It is common to hear that duplicate content harms SEO, as search engines like Google would punish it. Some say that the punishment for this type of practice can even exclude the entire domain from the search results, making the site effectively impossible to find users.
The search engines themselves only help a little, as they tend to be quite opaque about the rules, sometimes going so far as to say one thing but, in practice, do it differently.
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Back in 2014, Google’s algorithm update, Canada, refined the organic results shown on the search page, privileging user-relevant content. On the other hand, publications could be better in the information or repeatedly lose visibility.
The main problem with “non-malicious” duplicate content is that search engines don’t know which version to display. If the original content isn’t valuable for the user, the same content won’t be either.
Therefore, if you do not tell Google which of the contents is the correct one to be displayed, it will choose one of the versions, possibly opting for the version that was indexed first, the original. But, if there are a lot of external links pointing to a version page, the chances increase even more.
In addition to choosing which content to display in search results, Google also needs to determine which version will receive authority in the case of other sites that link to one of the versions of the content.
Again, you don’t tell Google which should give the version that authority. In that case, it could assign it to the wrong versions, even diluting power across multiple versions and consequently hurting the content’s placement in search results. This directly affects your positioning and reduces the number of visitors coming to your page.
Without you knowing, duplicate content is often generated by the content management platforms, such as WordPress.
Here are some examples of what is considered duplicate content for Google:
Domain with and without www://http:/example.com and http://www.example.com are two different sites for Google. Therefore, all pages within these sites that can access with or without the www are duplicate content for Google.
Same content accessed with different URLs: It is widespread for blog posts to be available in their unique URL and other URLs that only show posts from a specific category.
Printable version of the page: Some sites generate a specific printable version. When accessed by a URL different from the original, this type of content also represents duplicity for search engines.
There are several ways to teach search engines how to handle your duplicate content, so you can focus authority on the version you want:
Also known as redirect 301, they are made directly on the server and used so that users no longer see the page in question, being automatically redirected to another specified page.
By doing this, search engines understand that they must transfer all that page’s authority to the redirect’s landing page.
This is often used when a company changes domains and wants to maintain the authority it has already gained.
But remember, all redirects involve loss of authority. However, you can minimize the effects by doing it right. Some WordPress plugins make this easier for those unfamiliar with code.
While permanent redirects are done on the server, canonical tags are inserted directly into the page’s HTML code.
It specifies the canonical version of the content, that is, the URL of the original content. That way, all the authority of incoming links goes to the specified URL.
This option is often used when you want to republish an old post or publish a guest post in a different place.
To avoid confusing Google, don’t use links from different URLs on your site that lead to the same page.
This tag allows the search engine to crawl the page without including it in its search results.
Duplicate content is a problem for any SEO strategy, but there are established techniques to tell search engines which version of the material is the right one.
Furthermore, except for extreme cases, the concern that Google or another search engine will punish a domain for a little bit of duplicate content is unfounded in practical experience.