The content which is similar or exactly the same copy of something that already exists is called duplicate content. If you have huge amounts of duplicate content on your website, it will negatively influence your Google rankings. In simpler terms, both the word-to-word copy of the content and even the slightly modified versions come under duplicate content. Duplicate content adds no value to the visitors. Sometimes pages with no content can also be considered duplicate content.
Google doesn't rank the web pages with duplicate content. Google scrutinizes every page before it indexes, and it strives hard to notice and push the pages with distinct information. Google has advised all the content creators to make the content for users and not search engines a number of times. So, if your pages don’t contain any distinct information, it will hurt your search engine rankings. There are three major ways that duplicate content can negatively influence your website.
Less organic traffic: If Google finds that you copied content from the pages that have already been indexed, it denies ranking your page. Without a rank, your page won’t appear on the search engine results page.
Less number of indexed pages: If you’re an e-commerce site, there will be so many pages on your website. Sometimes duplicate content on these pages makes Google refuse to index them. So, beware of wasting your crawl budget on duplicate content. In extremely rare cases, Google can also penalize you for putting up duplicate content. When a site scrapes off content from another site, it may result in Google de-indexing the website completely and even lead to a penalty.
Hence every practitioner should ensure that all the content that’s going on the website should be unique and bring value to the users. However, this is not an easy task or sometimes can be impossible too. Various factors like templating content, UTM tags, information sharing, or content syndicating are prone to the risk of duplication. To make sure that your site is free of duplicate content, you must possess a clear understanding of your content, maintain the site regularly, and understand the search engine's technicalities.
This is the most common reason why many sites face the issues of duplication. Many of the e-commerce sites face duplication of pages for the same product. You need to implement the 301 redirects to the URL to connect the duplicate page to the original one.
One way to prevent duplicate content is to search and check for other indexed pages. You can do it either by directly searching from the search engine or log on to Google Search Console and find out from there. Ensure that the number of pages that are lined up equals the pages you manually created. If the number exceeds heavily, then understand a lot of duplicate pages have been created.
The most important aspect to concentrate on in combating duplicate content is Canonical tags. The snippet of the HTML code that helps Google understand that the published content is something that can't be found elsewhere in the rel=canonical element. It is generally used for web versions of content, can be both desktop and mobile pages. The two types of canonical tags are the ones that point to a page and the ones that point away from a page. Canonical tags are very essential to recognize and duplicate content, and self-referencing, that is, recognizing your sites as the master version, is a proven good practice.
Sometimes duplicate versions can be for sites and not just web pages. The page that has been duplicated can be redirected and included with the original page. In case you have a duplicated page that has high traffic or link value, redirecting can be a feasible option to deal with it. Keep it in mind to always redirect to the page that has a higher performance. You can use the 301 redirects in this case too.
A useful technique to analyze your content for duplication is meta tags. If you want a page to be excluded from Google indexing, you can use the Meta robot tags. Then Google would refrain from indexing it, and the page would not appear in any search results. This is also an effective way when compared to the robots.txt method, as this allows granular blocking directed to a specific page or file.
URL parameters are often used to determine how to crawl the sites to search engines effectively. Often, they may result in content duplication as they create copies of a page for their use. When you implement parameterized pages in a specified tool, then the search engine will understand not to crawl those pages.