Last Updated on

In the past few years we have noticed a more concerted effort focused on how to avoid duplicate content issues, fueling the need for unique content that is both high-quality and original.

Does your website have 100% original content that is relevant and useful for your visitors?

Is any of your website content duplicate content? If so, do you know how to find duplicate content, fix the problem and avoid duplicate content issues in the future?

Google is becoming ever more stringent towards indexing and ranking sites with duplicate content on the same domain or across domains; it doesn’t matter, chances are Google is already penalizing your rankings if you have duplicate content on your website.

Why Is Duplicate Content Bad and Exactly What Is It?

Google defines duplicate content as:

“Any sizable amount of essential website content
that matches exactly or is noticeably similar to content found
within the same domain or on web pages from other sites”

Google does recognize that a lot of times, in some websites, duplicate content may have resulted from unintentional and “non-malicious” efforts.

Duplicate content is not plagiarism, for instance, when you make an honest attempt to make your website more user friendly by adding “printer friendly” versions of your web pages or having items in your online store with the same product description because they are available in different sizes or colors.

In this instance, Google does not penalize for duplicate content but simply filters and indexes only one of these pages to show in their search results.

However, Google algorithms are also smart enough to recognize that some website owners tend to make slight changes to their content and repost it on a different web page in order to manipulate SE rankings and get more traffic.

Google warns that you risk a duplicate content penalty if they feel you are manipulating the content in a malicious way. They will not only penalize and adjust the rankings for the page with duplicate content but also your website’s entire rankings.

Refer to Google’s Duplicate Content Webmaster Tools page to read their full stance and get tips for how to avoid duplicate content issues in the future.

Here are some of the more common duplicate content problems we have come across when working on our clients’ websites.

Duplicate Content on Multilingual Websites

It is common for websites marketing to multiple customer groups to have a multilingual website with content in more than just one language. For example, as a US based business you may have content in both English and Spanish or as a global company you may have content in English, German, Japanese and Portuguese.

Google Webmaster Tools provides several insights to optimizing your multilingual website and how to avoid duplicate content:

  • Make the page language very obvious – stick with one language on each page and avoid side-by-side translation designs.
  • Block automatic translation pages from being crawled – use robots.txt to keep automated translations from being indexed by the Search Engines. Automatic translators are not perfect, and while useful for your users, the text often reads like spam for the Search Engines.
  • Make each language easy to find – keep each translation of content on separate URLs and cross-link the language versions of each page so they are within a single click for your visitors.
  • Design URLs to describe the page content – despite the Search Engines relying on the content of the page to determine the language you should still provide clues in the URL for your users.

Duplicate Content on Multi-Regional Websites or Regional Pages

National and Global companies may want to target the content on their website based on the location of their customers. For example the content displayed for Canadian visitors may be different than the content displayed for German visitors.

Google prefers to know which country or region you are targeting because this knowledge helps to improve its search results for users in different parts of the world.

Duplicate content can be further complicated by a website being both multilingual and multi-regional. Google highly suggests that websites like this carefully test the original site and its infrastructure to make sure it can handle these tasks.

For more support in optimizing your website for multiple regions visit Google Webmaster Tool’s Multi-Regional and Multilingual Sites help page.

Preferred URL for Multi Domain Ownership

Canonicalization is the technical term for specifying to the Search Engines the preferred URL when your site has more than one page with mostly identical content.

Some deceptive website owners will do this on purpose to manipulate the Search Engines but it can also occur accidentally, such as having a printer friendly version of your pages.

Most of the time Google will simply choose which page to index but if it feels that the duplicate content is malicious they will “make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking” of your website.

Google Webmaster Tools provides several tips to Avoid Duplicate Content issues on your own site:

  • Use 301 Redirects which are similar to registering a change of address at your post office. This will permanently redirect visitors to your preferred URL.
  • Keep a consistent approach to URL naming
  • Use Webmaster Tools to specify your preferred URL
  • If other websites display your content, have them include a link back to your site to indicate you are the owner of the original content. Better yet, ask other site owners to use the “no index meta tag” so their version is not competing with yours.

How to Avoid Duplicate Content with Manufacturer Product Descriptions

One tempting way to quickly create product descriptions on an e-commerce site is to pull the content straight from the manufacturers’ descriptions. If you do this chances are most of your competitors are taking the same content and placing it on their site as well.

Now you not only have to deal with duplicate content between your own website pages but also between your website and your competitors’ websites.

Google will only ever credit one source for the unique content (whichever site they deem to be the original author). This means that even though the duplicate content you provide may be useful for visitors who are already on your site, it has little other value, especially to the search engines.

Though tedious, writing your own product descriptions is much more effective and beneficial. If you have 1000’s of products, pick your most profitable lines and start there. If your product descriptions come from a database there are methods to help the database auto generate unique descriptions.

For tips on a new strategy for developing unique product pages check out our Writing Powerful Product Descriptions That Sell article.

For additional advice on how to avoid duplicate content issues specific to your website, please contact one of our Search Engine Optimization consultants:

Call Toll Free: 1-888-262-6687

Email: SEO Consultants

Complete our Form: SEO Request for Proposal

Carissa Krause

Carissa Krause is currently a marketing and project specialist at 1st on the List. Over the years she has worked with clients on a wide range of projects that include areas like local SEO, backlink profile review, content development, social media, and more. Whatever the project may be Carissa focuses on achieving greater efficiencies and putting plans into action.