SEO – What is duplicate content – Dispelling the common myths

Duplicate content has been one of the most overrated SEO topics. There is a lot of misinformation about duplicate content to the extent that some SEO professionals talk about “duplicate content penalty”.

Back in the early days of SEO in the early 2000’s, when content and link farms were thriving and when it was easy to manipulate rankings, duplicate content was used to trick Google – in some extreme cases sites were removed entirely. Nowadays, the reality is that such a penalty doesn’t exist. Google doesn’t ban websites from Google for using duplicate content. There are many examples from Amazon, Ebay and others that copy product descriptions and achieve good rankings with those pages.

The duplicate content issue affects website rankings indirectly. When search engine discovers sites with a lot of duplicate content this is what typically happens:

  • Some pages aren’t indexed
  • Pages rank poorly

What’s more, the on-page content is one of many ranking factors. This means there are many other ways to improve rankings – meaning a website can also rank well with duplicate content, or in essence, outrank all sites that use the same content.

So what to do to fix your duplicate content issue? First of all, avoid copying content, but if you have no other option here’s what you have to do:

  • Make your web pages look unique by optimising all on-page elements, including Page Title, Headings, Images
  • Add some unique content, e.g. if your product descriptions are duplicated consider adding product Q&A section or reviews
  • Work on your internal linking, e.g. if product pages are duplicated – consider optimising category pages and link them to products
  • Research your keywords & have a keyword strategy and implement it across the site, giving special attention to those duplicate content pages – they might need more internal links
  • Work on external links – ensure that the web page is well linked from other sites
  • Implement structured data – most sites still lag in this category
  • Optimise your pages for speed and mobile experience
  • Domain level optimisation – focus on improving the link authority of the domain

One final tip! Observe the coverage report in Search Console – it gives quite accurate and nearly real-time information on the indexation issues. If you have any indexation anomalies you’re likely to find out more in the coverage report.