How to fix duplicate content issues?

Achieving top SEO rankings for competitive keyword phrases is one of the most valuable and most difficult marketing goals to achieve. While there are many SEO strategies you need to implement to achieve top rankings, there are also many pitfalls you need to avoid at the same time. One of those pitfalls is duplicate content.

Duplicate content is a phrase coined by Google that refers to the same content (ie wording) being used across multiple websites and / or pages on the Internet. The content may be exactly the same or it may be slightly different (ie 10%) but is seen as the same by Google.

Over the years the response by Google to websites or web pages it deems to have duplicate content is referred to as ‘duplicate content penalties’. Duplicate content can be intentional or unintentional in nature, but the effects are usually the same:

  • Your web page(s) being removed from Google’s main index and placed in their secondary or ‘supplemental’ index, which does not usually form part of their search engine results.
  • The ownership of your content being assigned to websites that have copied your content but are seen by Google to have higher authority than your website.
  • Less of your pages being indexed and ranked by Google, resulting in a decrease in authority, a loss of on-site SEO value and lower traffic volumes and sales as a result.
  • And worst of all, as a result of all of the above, your site slowly losing all of its rankings and falling off the first page of Google for all of your keyword phrases.

The good news is that duplicate content issues can be resolved relatively quickly with a better understanding of how duplicate content can occur and some hard work in fixing the issues causing it.

What Causes Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content can be caused quite easily if you don’t know what causes it. Here is a list of reasons why you might be suffering from duplicate content penalties:

  • The same wording used on a number of different pages on your site
  • The same Title Tags used on a number of different pages on your site
  • Too much coding on your site compared to the actual wording (ie content) on the page
  • Not enough wording on each page, especially on ecommerce category and product pages which use a content management system (CMS)
  • CMS templates which use too much wording as part of the main template (eg copyright text in the footer)
  • New content on your website not being indexed fast enough by Google
  • Having printer-friendly or PDF versions of your web pages
  • Canonical issues caused by the same page on your website accessible through mutliple URLs (eg url.com, url.com/, url.com/index.html)
  • The type of CMS you use and how it treats your content (eg WordPress blogs show the same article in multiple locations by default)
  • Higher authority websites copying your content without linking back to you
  • Using the same wording across many of your sites (eg regional sites such as .com.au, .co.uk etc)
  • Affiliates using your website content for their own websites

How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues

The main cause of duplicate content is always the same – the same content being accessible at more than one web page location. Here is a list of solutions for fixing duplicate content issues:

  • Ensure that every page on your website has different title tags
  • Ensure that the wording on each page of your website is different from every other page
  • Ensure that you have a minimum of 300 to 500 words of unique content on every page on your website (this is especially true for ecommerce category and product pages)
  • Increase the authority of your website through content creation and link building
  • Get ownership of your new content assigned to your website quickly (ie indexed by Google) by adding new content regularly
  • Fix canonical issues using 301 redirects and canonical meta tags
  • Improve the internal linking structure of your website to maximise PageRank, authority and make it easy for Google’s spiders to find new content
  • Rewrite the content of your website if you are replicating it in different countries
  • Use the Evermore plugin for WordPress blogs so the full post only appears in one location
  • Ensure that any syndicated content from your website includes a link back to you
  • Do not copy content from other websites

Implementing these solutions will solve the majority of your duplicate content issues but remember that every website and every server is different and may require a customised solution.

Have you been the victim of Google’s duplicate content penalty?

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