls them, by accident or through no fault of your own. Here are the scenarios that lead to duplicate content on the same website or across websites:

  • You have a webpage that can be accessed through multiple URLs.
  • You published the same content on different pages.
  • Another website scraped or copied content from your website.

Here is an example of what happens when you have several versions of the same content on your site or across the web:

  • Search engines index each of them. Specifically, Google indexes what it considers non-malicious duplicate content. These could be product descriptions found through multiple distinct URLs (unique web addresses), regular and printer-friendly versions of web pages and syndicated content such as press releases and proprietary studies, among others.
  • Now, search engines don’t want to list the same content multiple times for a single query. So they filter what they think is the best version to rank in the top results and satisfy user intent. Google does a great job at this.
  • It turns out duplicates confuse search engines. If they can’t tell which copy is the original, all versions will struggle to rank. Or if search engines are forced to choose one duplicate copy over another, the visibility of the other versions diminishes. There’s no winning in either context. The content you prefer to rank for a particular keyword may or may not be overlooked, and leaving things to chance isn’t a sound strategy for staying competitive in the search results.

Duplicate Content will affect SEO!

Loss of Traffic

Drawing more site traffic is why website owners strive to rank high on the search engine results pages (SERPs). The presence of wayward duplicate copy runs counter to this goal.

Consider the two scenarios:

  1. When you have multiple URLs leading to the same page, Google may serve your user and searcher the unappealing version, distracting them from clicking on your link.

http://example.com/page-name
http://example.com/category/page-name
http://example.com/page-name?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=spring_sale

The third URL is unappealing because it contains strings that don’t provide any value to your target audience. On the other hand, the first one delivers succinctly everything the searcher needs to know about the page they’re about to visit.

  1. It’s not like Google will hit you with a duplicate content penalty because you have three city pages containing the same information (if you’re a travel site, for instance). But, because excellent user experience is one of the most important ranking factors, the popular search engine favors “pages with distinct information”. It may have difficulty determining the original copy and be forced to filter the best version. Sometimes, the chosen version isn’t the one you prefer to rank for and drive visitors to.

It is essential to effectively execute the technicalities of removing duplicate content to improve the search rankings of the pages you prefer showing your target audience. This includes communicating your preference to Google through canonicalization methods.

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