Why having duplicate content is an issue for SEO

Duplicate content is an issue that can negatively impact your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Here’s a deep dive into what duplicate content is, why it’s problematic, and how to effectively deal with it.

Key takeaways

  • Duplicate content refers to the same or very similar content published across multiple URLs.
  • It dilutes authority signals.
  • There is no specific percentage similarity between content to avoid potential SEO issues, however, I recommend keeping duplicate content below 10%.
  • Duplicate pages should be consolidated via 301 redirects or canonical tags.
  • Creating high-quality, unique SEO content is key to minimizing duplication.
  • Do not scrape or copy content.
  • Syndicated content should use proper attribution.
  • Duplicate content fundamentally goes against search engines’ goals of providing the most useful, unique results.
  • Properly dealing with duplicate content is critical for SEO success and high rankings.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content refers to substantive content that appears identically or nearly identically across multiple URLs on one or more domains. This includes:

  • Entire pages with completely duplicated content
  • Large block sections of duplicated text
  • Articles or blog posts published across multiple domains
  • Thin affiliate content across sites
  • Scraped or copied content

In essence, duplicate content is the same or very similar content that exists in more than one place on the web.

Why duplicate content hurts SEO

There are a few key reasons why duplicate content can hurt your SEO and search performance:

1. Search engines want to provide the most relevant, unique result

The goal of search engines like Google is to provide users with the most authoritative and useful content for their query. When the same content is published across different URLs, it becomes harder for Google to determine which page should rank for that content. Many search results with the same content also provides a poor experience for their users.

2. It divides page authority

When the same content is published in multiple locations, it dilutes the overall authority and credibility signals that search engines use for ranking. The page authority gets divided across the duplicate instances, leading to potentially lower rankings.

3. It can trigger search penalties

Excessive duplicate content across a website is often interpreted as thin content created solely for search engines. Google may demote pages with large amounts of duplication.

4. Hinders crawling and indexing

Massive amounts of duplicate content can waste search engine crawl budget and make indexing more difficult. This can result in pages not getting properly crawled or indexed.

Most effective ways to deal with duplicate content

Here are the top methods to effectively eliminate or mitigate duplicate content issues:

  1. 301 redirect duplicate pages: When you have completely identical pages on different URLs, do a 301 redirect to a single, consolidated page to direct link equity and authority.
  2. Canonicalize similar pages: Use canonical tags to indicate the master, preferred URL that you want indexed for pages with mostly similar content.
  3. Noindex duplicate content: If you have duplicate content that can’t be redirected or consolidated, noindexing the duplicate page tells search engines not to index it.
  4. Create unique, original content: For product description pages, blog posts, and other content, focus on always creating useful, distinctive content optimized for users.
  5. Update with unique content: Add more unique paragraphs, sections, images or other content to differentiated duplicated pages that must remain live.
  6. Attribute syndicate content: Properly link to the original source for any curated content.

The bottom line

Duplicate content fundamentally goes against search engines’ goals of providing the most relevant and useful results. It dilutes page authority, can cause the wrong versions of content to rank, and can result in a poor user experience. That’s why effectively minimizing duplication through redirects, consolidation, canonicalization, unique content creation and other tactics is critical for SEO success. By tackling duplicate content across your site, you can optimize search visibility and improve how you rank for important keywords.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of duplicate content will hurt my site?

There is no definitive duplicate content percentage that is inherently bad. However, I recommend trying to keep duplicate content below 10%. Higher than that risks potential issues.

Does duplicated content on different sites hurt SEO?

Yes duplicate content across sites can impact SEO, as the other domain may be the content returned in search results.

Can my SEO suffer for accidental duplicate content?

Whether the duplication is accidental or on purpose, excessive duplication can negatively affect your SEO. Take steps to consolidate and eliminate duplicate content when discovered.

Should I use “noindex” or redirect duplicate pages?

For duplicate pages, do a 301 redirect or add canonical tags to consolidate authority signals. If this isn’t possible, noindex the duplicate content.

What’s the best way to modify duplicated content?

The ideal approach is to revise duplicated content by adding new sections, paragraphs, images, infographics, comparisons or other unique information so each page stands alone in usefulness.

About the author

Daniel Lee

With over a decade's worth of experience, I am an accomplished digital marketer who thrives on creating bespoke SEO and content marketing strategies for a diverse range of clients, from innovative start-ups to established billion-dollar enterprises. Drawing from my Master's degree in International Marketing from the University of Law, and business coaching training from the renowned Møller Institute at Cambridge University, I'm committed to delivering results that drive substantial growth and competitive success for my clients. I look forward to being part of your success story.

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