Duplicate content issues are inevitable, from time to time, if you have an online presence.

Duplicate content refers to content that appears on various web pages and can be accessed from different sources. It causes a problem for search engines when it comes to displaying the best-suited recommendations in response to search queries.

This is why Google, a search engine giant with over 93% of the market share in the industry, strongly discourages duplicate content and often takes strict measures against it.

Although you may or may not necessarily receive a penalty if your website contains duplicate content, it will indeed affect your search engine rankings.

Therefore, it’s important that you identify and resolve duplicate content issues. Here’s how you can do that.

Causes of Duplicate Content Issues

Before we dive into identifying duplicate content issues, it’s important to understand why these issues occur in the first place.

URL Variations

The most common cause of duplicate content on a website is uniform resource locator or URL variation. This problem occurs when different URLs on a website display the same content.

URL parameters generally cause this, as you create different webpage versions by adding additional information to the original URL.

This inadvertently happens when you’re not careful and fail to consider the consequences that follow.

Adding tracking codes to your URLs, assigning unique session IDs to your visitors, and creating printer-friendly pages are some common causes for your website to contain multiple versions of the same page.

Internal Duplication

A content duplication problem occurs when you are not careful in planning and executing your content strategy.

Content is king. Not only does it help you attract a relevant audience and capture quality leads, but it also fuels your search engine visibility. However, it may do more harm than good if you’re not careful when producing it.

Even a tiny mistake may have grave consequences. For example, publishing an article on the same topic twice so, it’s important that you are extra careful when it comes to planning your content calendar.

Canonicalization Problems

When you have multiple versions of the same page, canonicalization problems occur due to improper implementation or the absence of canonical tags.

Sometimes, having different versions of the same page can’t be helped, such as in the case of eCommerce websites, as they may contain multiple variations of the same product.

In this case, if canonical tags aren’t properly applied, search engines would have trouble selecting the representative page for the set of duplicates, which may have a negative impact on the search rankings of your site.

Website Versions

You may face duplicate content issues if your website has different variations that are live and visible to search engines.

For instance, you may encounter this type of duplication issue if you maintain two different versions of the same site at HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). The issue also persists if you run the same site on two different domains.

Scraped Content

This content duplication issue is generally encountered by eCommerce websites, especially drop-shippers.

It’s a common practice to copy and paste product descriptions from manufacturers’ or vendors’ sites rather than create original ones.

This is generally referred to as scraped content. It negatively impacts your search engine visibility as identical information published on different websites disrupts search engines’ recommendations.

How To Find Duplicate Content Issues

Now that we’ve understood what causes the problem, let’s move on to how we can find duplicate content issues. 

1. Crawl and Audit Your Website

The first step is to crawl and audit your website to identify areas you need to work on to find duplicate content issues.

For this, you would need keyword research tools such as Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush and so on. These are just a few recommendations. There are many other alternatives available on the market.

So, it’s best that you do your research and pick a solution that serves you well. However, it’s important that the solution you choose offers website crawling and audit capabilities.

This will enable you to gather all the essential information about your website pages or published content.

2. Evaluate Page Titles and Descriptions

Once you’ve conducted a website audit, proceed by evaluating the titles and descriptions of your pages.

Page titles and descriptions serve as a synopsis of the page content. Going through them will help you develop a list of potential web pages that may cause content duplication issues.

3. Assess URL Structures

The third step is assessing the URL structures of your pages. The goal is to look for URL variations that exist by accident or due to negligence.

It’s vital to assess your URL parameters, session IDs and tracking codes, as they are often responsible for creating different URL variations that eventually cause you to run into content duplication issues.

4. Review Your Pages

Once you’ve evaluated your URL structures, the next step is to review your pages extensively. This requires you to manually check your web pages for identical content or similarities to other pages.

The objective is to find similar content you’ve published over time or identify duplicate pages that went unnoticed.

This will help you identify internal duplication problems and make it easier to come up with viable solutions.

5. Use a Plagiarism Finder

Using a plagiarism finder tool is highly recommended when you’re striving to find and resolve duplicate content issues.

A plagiarism finder comes in handy, especially when dealing with issues like scraped content or trying to find similarities among your pages.

Running your pages’ content through a plagiarism checker not only helps you identify the problem but also makes it easier for you to solve it.

Once you’ve found plagiarized content, all that remains for you is to rephrase the parts that require work to make your pages unique.

How To Resolve Duplicate Content Issues

Once you’ve identified duplicate content issues, the following are a few of the recommendations that you should consider to solve them:

1. Set 301 Redirects

When your website has multiple similar pages, they end up competing with one another, which can cause severe problems for you.

It’s recommended that you consider setting up 301 redirects from the pages you view as duplicates to the original page or the page you want search engines to rank on the intended queries to resolve this issue.

Since duplicate pages compete with one another, it becomes difficult for search engines to choose which one to rank. Therefore, by setting 301 redirects, you’d be nominating an ideal page to appear in search engine rankings.

2. Add Canonical Tags

Adding canonical tags to the HTML heads of your duplicate pages is another optimal solution for duplicate content issues.

A canonical tag is an HTML code that helps search engines identify the original page among its different variations. This method works if the pages contain similarities or are entirely identical.

A canonical tag helps pass the level of authority or link equity to where it belongs and prevents duplicate pages from messing with the ranking of the original one.

3. Use No-Index Tag

When you use a no-index tag, you prevent search engines from indexing certain website pages.

These pages would be live and accessible to your visitors. However, they would be excluded from a search engine’s index.

This is an ideal way of dealing with content duplication when you’ve created different versions of a page to target diverse audiences.

However, you must ensure that you are not restricting search engines from crawling your pages, as Google doesn’t like its crawl access being restricted.

4. Choose a Preferred Domain

Depending on the duplication issues you’re dealing with, specifying a preferred domain or URL parameter for a search engine’s index may serve as a viable solution for you. For example, whether you choose to display your URL as www.example.com or example.com.

You can choose a preferred domain for Google using Search Console. However, you may also consider using webmaster tools along with the Search Console for other search engines.

5. Consolidation

Consolidation is one of the best ways to deal with duplicate content issues caused by similar or identical pages.

Here, you’d be taking information from all versions of your page and consolidating it into one. This will help you solve content duplication issues and increase the page’s topical depth.

Once you’ve consolidated all the information into the original, the next step should be removing the duplicate versions of the page from your site and setting URL redirects.

This will ensure you retain your visitors. However, you may witness a temporary drop in your rankings.

Final Words

There you have it—the five easy steps to finding and resolving duplicate content issues. If you’ve been struggling with duplicate content on your website lately and are worried about losing your rankings because of it, the steps provided in this article may come in handy.

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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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