How should you deal with your site’s duplicate content?

Piranha Designs - Thursday, December 07, 2017

When you’re building or running an ecommerce site, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll end up with some form of duplicate content on your site. You’re probably thinking of that as very much a bad thing for your site’s search engine performance, but not necessarily for the reason you think.

Doesn’t duplicate content attract a penalty from Google?

It’s interesting that this idea of duplicate content on a website resulting in a penalty from Google has actually persisted for so long. As it happens, a Google blog from as long ago as 2008 declared: “Let’s put this to bed once and for all, folks: There’s no such thing as a ‘duplicate content penalty.’”

However, duplicate content can still be a major detriment to your site’s search engine fortunes, despite the lack of any formal penalties to be imposed for it.

It’s an algorithmic ‘dampening’ issue, rather than one of any human on Google’s web quality team being alerted to certain pages of yours, judging them to be spammy and slapping your site with a punishment accordingly.

After all, when you do have duplicate content on your site, you’re effectively competing with yourself for the same keyword theme. It means that the link authority you would have gained from one page is instead split across two or more pages. When you have duplicates of one page, that page is also less relevant to search engines, which are forced to determine which one to rank.

So, surely the answer is to kill those pages...

Alas, simply removing duplicate content on your site can have undesirable effects. Remember that certain content that is technically duplicated from elsewhere – such as a customer’s ‘wish list’ page or a printable version of a product page – can be useful to visitors to your site.

Getting rid of such content may therefore harm the experience that you give to your site users, which may in turn adversely impact your sales and revenue. But on the other hand, there may be certain duplicate content that you have to remove regardless of any detrimental SEO or customer experience effects, such as if leaving it in place would put you at legal risk.

Exactly how you should deal with particular duplicate content on your site therefore depends on what you need to accomplish. There are a lot of good techniques for removing duplicate content or nullifying its SEO impact, ranging from 301 redirects and canonical tags to 404 ‘File Not Found’ errors and the Remove URLs tool in Google Search Console.

Would you appreciate help to remove or negate duplicate content on your site in a way that brings maximum customer experience and SEO benefits? If so, don’t hesitate to talk to our experts in ecommerce website design and search engine marketing today.

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