The #1 SEO Issue: Duplicate Content Plus Canonical Tags and Other Stuff

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Duplicate content refers to content that simultaneously appears on the internet in more than one place, meaning that a copied version of the content is available on pages other than the location specified with the unique URL.

Consequences of Duplicate Content

Duplicate content affects the working of search engines and disturbs the rankings of a site. Let’s take a quick look at these issues.

Search Engines

There are three main issues that may cause trouble for a search engine:

    • It has the inability to choose between the original version or duplicate one.
    • It is not possible to direct the link metrics to one page or relate it to the multiple versions.
    • It can’t decide which version should be ranked for a particular query.

Site Owners

A major loss that site owners may suffer is a decline in ranking and traffic. This situation gets more complicated by introducing two more problems:

  • Search engines will often avoid showing multiple versions of the content, thus making it so that none of the versions show up in search results.
  • Link equity is also disturbed, as other sites can’t choose between the duplicates. On the contrary, the inbound links are pointed to multiple pieces, thus spreading the link equity among all the duplicates. Since inbound links are used as an effective ranking factor, their absence can negatively influence the content’s search visibility.

Fixing the Issue of Duplicate Content

You can only fix duplicate content by specifying which one is the original.

If a piece of content is available on more than one URL, it needs to be canonicalized for search engines. There are three main ways to do this:

  • Rel=canonical attribute
  • 301 redirect
  • Meta Robots Noindex

Rel=“canonical”

You can address the issue of duplicate content by using the rel=canonical attribute. This tells search engines that a duplicate content or page should be considered a copy of a specific URL. Moreover, it states that all the content metrics, links, and ranking power should only be credited to the original URL specified in the attribute.

You need to add this attribute to the HTML head of each duplicate version. In addition, the “URL OF ORIGINAL PAGE” portion should be replaced by the link to the canonical or original page. The attribute works in the same manner as a 301 redirect, since it passes the same amount of link equity (ranking power). As it is executed on the page, it requires less time to implement.

301 redirect

In most cases, the best way to combat duplicate content relates to setting up a 301 redirect. The action is directed from duplicate to the original content. When all these pages are combined, they stop competing and create stronger relevancy.

Meta Robots Noindex

Meta Robots is a meta tag used to handle the issue of duplicate content. It can be added to the HTML head of all the duplicate pages to exclude them from the search engine’s index.

Final Note

Don’t let duplicate content affect your site rankings. Take the above steps to get it fixed — fast.