Duplicate Content MistakesMost people understand that using plagiarized content on their websites isn’t the most honest practice. These people also know that Google, Bing, and other search engines are constantly combing the web for the best and most original web pages to rank on the first page of their search results.

What they might not realize is that when search engines discover a page with content that already exists on another page, the rankings of both duplicate pages automatically drop. Let me repeat that: websites that reuse content from other web pages or even from other pages within their own site risk lowering their rankings in search results.

Many web pages use duplicate content for legitimate reasons. Search engines understand that, they just have a hard time determining which duplicate content is useful and which is spammy. To make matters even more complicated, many people don’t know their websites are producing duplicate content.

Want to know how to eliminate the problems duplicate content can cause? Read on to find out the most common mistakes you might be making.

You have content available in multiple formats.

In some cases, you want visitors to your site to be able to conveniently access your content, no matter what device they use. For example, your site may be optimized for mobile devices or you may have a printer-friendly version of pages. In each case, your site will produce a separate URL to accommodate the new format.

To solve this problem, you simply need to designate one page as the original, or canonical, page. On the other pages, use the tag rel=”canonical”. The tag refers back to the canonical page and lets search engines know this page a copy.

For example, if your canonical page had the URL “www.website.com/canonical_page,” you would include this tag in the HTML head of your web page:

<link href=”http://www.website/canonical_page” rel=”canonical” />

Some of your website’s URLs contain errors.

Search engines don’t recognize spelling, spacing, or capitalization differences as errors. They only register as differences. So if you have labelled a URL two different ways, search engines will recognize the URLs as two separate pages.

A human would recognize that these URLs refer to the same page (a computer wouldn’t):

  • www.website.com/canonical_page
  • www.website.com/Canonical_page
  • www.website.com/cannonical_page
  • www.website.com/canonicalpage

To eliminate this problem, make sure that all your URLs are labelled correctly. Choose one URL as the preferred format and use a 301 redirect for the rest. A 301 redirect indicates that a page has moved permanently and redirects search engines back to the original page. This action eliminates competition between duplicate pages and passes all ranking to the original page.

Your website doesn’t have a preferred domain.

Many websites don’t determine whether their URL should have “www” at the beginning (think “www.website.com” versus “website.com”). They then include links with both iterations. Remember, search engines recognize any tiny difference in a URL as a different URL. Choose one format and stick with it when linking internally.

Your site includes boilerplate content on each page.

Your website may require a legal disclaimer, address and phone number, or copyright text. Rather than including lengthy duplicate content on each page, include a brief summary with a link to a page with a more detailed explanation.

You have placeholder pages with minimal content, or “stubs.”

Having more pages doesn’t help with your site’s rankings if the extra pages contain duplicate content. Many people try to supplement their websites by creating “placeholder” pages with content from other pages.

These short pages often add no value to your website. They also tend to discourage visitors because they don’t contain helpful information. It’s in your best interest to delete “stubs” from your website.

You have two or more pages with similar content.

Many websites have legitimate reasons for including similar content on multiple pages. For example, if you offer similar products, it may be tempting to recycle a product description from one product page to use on another page. However, you don’t want your rankings to suffer because of duplicate content.

You have two options in this case: you can consolidate the two similar pages into one page or you can create new content for one of the pages. If you combine the pages, be sure to use a 301 redirect on the empty page so it won’t compete with your ranking page.

Your website contains content that is duplicate to another website.

While copying a product description directly from the manufacturer’s website may seem like the easiest way to put quality content on your page, it can severely hurt the page’s ranking. The only way to resolve this problem is to produce your own original content for your website.

You could theoretically use rel=”canonical” on your duplicate page, but then it would be ineligible for ranking on search engines. You want your customers to find your page, so it’s best to avoid using duplicate content on your website.

Don’t Make These Duplicate Content Mistakes

Improve your search engine ranking and your user experience—communicate properly with search engines and create quality, original content for your website. Your customers will be happy they found your website from their internet search.