Why Duplicate Content is Bad for SEO

Duplicate pages are a major issue for SEO and can seriously harm a website’s search engine rankings. Duplicate pages can often go undetected leading to regular fluctuations in keyword rankings.

Duplicate content refers to website pages that have identical or very similar content. Not all websites are going to be penalised for duplicate content however. Some websites may have several pages of similar content without any issues such as ecommerce stores with many products that contain similar descriptions. In these cases duplication is less of a concern than websites that host duplicate content due to underlying technical issues.

Duplicate pages can occur for a variety of reasons, including technical errors, content management system (CMS) issues, and even intentional duplication to try and gain an edge in search performance.

How is duplicate content bad for SEO?

One of the main problems with duplicate pages is that search engines may struggle to determine which page to show in search results. This can lead to a situation known as “canonicalization,” where search engines choose one page to rank and ignore the others. This means that other pages may not receive any search traffic, which can be catastrophic for a website’s SEO performance. This is particularly the case when you see the real world example below where a homepage was duplicated unintentionally resulting in frequent ranking penalties. The chart below shows how a top 2 ranking can quickly descend to the depths of page 3 in the search results.

Another issue with duplicate pages is they can dilute the authority of a website. When multiple pages have the same content, search engines tend to view them as less valuable or relevant, which can harm a website’s overall search engine rankings.

Duplicate content can also lead to penalties or other negative consequences from search engines. Google, for example, penalises entire websites that use duplicate content to manipulate search rankings, so it’s important to address any duplicate content issues as soon as possible.

How to Avoid Duplicate Content Issues

To avoid duplicate content issues, it’s important to regularly audit your website and identify any duplicate pages or content. You can use tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs to identify duplicate content issues and take steps to fix them, such as redirecting duplicate pages to a single canonical page or using the rel=canonical tag to indicate the preferred version of a page. In my experience redirection works best as Google will not always recognise the canonical version of a page even if the tag is in place.

to summarise, duplicate pages are bad for SEO because they can harm a website’s search engine rankings, dilute the authority of a website, and lead to penalties from search engines. It’s important to identify and address any duplicate content issues to ensure that your website is optimised for good long term search engine performance.

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