We all want our websites to be wholly unique, full of insights and content that only we can provide.

Unfortunately, duplicate content can sometimes find its way in there, even if you have tried to eliminate this. In this article, we’re going to be looking at how duplicate content affects SEO and why you need to make eliminating these duplicates your top priority.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content simply refers to any content that appears twice in different locations on the internet. For example, an article might appear on a news website and then reappear in a social media post. Or a press release might be shared word for word rather than rewritten into an article. Basically, duplicate content does happen from time to time, but we still need to be vigilant against it.

Remember that duplicate content also occurs internally. If you have two service pages that are identical to one another, for example, this will be considered duplicate content.

Duplicate content happens sometimes

In most cases, duplicate content is likely to happen by accident. This may occur because of the examples listed above, as well as:

  1. Large sections of quoted or interview text included verbatim
  2. Placeholder content that was inputted and forgotten about
  3. Pages that are too similar, posted again and again
  4. Large sections of content built into the page template and then published again and again
  5. Lack of care taken in checking that content is unique

These are just a few factors that can lead to duplicated content. However, just because this situation can occur does not mean we need to let it happen. Unfortunately, duplicate content affects SEO in a big way, as well as harming other aspects of your strategy.

The negative effects of duplicate content

Let’s take a look at some of the negative aspects of duplicate content, including how duplicate content affects SEO.

1. Content breaching

In terms of external content that is duplicated on your website, perhaps the biggest negative impact is that of content breaching or theft. If anyone knowingly publishes content that is not their own on their website, without the express permission of the original producer, this is plagiarism and theft. If the original producer can prove that the content is theirs — something that is not so difficult to do in the digital age — you could find yourself in trouble if someone has published this on your website.

Adopt a zero policy approach to content breaches, and check all of your content carefully to make sure it is 100% unique and completely your own.

2. SEO red flag

Whether duplicate content has come from an internal source — i.e. two of your pages display the same text — or an externally plagiarised one, the outcome is the same in terms of SEO. At the very least, this duplicate content is going to confuse the search engine crawler. The crawler may be uncertain as to which piece of content is the canonical one, and this may make indexing difficult. Duplicate content may also make it look like you are trying to pad out your website, adding useless additional words without providing value to your audience.

The bottom line is simple — duplicate content can hit your search engine ranking hard, and in a number of different ways. Avoid this risk at all costs.

3. Decreases trust and reliability for readers

Your readers need to be able to trust who you are and what you provide. To support this, your content needs to be Expert, Authoritative and Trustworthy, in line with Google’s own E.A.T. content guidelines. If you are publishing lots of duplicate pieces, this is not going to be the case.

The effect of this is twofold. Not only will your audience become dissatisfied with your organisation, but you will also fail to provide the E.A.T. content that Google prizes, leading to audience disengagement and poor SEO performance.

Stamp it out!

Duplicate content does happen, but we can stamp it out. Unfortunately, duplicate content is a fact of life. But then again, so are mosquitoes and spiders — and we don’t need to let these things harm us! By taking a proactive approach to duplicate content — examining where and why this content is appearing and then working to remove it swiftly and efficiently — you can protect your website from many of these negative effects.

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