Duplicate content doesn’t double the results – It hurts them!

We have all heard it before – Content is king!

With the push to please the king and develop as much content as possible, websites sometimes engage in practices that end up hurting them. Duplicating content is one of these black hat techniques that webmasters end up using.

In this article we discuss what duplicate content is, how it can impact SEO performance, and ways to monitor duplicate content on your website.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is any content that appears in more than one place on the internet. This can include content that is exactly the same or that is very similar. Moreover, duplicate content can be an entire page of content or even just an excerpt from a particular page.

Duplicate content is closely related to plagiarism. Whereas, a third party has taken the content and tried to claim it as their own. Just as plagiarism in the academic field can be damaging, so can duplicate content for the online world and websites.

To reiterate, duplicate content is content that is word for word copied and pasted onto a new third party URL or even on the same URL. 

Now that we know what duplicate content is, let’s discuss how it can impact the SEO performance of a website.

How does duplicate content impact SEO?

When it comes to indexing, crawling and ranking pages, search engines do not want to spend the resources in looking through duplicate content. Whereas, duplicating exact copies of content will add no value to their users. 

Google and other search engines want to index and rank content that is unique and is distinct information that adds a new perspective, or new information on a specific topic. Google does not like this type of content so much that they have released extensive documentation on Google Search Central.

Google’s documentations states:

“Google tries hard to index and show pages with distinct information.” 

And in regards to SEO and ranking, Google says:

“As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”

If Google is releasing statements on the topic, and has devoted a whole page of documentation to the topic, you know it must be important.

Therefore, let’s dive a little deeper into the effects of duplicate content on your website.

Less Organic Traffic and fewer Indexed Pages: 

As you can see in Google’s statements above, they want to provide and show ‘distinct information’ to their search engine users. This means that if they discover duplicate content, either on your own website, or on a third party website, you are forcing Google to choose which one is the original.

And making that choice can be difficult for Google sometimes. 

For example, if there is three different pages that have the same information on them (this can be because you copy and pasted content, or because a duplicate page has been formed by your server for whatever reason) Google will have to decide which one is the original, more valuable piece of content to index and rank. 

Sometimes, Google doesn’t choose right though. Resulting in the sub-optimal page being displayed on their SERPs. When this happens, you will have a difficult time ranking well and thus driving organic traffic to your website.

To go a little deeper into the issues of indexing let’s look at three issues that could take place:   

  1. Search engines will struggle to identify which version(s) to include/exclude from their indices
  2. They will have a difficult time in knowing what to do with the various signals and direct link metrics the web page is receiving (trust, authority, anchor text, etc.) and if they should direct it to one page, or separate it between multiple web page versions
  3. The engines won’t know which version or versions of the page they should rank for particular queries

Penalty (Extremely Rare): 

Another issue, although rare, that can occur is the website being penalized, which can result in a complete indexing of the website. 

This result is quite rare though. And is usually reserved for websites that are scraping content, or copying content directly from one site and placing it on their own, with no citations or references back to the original page.

Penalties like this can be disastrous for websites as they will result in your website being whipped clean from search engines’ indexes. Once this happens, it is nearly impossible to drive any sort of traffic to your website, or ever have the website back in good standing with search engines.

Now that we know how duplicate content will affect a website’s SEO performance, let us discuss what a few different types of duplicate content are.

Examples of duplicate content

In this section we will look at three common duplicate content examples. Two out of our three examples may go unnoticed, or are committed unintentionally by webmasters. This is because certain settings or parameters were set and resulted in a duplicate piece of content being created.

However, that doesn’t mean that website owners don’t purposely create duplicate content. Whereas, Raven Tools conducted a study which showed that around 29% of websites currently do, or have done, some form of duplicate content on purpose.

To ensure your website stays out of that 29%, let’s take a look at three examples or duplicate content.

1. URL variations

Various parameters for your URLs, set by tracking code and analytic code can result in URLs being duplicated. 

URL parameters, such as click tracking and some analytics code, can cause duplicate content issues. This can be a problem caused not only by the parameters themselves, but also the order in which those parameters appear in the URL itself.

  • One such example of this is when your parameters set different session ID tags for users. The user ID is then stored in the URL, making the URL different, but still housing the same content as before.
  • Another way URL variations can end up causing problems is with printer-friendly versions of content. Whereas, one URL will have the word ‘print’ in it as an extension and the other doesn’t.

To avoid these common issues, best practices state that when possible, try avoiding any URL parameters as they can easily result in duplicate content. Instead try using scripts to pass on the information instead!


With HTTPS becoming the standard for web pages and their security, sometimes HTTP pages still get created. When this happens, it means that two separate versions of the same web page are being hosted by the website. Whereas, if one page has the prefix http:// and the other has https://, and both of them are live on your website, and discoverable by search engines, you have actually created duplicate content. This type of duplicate content is what confuses search engines as they now have to pick between the two pages to rank.



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