What is Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content refers to large selections of content that are the same or similar within the same website or across multiple websites. Duplicate content usually occurs within the text of a website but sometimes it also occurs within areas such as photo galleries or other media.
Duplicate content includes both content is is exactly the same (word for word) and content that is similar. For example below is an excerpt from the Charles Dickens classic A Tale of Two Cities.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
It was the best of circumstances and the worst of circumstances. It was an age of learning, it was the age of acting foolish, it was the time of believing, it was the time of incredulity, it was a time of Light, it was a time of Darkness, it was the spring of hopefulness, it was the winter of desperation, we had everything in front of us, we had nothing in front of us, we were all going to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the time was so far like it is now, that some of its loudest people insisted on its being deemed good or for evil.
Both versions use different words but are still similar enough that they may be flagged as duplicate content. This is why it is always best to write your own original content.
It should be noted that some content within a website is expected to be duplicated. This includes navigation, logos, addresses, links to social networks, and footers containing copyright and disclaimer information.
Why is Duplicating Content Bad?
Search engines rely on unique content to help determine which website is the authoritative source of the content. Having the same content from multiple sources lessens this authoritative nature and thus your overall ranking. Search engines are less likely to fully index your site if they find a lot of pages with duplicated content. Duplicating content causes search engines to become confused and as a result, your website suffers in ranking, placement, and traffic.
For example, using the graphic above as a guide, if you own a Site 1 (Pie A) and your content is unique, a search engine will see your site as the Authoritative source for the content it finds there. As a result, your site will rank higher in the search results for that content. Now enter a second website (Pie B). Your site now shares the same content with another site. You now have to share search results with another website which means your Authoritative potency is now 50%. Enter two more sites (Pie C). Now you share results with three sites making you score 25%. As Pie D shows, the more times your content appears on other websites, the more you have to share the overall potency of being the author of the content. Because this content is shared across multiple websites, you also end up having to share your search ranking with other sites as well.
How is Content Commonly Duplicated?
Content on your website can be duplicated in many different ways. For example:
Same Text on Multiple Pages
This often happens when you run out of ideas and what to say on your web page and end up repeating the same thing over and over again to fill up space. To correct this, it is best to take time to write unique content.
Multiple Domains For One Site
Sometimes a website has multiple domains. For example www.abc.com and www.xyz.com may both bring up the same domain name. Since a search engine sees both of these a two different website (based on domain name) it considers the content duplicated. A competent web designer will set a primary domain name within the web server’s configuration and will also tell the search engines which domain should be indexed.
Sub-Domains and WWW
Most websites can be accessed by visiting www.abc.com and abc.com (no www). Since both forms of the website address bring up the same content, search engine see this as two separate websites. As a result, both websites could be indexed within the search results leading to duplicate content. A good web designer will ensure that the web server hosting the website is setup to serve content from a specific address eliminating the duplicate content across sub domains.
Multiple Websites With Same Content
Some business have multiple websites either for different products, services, or marketing. While there is nothing wrong with this, many often reuse content from one website to another. Care should be taken to ensure that unique content is placed on each website.
Many people think that the internet is a free-for-all and anything that can be copied and pasted is up for grabs. While this is not true, this does not stop business owners, web designers and even SEO firms from stealing content from one website and adding it to their own. Aside from being illegal, using stolen content on your website also counts toward duplicate content.
Republishing Feed, Blog, Articles, etc.
Some websites republish blogs, articles, or other content from third party sources unaware that by doing this they are duplicating content found on another website. In these cases, it is a good idea to publish only a small excerpt of the article you want to link to rather then a large portion or the entire article.
Improper Website / Server Setup
Having your website hosted on a server that has not been properly configured is a major contributor to duplicate content. This is most often true when using dynamically generated websites such as those using Content Management Systems (CMS) or Online Stores. These websites may use dynamic url’s (such as www.abc.com?product=12345) or friendly url’s (such as www.abc.com/product/12345/). The problem is, if your web server is not running correctly, a search engine may be able to access both the dynamic and friendly url version which makes it appear you have duplicated content on your website. Additionally, servers that place session information in the url (such as www.abc.com/store.php?session=123456789) also contribute to duplicate content. Finding a reliable and experienced web developer and host is your safest way to prevent this issue.
Printer-Friendly & Mobile Versions
Some websites provide special printer-friendly versions for their users. If not setup correctly, these versions may trigger duplicate content. Additionally, some mobile solutions redirect visitors to another sub-domain such as m.abc.com or a third party website such as abc.somemobilefirm.com. Aside from the fact that neither of these setups are ideal or the recommended industry standard, they both result in duplicate content if not carefully setup.
How Do I Correct Duplicated Content?
Aside from manually correcting issues that you see with your website’s content, the best way to correct duplicate content is to prevent it in the first place. Here are some common sense guidelines:
- Hire a professional web designer who understands the pitfalls of duplicating content and knows how to design to avoid them.
- Hire a competent web developer who knows how to program and develop a website correctly to prevent duplicated content as a result of poor programming.
- Ensure your website host’s server is configured correctly to serve only content from a single domain name.
- Educate your employees on the dangers of duplicating content and make sure if you hire someone to provide content for you such as for a blog, that he or she is creating original content that will be used only on your website.
- Avoid SEO firms that promote the addition of repetitive text onto your website or firms that copy portions of your website and create “landing pages”.