Dangers of Content Duplication

Posted on May 19, 2015 by Dan S

duplicateContent duplication, whether it’s intentional or accidental, can absolutely ravage a website’s search result ranking. Avoiding duplicate content should be a priority in the content optimization process because doing it hurts more than just the cloned content. Hosting duplicated content devalue’s a site’s domain authority which can hurt its rankings in searches for all content.

Content duplication involving one website copying and re-posted content from another website gets buried in search results. Essentially, plagiarism and ripped-off content are really bad for SEO as search engines are programmed to avoid this kind of content and direct people to the original versions.

While a SMB site’s content creators may not mean harm, but the practice of copying content from another site that’s related to the business gets flagged as duplicate content and counts against the site instead of helping it. Instead, try creating a brief original write-up of the content in the article about how it relates to the audience that links to the original content. Linking to the original content helps improve SEO for both sites so it turns a lose/lose situation into a win/win situation. For example, a SMB that sells fitted hats may come across a great article full of tips on selecting a fitted hat. The SMB should instead link to the article instead of copying it as a content optimization practice.

On the other side of things it’s very easy for a site to accidentally duplicate content it owns which throws off search engines. Unfortunately, self-plagiarism is still grouped in with plagiarism in the case of content optimization. A news website may encounter this problem if two web producers fail to communicate and both post the same story from the Associated Press feed to the site in two separate instances. This creates an identical article at two different addresses, which will both get devalued when  search engines crawl the site. However, this problem is easy to fix by deleting one of the articles or avoiding it in the first place.

A freelance writer website may unintentionally create duplicate content because of how the Content Management System generates page addresses. For example, a blog on content optimization could appear under the “main” and “tech” site sections and generate two unique URLs at “/main” and “/home.” This problem can be further compounded if the site uses tracking parameters in the URL like “?source=facebook” to identify traffic sources that optionally appear. Search engine crawlers may interpret four different addresses for the same content in this case which gets three iterations flagged as duplicated content.

The unintentional duplicated content issues can be resolved in a few ways. Site owners can directly tell search engines to ignore parameters by using Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. Alternatively, web programmers can implement something called a canonical URL tag into the page’s header code that directs all pages to the original page. The canon tag ends all questions of variations on the URL by directing all possible instances to the same page. While smaller sites can simply hard-code the tag into any identified duplicate content page, developing this method in a CMS requires a degree of programming expertise and working knowledge of how the system generates unique URLs.  The canon tag looks like this when in use: url” rel=”canonical”>.

Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.


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