SEO Best Practices: How to Deal with Duplicate Content Issues
A popular opinion has it that SEO is about link building that helps to index the site and bring more visitors. While it is apparent why it is very easy to be fooled by this idea, the SEO activities involve much more than that.
For example, with the focus on content marketing and SEO that became important to modern online businesses we completely forgot about some simple practices like eliminating the issues on our own website.
Perhaps the main problem on websites that causes it to lost precious traffic is duplicate content.
What Is It
The duplicate content problem occurs when a search engine indexes more than one version of a web page. Indeed, it is quite a problem for Google because it has to decide which one to show in the search results because the very similar content is used in different locations.
The decision is always done in favor of the page that gets more traffic than the other because the Google needs to provide the user with the best results possible.
Given that Google and other search engines need only one page to display, this could really hurt your business and make you spend on promotion even more.
The experts differentiate two central types of duplicate content. The first is called “onsite” and includes the content that gets duplicated on two and more web pages while the second is referred to as “offsite” and occurs when the content from one site is shown on other ones.
Both of them are equally problematic and prevent the site from getting decent volumes of content.
Why It Is an Issue
Let’s start with the easiest explanation. Duplicate content is bad because it does not make you stand out in the ocean of other websites with similar content, which means you do not get displayed in the search results as frequently as you need.
On the other hand, unique content sets you apart and makes it easier for Google and other search engines to index your website and include you on the first page of the search results.
If you are selling a similar or an identical product that is sold by your competitor and if you provide the same description as he does, who gets the competitive advantages?
That’s right, the answer is nobody, and you two are just sitting there waiting for somebody to finally find you.
The same occurs on the Internet. When your site has the URL with the same information like your neighbor does, Google struggles to determine which one should be displayed, so neither site performs well in the end.
As the result, the value of the content on your website gets really downgraded for search engines that look for a content that stands out.
In addition to URLs, there are two other major factors that could cause duplicate content, such as printer-friendly pages and session IDs. In the first respective case, the printer-friendly option on the webpage can lead to the issue.
In the second case, websites monitor the visitor’s experience to personalize the content for the next time the user logs in, which creates session id pages.
For example, www.site.org/page1 and www.site.org.page1?sessionid=54092 would lead to the same page as well.
How to Locate Duplicate Content
There are a number of tools that could be used to find such content on the website but we are going to review perhaps the most important ones: Screaming Frog and Google Webmaster Tools.
This is a web crawler that can be downloaded here and used for crawling up to five hundred pages for free.
Even though finding duplicate content is not the main function of this tool, it is still a great one for using because it is effective and fast. It uses using meta descriptions and duplicate descriptions to achieve the task.
For example, open the tool and click on the tab called “Page Titles” or “Meta Description” and set a “Duplicate” filter. As the result, you will be provided with great results that should be worked on as fast as you can.
Google Webmaster Tools
Another tool also allows easy location of duplicate content by using meta descriptions and duplicate descriptions. While in the tool’s interface, just click the drop down menu called Search Appearance and find HTML Improvements option.
The tool will immediately generate a list of pages that have this problematic content for you to review under “duplicate meta descriptions.” Download Google Webmaster Tools here and fix these issues right away.
Product URLs and Descriptions
This is not a particular tool but rather a common form of duplicate content that occurs on thousands of websites. For example, they could sell similar or identical products, say, movies and audiobooks.
Given the product, the sites are very likely to have a similar product library because there are established genres and titles of the movies that cannot be changed.
As the result, some pages of these websites are really similar or even completely identical, which creates problems for both Google and the sites. Just imagine how many online movie and audiobook stores are there in the world.
And if they use similar libraries and identical descriptions of the products, there’s enough duplicate content to go to the moon and back.
To avoid that, you need to develop a unique library that would make your site stand out and prevent getting lost in the search results, says a content marketing specialist from Aussiewriter writing company.
According to the expert, the importance of content uniqueness is again evident in this case because there is no equal alternative. Unique descriptions of products or services will definitely provide your site with a competitive advantage.
How to Fix It
There are various ways you could take to fix the issue, so let’s discuss the most common ones that proved to be effective for many websites. They are 301 redirect, canonical tag, and meta tags.
This way of fixing duplicate content is strongly advocated by Google and actually is a good one.
It allows changing the URL of the website, thus ensuring that the visitors come to the right page, by redirecting the legacy pages to a completely new URL.
As the result, the search engines will pass these links and arrive at completely new pages that have unique descriptions and everything.
Usage of canonicalization allows you to tell Google which version of the page on your website you need to return for the search requests.
It is contained in the header of a page is considered to be one of the most effective methods in case if you desire to have a different version of one page available for visitors.
A lot of modern tools and systems are specifically designed to add these tags automatically, so you do not have to apply an additional effort to insert them manually.
This is the simplest method that involves management of the website’s meta tags. Specifically, they can be used to instruct Google not to index a specific page. The line from the code will look like this:
<meta name=”site” Content-“noindex”>
How to Fix Duplicated Product URLs
The solution to this problem is also very simple. All you need to do is to use a professional content management system that is designed to provide unique URL.
To prevent duplicate content, the developers of these systems allow the users to organize products by a wide range of categories and each product gets its own unique URL.
Even though the same product may be contained in several categories, each page will also be provided with a unique path for the search engine to follow.
How to Fix Product Descriptions
The only solution here is to provide a unique content for each individual page on the site.
This is where content marketing comes in because it teaches the website owners about the importance of unique text and images for product pages that differentiate them from similar ones.
You should not assume that a general description will be enough because it is used by thousands of other websites out there, so make the pages worth the attention of search engines by giving them unique content they need.
Even though not all duplicate content is known for devaluing the SEO practices on the website, it will inevitably prevent it from attracting a decent volume of visitors.
As we know now, there are two types of this content and several ways in which it affects website’s performance, but they can be fixed with the usage of simple tools and unique content.
The duplicate content once again shows how important it is to have a unique website that can stand out among others and be found by search engines.
Make sure you eliminate all duplicate content with the tools identified in this article and be a fierce unique competitor with these tips!