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how duplicate content is bad for SEO

Why Duplicate Content Is Bad For SEO

Duplicate content is a source of consistent apprehension for many website owners, and for good reason: there are lots of talks online and off it about the dangers of having duplicate content on your site. If you read too much of it, you might get the impression that duplicate content is an inevitable and unavoidable occurrence. One that can both rob you of your hard-won SEO efforts and penalize you for it—making it even harder to rank for the keywords related to your business.

Fortunately, most of the content out there about duplicate content is rubbish. While duplicate content can technically cause issues on your site and it’s useful to know how to address and avoid them, having duplicate content on your site isn’t enough to condemn your site for good. That’s why we wrote this post; to help clear up the confusion surrounding duplicate content—so that you know exactly why it’s bad for SEO, and so you can take steps today to address it on your site.

What Is Duplicate Content And Why Is It Bad?

Duplicate content is exactly what it sounds like: content (on your site or elsewhere) that’s a duplicate or a near duplicate version of the same content that’s already on your site. According to Google, duplicate content can also be content that looks “appreciably similar” to other content—such as content that’s been paraphrased or that uses synonyms of the same words but still talks about the same things, in the same way, with the same format.

duplicate content on your website can affect your ranking against competitors

The biggest reason why duplicate content can be bad for SEO is that two sources of content can compete with each other in the search results. For example, if we were to incidentally copy the content of this page “https://herculesseo.com/why-duplicate-content-is-bad-for-seo/“ and paste it to another page, say, “https://herculesseo.com/three-easy-ways-to-improve-your-site/“, both pages would compete for the same keywords using the same content on the same site. This could throw off a search engine—causing them to rank both pages for the same keywords simultaneously, or worse, prompt it to rank the wrong URL. Whatever the case, both instances can and make it less likely for people to see, let alone read your content.


Duplicate content can also dilute your backlinks—links to your content from other sources—since both URLs (with the same content) might begin to attract backlinks. Since search engines can’t tell which link is the original, or, at very least, the definitive source, they will often split the value of a respected backlink between the duplicate pages—making it harder to rank for either one.

How Does Duplication Occur

There are dozens of reasons why duplicate content could occur on your site. It might be because of negligence: duplicate product or service descriptions or pages, the content appearing in more than one category, or simply pages of content that, for some reason or another, appear in two places at once.

At the same time, there are many other much more subtle (and highly technical) reasons why you might have duplicate content. This could be anything from duplicate ‘accelerated mobile pages,’ and ‘print or mobile-friendly URLs’ to ‘tracking parameter’ URLs (for tracking traffic sources in Google Analytics) or multi-faceted navigation (common on e-commerce sites). It’s could also be for reasons quite simple—an easily overlooked—such as URLs with trailing slashes vs. non-trailing slashes, like this:


or case-sensitive URLs, like this:


The point is, there are many reasons you might have duplicate content on your site – which means that addressing it is best done systematically and periodically. Only then can you ensure that all your bases will be covered and that no errors are overlooked.

How To Diversify Content On Your Website

The best way to address the issue of duplicate content on your site is to take proactive steps to avoid it in the first place. You can do this in many ways, the first of which is to ensure that your content only shows up on one page of your site and that all your content is original. You can do this by being clear about what the content is for in the first place—defining how it provides value to your readers and if it serves tangible marketing and/or SEO benefit.

Other ways to avoid duplicate content are to ensure that you use what’s called a “canonical URL” for pages that appear in two different places on your site. This can be especially helpful for businesses that have products or services that appear in more than one category, thus creating duplicate content on different parts of the site. Similarly, when writing product or service pages and descriptions, it’s helpful to be ultra-specific about the benefits and technical specifications of the product. This can ensure that if other sites republish your content (such as PR sites, or product-review sites) they do so without copying your content word-for-word, creating a duplicate version that could compete with yours on their site.

What To Do If You Have Duplicate Content On Your Site

marketer helping with content strategy

To be frank, addressing duplicate content on a website is tricky business, best left to a professional to help sift through and sort out. A professional marketer can perform an extensive site crawl of your website to look for clusters of duplicates and near-duplicates of any content on your site. This includes scanning the actual content on each page, as well as checking for duplicate title tags, meta-descriptions, or HTML tags to ensure they obtain a comprehensive and accurate report. From there, they can take steps to remove the duplicate content, or, more often, replace it with a canonical link so that it’s no longer an issue.


A professional marketer can also look into duplicate-content-related issues that might be occurring elsewhere (off your site)—to see if content syndication sites (for press releases) or those with ‘scraped’ content (often, sites that post reviews) have duplicate versions of your content. If a duplicate or near-duplicate version is competing with your’s—potentially outranking you—they can take steps to remove it.

Work With A Digital Marketing Professional Today!

Struggling to address duplicate content on your site (or worried you might have some)? Contact Hercules SEO! Our professional team of in-house digital marketers and SEO experts can help you search and destroy any and all of the duplicate content that might be harming your site. We can also work with your content team to recommend best practices to avoid it for good.

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