Why is Having Duplicate Content an Issue for SEO?

In this guide, I’ll be discussing why duplicate content is an issue for SEO, based on both personal experiences from growing my websites and from professional experience with clients.

In fact, when I was an Enterprise SEO Consultant, duplicate content was always one of the first things I would tackle in order to see quick ranking and traffic gains.

When I would explain duplicate content to them, they would immediately understand why it’s bad for SEO and they would prevent it from happening again in the future. This would save me and their team future headaches, fix ranking problems, and make them more money.

Google has expressed that duplicate content does not cause any penalties, however, there are other reasons why you will want to avoid duplicate content.

Quick Summary:

Why duplicate content is an issue for SEO:

  • Can hinder your ranking potential
  • Unnecessarily increases crawl budget
  • It can affect user experience

If you want full explanations and to learn more in-depth, keep reading.

With that being said, let’s dive into duplicate content and how it negatively affects SEO.

What is Duplicate Content in SEO?

Duplicate content is defined as content that appears on the internet in more than one place. When referring to duplicate content in the SEO sense, we often refer to duplicate content as either internal duplicate content or external duplicate content.

Internal Duplicate Content

Internal duplicate content refers to a website having two pieces of content that are both competing for the same keyword.

For example, if you have two blogs on your site both competing for the keyword “what is SEO,” then this would be an example of internal duplicate content.

If you have an internal duplicate content issue, then both blogs will have trouble ranking for the keyword.

This is because Google will not know which one to rank which will end up hindering the ranking ability of both blogs.

Each page or post needs to target only one main keyword. I always used to give my clients this example: if you had a page that talks about shoes and shoe laces, well those are two separate keywords — “shoes,” and “shoelaces”. So ideally, you will want to have a page talking about shoes, and then have a separate page talking about shoelaces.

blog consolidation example for duplicate content in seo

In the case of internal duplicate content, you would want to either canonicalize one of the pages, noindex one of the pages so that Google knows which page to index and rank, or 301 redirect one page to the other.

Personally, I would recommend 301 redirecting one of the blogs to the other. This used to be a technique I would implement with my clients.

I recommend this route out of the three because the way I look at it is that you already took the time to produce the content, why just get rid of it altogether? You can still use parts if not all of it, and then combine it into the other blog. I used to call it Blog Consolidation.

An example of this Blog Consolidation technique working beautifully was with a client that specialized in Corporate Compliance, and I was able to rank them #1 (and is still ranking #1) for “corporate compliance program.”

ranking number 1 on google due to fixing duplicate content

This client had a big internal duplicate content issue and had 6 blogs all targeting the keyword “corporate compliance program.”

So what I did was had them take all these 6 blogs and combine them into 1 giant in-depth guide/blog. Combining all of these blogs into a mega guide got rid of the duplicate content issue and boosted the ranking power of the one blog, allowing it to rank #1 for its target keyword.

External Duplicate Content

External duplicate content is when another website essentially plagiarizes your content and just copies and pastes your content into their blog and posts it.

Now, external duplicate content isn’t necessarily always a nefarious act and could actually be caused by your own doing. For example, let’s say you have your own personal blog and post on it. Well, let’s say you also take that same exact article and also post it on Medium.

Well, those are two separate websites. What will end up happening is Google will factor into the equation the domain authority of both websites, when the post was published on both sites, and other ranking factors.

So unlike internal duplicate content, there will be no competition amongst internal posts, but you may have a case where an external site outranks you for the content you wrote!

This has actually happened to me and I’ve never felt more gamed by SEO than at this moment. What happened was someone copied my exact article word-for-word and then posted it on their own Medium page and outranked my original blog because Medium has a higher Domain Authority.

Luckily, I was able to get their post taken down but it was pretty annoying for the few months it was ahead of me on the SERP.

3 Reasons Duplicate Content is an Issue for SEO

We’ve briefly touched on why it’s an issue, but let’s further explore how and why duplicate content is an issue for SEO.

1. Can Hinder Ranking Ability

The first reason duplicate content is an issue for SEO, is because it can hinder your ranking ability, which in turn affects the amount of traffic you receive to your site.

If you have two pages on your site that are targeting the same keyword, then Google is going to have a hard time trying to figure out which page to rank.

Google will likely just pick one and rank that page, while the other page gets left in the dust. But what will happen is that one page Google chose to rank will never hit it’s full “potential,” until that other page is addressed.

That’s why it’s important to 301 redirect the other page (as I mentioned earlier) into your other post and combine both to create one in-depth article.

2. Increases Crawl Budget

Another reason duplicate content is an issue is that it increases your crawl budget. Crawl budget is the number of pages Google will crawl on your site during any given time period.

If you have a lot of duplicate content, then it’s likely that Google will just skip over a lot of your pages because it doesn’t see the need to crawl them.

It costs Google money to have its crawlers crawl all the pages on the web, so any reason to not crawl a website to the best of its ability is a good one.

Until the duplicate content issue is fixed on the website, then it will not be crawled either as much or to the best of the crawler’s ability which will also affect the other posts and pages on the website.

3. Can Affect User Experience

Another reason duplicate content can be an issue is because it can affect user experience. This one is a bit more indirect but nonetheless, it’s something to be aware of.

If you have multiple pages with the same content, then the user might get confused as to which page they’re supposed to be on. They might also get frustrated if they keep getting redirected to different pages.

It’s important to have a clear and concise website that is easy for the user to navigate. If they can’t find what they’re looking for or if they’re just getting frustrated, then they’re likely to leave your site and go to a competitor’s.

And we all know what that means…

So those are just a few reasons why duplicate content can be an issue for SEO. As you can see, it’s important to make sure that you don’t have any duplicate content on your site if you want to ensure that your website is ranking as high as it should be.

Final Remarks

In conclusion, duplicate content is often caused by unintentional errors, such as when a website accidentally publishes the same article twice. However, in some cases, duplicate content is created deliberately in an attempt to manipulate search engine results. Regardless of the cause, duplicate content can have negative consequences for both search engines and website visitors, and it should be avoided whenever possible.

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