SEO Glossary / Duplicate Content

Duplicate Content

What is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content refers to exact or near-exact content that appears in multiple places across the web. It can occur both within a single website and across different websites.

For example, if you publish a blog post on your website and decide to submit it as a guest post to another website, that is considered duplicate content.

There is a lot of controversy around duplicate content in the webmaster’s community. The main concern is that Google will penalize their websites if they have duplicate content.

Why is Duplicate Content Bad for SEO?

1. Undesirable Page Version Ranking in the Search Results

If you have the same content appearing on different URLs, Google can end up ranking the version you didn’t intend to rank. That’s because Google will choose which version to rank based on what it considers the best for the user. You can avoid this by properly managing duplicate content.

Each URL with duplicate content can attract different backlinks and have its own PageRank. Keep in mind that PageRank is still a ranking factor, which means that the URL you didn’t intend to rank may end up with a better link profile than the URL you’re actually trying to rank.

A common example is when the same page or content is available at both www and non-www versions of your website and/or via both HTTP and HTTPS protocols.

3. Wasted Crawl Budget

If you have a large website or frequently update content, duplicate content is a waste of the crawl budget. Instead of crawling new and updated pages, search engines will crawl and re-crawl all the duplicate content versions. As a result, your new content may take longer to appear in search engine results.

4. Syndicated or Scraped Content Outranking Your Original

In rare cases, syndicated or scraped content can outrank your original content. While it doesn’t happen often, it has been reported in different SEO communities.

Will You Be Punished for Duplicate Content?

According to Google, most duplicate content is not deceptive in origin. In other words, if you don’t intend to manipulate search rankings with the duplicate content, Google won’t penalize your website.

There is, however, a penalty (manual action) for “thin content with no added value,” which includes scraped content.

How to Find Duplicate Content on Your Site?

You can find duplicate content on your site using tools like Ranktracker Web Audit. When you run an audit of your website, you’ll notice a section dedicated to duplicate content. This section will report on duplicate pages on your website that don’t have proper canonical tags and pages that use the same titles and descriptions.

Best Practices to Manage Duplicate Content

1. Use One Standard for All URLs on Your Site

Ensure each page on your site is accessible as either the www or non-www version. Apply the same principle to the trailing slash at the end of the URL and ensure each page is only accessible over the HTTPS protocol. All other versions should be redirected to the standard URL you’ve decided on.

2. Use Canonical Tags for Consolidation

Duplicate or near-duplicate pages on your website must point to a single, canonical version by using canonical tags. A canonical tag tells Google which version is the main and should be indexed.

3. Use a Self-Referential Canonical Tag

A self-referential canonical tag is a tag that is added to the main version of the page, regardless of other duplicate pages. They’re not mandatory but are recommended. This is helpful when you’re dealing with URLs that have various URL parameters attached to them.

For example, when a self-referential canonical is used, a URL like https://example.com/blog/?utm_source=facebook will automatically have a canonical tag that points to https://example.com/blog/.

If you’re using WordPress and have Yoast or a similar SEO plugin installed, self-referential canonical tags will be added automatically. If you have a custom-coded website or use a custom CMS, you will need to contact your developer to implement self-referential canonical tags.

FAQs

Is there a penalty from Google for duplicate content?

There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. However, scraped/stolen content falls under Google's “Thin content with little or no added value” manual action.

What is near-duplicate content?

Near-duplicate content is content that differs from other content to a minimal extent. For example, product pages of the same product for US and UK visitors where only currencies are different are near-duplicates.

Learn more about managing duplicate content and other SEO best practices on the Ranktracker Blog and explore our SEO Glossary for more terms and definitions.