If your SEO is lagging and you're not sure why, duplicate content could be a part of the problem. Duplicate content is exactly what it sounds like: Content that exists in more than one place on the Internet, whether it be your own site or your site and another. It could be anything ranging from text you copy and pasted from another site to an old blog post that you republished. If you have have separate, but identical product pages for two or more colorways of the same product, that's also duplicate content. Other common causes include URL variations and printer-friendly versions of webpages.
Since search engines like Google reward unique content, duplicate content muddles the categorization process, potentially resulting in hits to your rankings. Read on to learn about the implications of duplicate content and how to fix it.
First of all, it’s important to note that Google doesn’t impose a direct penalty on sites for duplicate content. It’s a common misconception that this is the case, and Google’s Matt Cutts has explained that as long as duplicate content isn’t being used in a malicious or spammy way, site owners don’t need to worry too much.
While it’s true that most forms of duplicate content won’t result in Google penalties, having duplicate content can still hurt your SEO rankings.
If you have two identical or very similar pages on your site, Google won’t penalize you for this, but it’s likely going to choose one of these to show in search results while ignoring the other. This can hurt your rankings, since you’re essentially burying your own content.
If you have content that’s identical to content on another site, Google will likely ignore one of the pages while indexing and ranking the other. Duplicate content will only ever hurt your search visibility.
How to handle it
First of all, avoiding duplicate content between your site and another is pretty simple. It really comes down to not plagiarising, which we’ve all known since 9th grade English class is a bad thing to do. If you’re ever quoting someone else’s original content, make sure you’re giving proper attribution and linking back to the source.
If your site has two separate versions, like “www.lightingstoresite.com” and “lightingstoresite.com” and all your content is posting to both, this could pose a major duplicate content issue. If you think this is an issue, you might want to chat with your web developer. You can also use Google Search Console to tell Google what your preferred domain is.
When it comes to product pages, consolidation is the best route. If you have multiple pages on your site for different colors or attributes of a single product, consider organizing them under one page. This makes more sense from a usability standpoint and will ensure that you aren't burying your pages.
A great tool for keeping tabs on any duplicate content is Google Search Console, which will send you alerts about the issue. Check Search Appearance and click HTML Improvements to see what pages have duplicate content.
Since duplicate content issues can be symptomatic of other site design issues, it's worth consulting with a web developer if you're not sure your site is solid.
So as long as you aren’t publishing it maliciously, duplicate content isn’t the worst thing ever. But it can still hurt your rankings and it's well worth your time to look into it. Have you had any experiences tackling duplicate content issues? Let us know in the comments!