Why is having duplicate content an issue for SEO?

Duplicate content is an issue for SEO because search engines aim to provide diverse and relevant results to users, and identical content across multiple pages can confuse their algorithms, leading to lower rankings.

Though it may not seem like a big deal, having duplicate content can actually hurt your SEO efforts.

In this article, let’s explore why duplicate content is a problem for SEO and how it impacts your page’s ranking and visibility.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content refers to substantial blocks of content within or across websites that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. 

This can include identical or substantially similar content, such as entire articles or sections of text, as well as small chunks of text like product descriptions or captions.

There are two main types of duplicate content: internal and external. Internal duplicate content refers to duplicate pages within the same website, while external duplicate content refers to the same content appearing on different websites.

Both types can have a negative impact on your website’s SEO.

Why is duplicate content bad for SEO?

According to Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, 25-30% of the web’s content Is duplicative and Google will not penalize you because of duplicate content. Instead, Google groups duplicate results and displays the best ones within each group.

Even though duplicate content penalty doesn’t exist, it doesn’t mean that duplicate content won’t harm your SEO effort.

So why is having duplicate content an issue for SEO?

Duplicate content confuses search engines

Search engines have a difficult time deciding which web page to show in search results if multiple pages have the same content. This could result in keyword cannibalization and search engines penalizing your website by lowering its rankings.

Even if your website has high-quality content, having duplicate content can detract from its overall value. Hence, it’s important to make sure all your website pages are unique and informative.

Duplicate content wastes your time and resources

Creating content is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. When you realize that duplicate content hinders your website ranking and could lead to a negative user experience, it’s essential to audit, review edit and create original contents.

I had a client’s website which suffered from duplicate content and keyword cannibalization. I ended up removing 70% of their articles and spent hours to edit and redirect them.

Lesson here – prevention is better than cure!

Duplicate content results in a poor user experience

If your website has multiple pages with similar content, it can confuse visitors, resulting in a negative user experience. Visitors might not know which page to go back to or miss the better contents.

Besides, if your website doesn’t have the right content on each page, it contributes to a negative user experience, ultimately deterring users from revisiting your website.

Duplicate content makes your website look unprofessional

Duplicate content creates concerns for users and search engines who feel your website content is not informative and reliable enough. If your website visitors realize your site has duplicate content, it can damage your brand and affect their trust in you. This could cause users to avoid visiting your website in the future, directly affecting your overall website performance and rankings.

How much duplicate content is acceptable?

There isn’t a specific percentage for “acceptable” duplicate content – a general rule of thumb would be to avoid duplicate content altogether and strive for originality. If you really want a number, aim for no more than 10%-20% duplicate content.

Duplicate content on product or service pages can happen when multiple pages on a website contain similar or identical information about the product or services offered. This happens often on websites that offer similar services across different locations, or when the product descriptions that are provided by the manufacturer and used by other retailers.

In such cases, it’s best to add unique elements to the description or use canonical tags to differentiate your version from others.

How to avoid duplicate content in SEO

You can avoid duplicate content by creating unique and quality content, using a canonical URL, and avoiding copying and pasting content from other websites.

To avoid duplicate content in SEO, consider the following strategies:

  1. Think Carefully about Site Structure: Design your website with a user-centric approach, focusing on their journeys onsite. This will inherently create unique content for different parts of your site.
  2. Keyword Mapping: Perform keyword research to identify relevant and unique keywords for each page on your site. Use keyword mapping as a guide when creating content to ensure that you are not repeating the same information.
  3. Use hreflang Attribute: If you’re using the same content for different audiences, implement the hreflang attribute to help prevent duplicate content issues.
  4. Canonical Headers: Using a canonical header in each page can help if there’s accidentally duplicate content available from multiple URLs. If you are reposting your content, try to add a canonical link referring to the primary URL.
  5. Set Up 301 Redirect: Setting up a 301 redirect from the “duplicate” page to the original content page can help combat duplicate content issues.
  6. Use Absolute Links: Combat the effects of scraped content by utilising absolute links (full URL) within the content for any links pointing back.

Avoid duplicate content from the beginning

It’s always a good idea to consult with your SEO team to ensure that you are taking the necessary steps to avoid duplicate content. They can provide guidance specific to your website and industry, as well as identify any potential issues or risks.

In most of the cases, doing a proper keyword research before creating content can prevent creating duplicate content.

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey Yung

Aubrey is an SEO Consultant with 5+ years of B2B and B2C marketing experience.