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How Duplicate Content Can Hurt Your Search Rankings

Search Optimization
  • 29% of webpages contain duplicate content
  • 65% of search engine users click on one of the top five suggestions in a result page
  • Most duplicate content isn’t created intentionally

Duplicate content is the bane of a web developer’s existence. Having the same content across several webpages can harm your website’s credibility, the user’s experience, and your SEO efforts overall.

As experts in digital marketing, we’re here to provide you with a comprehensive guide on duplicate content. That means giving you an overview of what this type of content is, how happens, and how you can go about eliminating it from your site. So let’s get started!


What is duplicate content?

But First, What is SEO?

Well, you’ve come to the right place to find out.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the process of increasing the quantity and quality of website traffic by raising the site’s ranking on search engines. In turn, you increase its visibility.

There are a lot of methods that go into developing your SEO, including content creation, keyword optimization, inbound and outbound links, and much more. SEO is perhaps the single most important endeavor in having a successful online marketing strategy.

You can actually learn more about how we accomplish search engine optimization as a digital marketing agency, the basics every business owner should know, and even a case study in SEO.

It’s kind of what we do.

Why is SEO Important?

The reason SEO matters is because it can help you drive-in organically targeted traffic from a search engine, like Google, Safari, or Bing. In the current digital marketing climate, this is more important than ever before when you consider:

  • The vast majority of search engine users (upwards of 65%) are most likely to click on one of the top five suggestions from a search engine result page.
  • The higher your site ranks on a search engine result page (SERP) the more trust you garner among users
  • Strong SEO can help you rank ahead of your competitors and makes you more likely to draw in more customers than your competitors

What is Duplicate Content?

The answer to this question is quite simple – duplicate content is just content that can be found in multiple locations across the internet. This can be in more than one URL or in a completely different domain.

Often times, it’s completely unintentional and many creators don’t realize that there are duplicate versions of their content out on the web, in fact, it’s estimated that 29% of the web is duplicate content.

What Google Has to Say About Duplicate Content

Google, for the most part, doesn’t penalize duplicate content unless it’s clear that it was duplicated for malicious intents, such as manipulating search engine rankings. Here is their quote directly from their support site:

Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.

If your site suffers from duplicate content issues, and you don't follow the advice listed above, we do a good job of choosing a version of the content to show in our search results.

However, in those cases in which Google determines that the content was intentionally duplicated with the intent of manipulating search results, it’ll be considered in violation of their Webmaster Guidelines and therefore removed from the search results.

How does duplicate content effect SEO?

How Does Duplicate Content Affect My SEO?

Some content creators believe that having more content, even if it’s replicated, simply means that there are more opportunities to rise in Google rankings. This assumption is incorrect, because duplicate content actually presents search engines with a lot of issues:

  • Search engines have a hard time deciding which version of the content to include or exclude from their indices. Meaning that the main source of your content, perhaps your pillar page, can be penalized.
  • Search engines can’t tell which version to rank for query results, causing decreased visibility for your site.
  • Search engines don’t know where to direct link metrics. This makes it difficult for your web developer to adjust strategies that increase web traffic. Your metrics are being divided among the different variations of the same content.

The effects of duplicate content are often indirect, but all the same, these issues can certainly impact your SEO. Not to mention, if users browsing online find your content duplicated in multiple webpages, it leads to a poor user experience. People are less likely to trust a site that has the same information plastered all over the place. After a while, it starts to look like spam.

What Creates Duplicate Content?

There are three major causes for duplicate content:

URL Parameters: URL variations that don’t change the content page, like in tracking links and some analytics code, is often the cause of duplicate content issues. This isn’t just the results of the parameters themselves. It's also the order in which the parameters appear in the URL.

Example 1:


Example 2:


Although these both lead to the same content page, the URLs are recognized as two different locations. This means the same content exists in two different places (or duplicated).

WWW vs. non-WWW pages: If your website exists in variations of a URL with and without the “www” prefix (e.g. www.duplicatecontent.com v. duplicatecontent.com), then your content exists in both versions, meaning there’s a duplicate. This is also the case if you have a website found in both an http:// and https:// version.

Copied and Scrapped Content:  Although most of the time the cause for duplicate content is unintentional, there are many cases where other sites might use part or all of your content. This happens a lot with with product information. Or, if your site happens to be a key source of knowledge on a particular topic.

This process is called scrapping. And it results in duplicate content when the site where it’s published doesn’t link back to the original source. When this happens, search engines don’t recognize the content as being from the same location and results in duplication.

How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues

To avoid hurting your SEO due to similar or identical content across multiple webpages, you should first indicate your preferred URL to Google so that it can be properly indexed. This process is called “canonicalization.”

However, canonical URLs only serve to curve the problem rather than fix it all together. Chances are, if you’ve been creating content for a while, or you’re planning to implement a new content strategy, you’re bound to contend with duplication.

To make sure users can actually see the content, consider the following solutions:

Use 301 Redirects

This is a permanent redirect that passes most of the ranking power to the redirected page. 301 redirects guide traffic from a duplicate content page, to the site you want search engines to index, effectively improving your SEO.


When linking internally, make sure you link to the same URL—not variations that lead to the same content page, but a different web address.

Minimize Similar Content

If you have the same information in several pages about a similar topic, even if the subject matter is different, consider consolidating or merging the pages into a single location.

Eliminate Boilerplate Repetition

This type of duplicate content is most common in product information pages. If you have lengthy copyright text, include brief summaries and then link to a single page for more details.

How to eliminate duplicate content for SEO?

Want to Learn More About Duplicate Content and SEO?

You’re already at the right place! Digital Resource is your one-stop-shop for all of your SEO content needs. If you have questions about anything digital, be it duplicate content or multimedia marketing, contact us today!

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