How Do Duplicate Content Issues Happen?
Search engines like Google continue facing massive challenges that never cease to stop—duplicate content issues. Duplicate content is found at multiple sections (URLs) on the web, an issue that makes it difficult for search engines to effectively identify the true rank of some web pages in search results. This confusion ends up hurting the overall ranking of web pages and a site risks losing its organic traffic to other websites that share similar content like theirs.
What Is Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content is any piece of information that has been obtained across the web and got published elsewhere by another different person. Because different URLs usually report similar content, search engines have a difficult time determining which URL to rank higher in the search results. Sometimes search engines may rank such URLs lower and choose to reward other WebPages that seem fit to meet the demands of their audience.
Different Types of Duplicate Content
There are two different kinds of duplicate content—external duplicate content and internal duplicate content. Also known as cross-domain duplicates, external duplicate content occurs when 2 or more different domains have the same web page indexed by search engines. On the other hand, internal duplicate content occurs when a single domain creates duplicate content through various internal URLs on the same website.
Internal Duplicate Content Issues
An easy way to track your visitors’ behavior and learn how they’re engaging with pages within your website is through session IDs. A Session stores a brief history of all the activities a visitor did on your site, which makes it easy for you to better understand the type of content that appeals more to your audience. A Session ID simply analyzes a visitor’s behavior as they scroll through pages within your site and eventually have this data stored in cookies. Because search engines don’t usually store cookies, a new URL to the same web page is created every time which results in duplicate content.
Another duplicate content issue commonly found in many websites is that belonging to URL parameters. Many websites employ URL parameters to create page URL variations, which results in search engines indexing different kinds of URL parameters without necessarily changing the content found on a page. Although the URL parameters formed might allow you to track the location where your visitors came from, search engines may choose to rank your URLs lower in search results nonetheless.
WWW vs non-WWW
Although this type of duplicate content issue might be the oldest in the game, search engines still have a difficult time getting around this specific problem. Search engines many times fail to distinguish between WWW vs. non-WWW duplicate content, particularly when both versions of your web pages are accessible and so such pages end up ranking lower in search results. HTTP vs. HTTPS duplicate content also shows similar characteristics and, therefore, suffers similar consequences as WWW vs. non-WWW duplicate content.
A fast and effective way to check for these issues is to pick a small section of text from your most valuable landing pages, attribute the text in quotes, and look up the text on Google. After running the text in Google Search, all the pages containing the text in quotes will show up so that you can compare how those pages match with yours. If you find that your site has a WWW vs. non-WWW duplicate issue, you’ll have no option but to create a 301 redirect page from the non-preferred version and link it to its correct version.
Order of Parameters
Another issue often linked to duplicate content problems is the lack of using clean and user-friendly URLs. Web developers tend to use odd and awkward-looking URLs with initials of “ID” and “cat” hidden in the search string, where “ID” refers to the post and “cat” refers to a group category. Such URLs appear to look something like /?id=4 &cat=5. Although the function may serve the site’s purpose, search engines have a difficult time determining the relevance of this search string and so a web page ranks much lower as a consequence.
All sites created with WordPress, including most CMS sites have an option that lets authors paginate comments to their own preference. This approach many times results in content being duplicated across a post’s URL.
If your CMS creates printer-friendly pages and you happen to link them through your post pages, Google can find and index those pages unless you choose to block them. It’s important first to determine which specific pages within your website you’d want to be indexed by Google before they can go live online.
External Duplicate Content Issue
If you often publish a great volume of valuable content on your website, it’s very likely that your pieces might end up appearing somewhere else online. This shouldn’t flatter you in any way—but worry you—due to the many problems you have to deal with afterward. The following is a way duplicate content may occur from within your website externally:
Scraped content occurs when a blogger steals content from another website in order to improve the organic visibility of their website. Some web developers may take this a step further and employ machines to “rewrite” the scraped content they copied from other sources online.
Because most of the time a webmaster may not always link to the original article, search engines are tasked with finding yet another different version of the same article. The more a website gets popular every day, the more scrapers it deals with over the long haul. If you’re a victim of scraped content, make sure to report the issue to Google in their support page under the “Copyright and other legal issues” option.
Duplicate Content Issues Happen Everywhere
Duplicate content happens everywhere. Quite a few websites suffer from duplicate content issues. It’s something website owners, web developers, and publishers need to constantly check on to prevent their sites’ reputation from being ruined. Fixing duplicate content can significantly improve your rankings in search engines and also increase ROI to a whole new level when done correctly. Don’t ignore a critical step in your optimization process: checking for duplicate content!