Not dealing with duplicate content has become one of the most pernicious SEO problems for any type of website, with the possibility of it causing your organic rankings to impede your SERPs performance. There is so much information surrounding duplicate content and many different examples of how duplicate content happens. The challenge is that you end up not following and applying the basic understandings of how to fix it.
Here at Fast Web Media I have read, watched and heard many different perceptions of what causes duplicate content and how to go about eliminating it from your website. Below I will be explaining:
- What is duplicate content
- How duplicate content causes issues
- How to fix duplicate content once and for all
What exactly is duplicate content?
Duplication comes in two groups, onsite and offsite:
- Onsite duplicate content happens when the same piece of content is viewed on numerous different pages within the same website.
- Offsite duplication happens when the content on your website is very similar to the content on another website.
So duplicate content appears when there is more than one version of a page being indexed by the search engine. This makes it tricky for the search engines to decide which version of the page they want to rank in the SERPs and include in their indices. The other headache is search engines have a tough time deciding whether to direct all the link equity such as the domain authority, links, trust etc. to one page or equally spread the link equity between multiple pages.
The implication is site owners suffer drops in rankings which cause traffic to significantly decline, which is why it is essential to take action and optimise your website when it comes to SEO.
The most basic example of duplicate content is your domain name. www.domain.com vs domain.com; in this instance the same content is being rendered at two different URLs. Now there is no need to panic, because you can’t get penalised for having duplicate content, however as mentioned above, it can cause your rankings and traffic to significantly decline.
How duplicate content causes issues
As already mentioned above, there are many instances where duplicate content can appear; the most typical instance of duplication is the homepage rendering at both URLs for www. vs non-www. Below are some other instances where the homepage could be rendering at other URLs.
Multiple versions of the homepage
- domain.com/index.php (Linus Server)
- www.domain.com/index.php (Linus Server)
- www.domain.com/home.aspx (Windows Server)
- domain.com/home.aspx (Windows Server)
- www.domain.com/ (trailing slash)
- domain.com/ (trailing slash)
- www.domain.com/Home.html (Capitalisation)
- domain.com/Home.html (Capitalisation)
Now in most cases if your website is rendering the homepage on multiple URLs, then it will most likely be rendering at page and category level too.
Multiple Category & Child Pages
This then tells me the website is duplicated sitewise, which could have a momentous impact on your organic traffic.
How to fix it
- 301 Permanent Redirect
- Add the canonical link element
URL parameters may seem extremely technical but they are not. Most websites fix a parameter to the URL based on different conditions, like a ‘filter’ or ‘function’ that is applied to the URL when selecting them. This is very common on ecommerce websites where you might use the ‘widget panel’ to filter by colour or price to narrow your search more.
This then creates two different URLs of the same page as seen below.
For example, this URL:
The other issue is ‘breadcrumbs’. These show the navigation path the user has taken to a page.
To see this in action, the ‘path’ in the URL refers to the journey the user then took, the numbers show the individual categories. So the user has now landed on category 234, followed by the other category 567. As a result the breadcrumb would then render as:
- home – category – page – product
The page contains identical content but renders at two different URLs. This could therefore cause confusion to the search engine as to which page to index.
How to fix it
- Add the canonical link element
Pagination can sometimes be overlooked when attempting to show only one URL that contains any given piece of content. This happens when content is split into multiple pages, also referred to as a ‘paginated series’. For example, you might have multiple products that get divided into 3 pages. This is how it would look:
From a search perspective, this will be seen as the other subsequent pages, in this case pages 2 & 3 as duplicate pages of 1, therefore the other pages will have the same metadata and content, which could impede both SEO and usability.
How to fix it
- Add the rel=“next” and rel=“previous” link element
Having the same content on multiple pages can also lead to a decrease in crawl rate – this happens because Googlebot is busy crawling unnecessary similar pages. Below are some other ways duplicate content can arise, which would need another article to go through each one.
- Localisation & Translation – Content is added in the same language.
- HTTPS vs HTTP – The secure version of your website renders at the non-secure version.
- Mobile Site – To fix the duplicate content problem in case of a mobile version of your site, going responsive or using the same URL will fix the issue.
- Printed version pages – Having a printed version of the page can result in duplicate content, when multiple versions of the pages get indexed.
- Syndicated content – When you syndicate your content on multiple websites, make sure you add the ‘canonical link element’ back to your original article page.
How to fix duplicate content once and for all
Now that you know how to identify duplicate content, let’s take a look at how to fix it using 301 permanent redirects, adding the canonical link element or alternate link elements.
301 permanent redirects
Other than adding the ‘canonical link element’ (which we will cover next), 301 redirect should only be applied if there isn’t any value to a user on the page or if the page has a good page authority which you would like to pass through to the new page.
When implementing a 301 redirect, only about 90% of the authority from the previous page will pass through to the new page. 301 redirects from the duplicate page to the original page. This will ensure that they no longer compete with one another in the search results.
Canonical link element
Rather than implementing a 301 redirect, adding the ‘rel=canonical tag’ passes the same amount of ranking power as a 301 redirect does. Here is what the canonical tag looks like.
< a rel=”canonical” href=”http://domain.com”>
You need to add this tag to the header section of the web page. This then tells the search engines this page is the original source and should carry all the authority. The best thing about the canonical tag is it can be applied site wide with ease, therefore fixing the simplest causes of duplicate content.
It is essential to know how to identify and fix duplicate content. This article presented the best examples for how to take action and avoid any issues. There is much more that I would like to cover that will help fix most of the common issues on your website. Comment below with questions if there’s anything that hasn’t been covered, and these can be answered in part 2.
Do you want to fix issues surrounding duplicate content? If you’re looking for support, why not contact our team of marketing experts to see how we can help? Get in touch via our website or via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+, we’d love to hear from you!
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