Identifying and Fixing Duplicate Content Issues

When it comes to content on your website, more is often better. There are more keywords for search engines to index, more interesting blog posts for potential customers to read, and more connections between the pain points of your target market and the offerings of your company.

More is not better, however, if the ‘more’ is copied. Search engine optimization strategies focus on many aspects of how your website is organized and populated, and one major area to work on is removing content that is simply a rote repetition from elsewhere on your site.

Understanding the Problem

To understand why duplicate content is a problem, it’s important to remember that Google and other search engines constantly refine their algorithms in hopes of offering the most relevant, most useful search results to viewers. Sites that are simply the same few articles or paragraphs copied over and over, perhaps with a few small synonym changes, don’t offer a lot of value to searchers.

Of course, much of the duplicated content on the web is accidental, not deliberate bad content. When duplicate content is simply a result of not knowing where everything lives on your website, it becomes an issue of user experience. You don’t want surprise redirects, website upgrades that didn’t affect the whole site equally, or links that keep taking viewers back to the same piece of content.

Finding and removing issues, therefore, is a good move for both general SEO best practices and to make the experience of your website viewers as good as possible.

Finding Duplicate Content on Your Site

To find duplicate content on your site, you’ll want to take a high-level approach at first. If you haven’t done an audit in a while, the beginning of the process is to simply create an organizational document that connects each individual URL on your site with the text that is on that site. This audit document becomes integral in making the decisions moving forward about how to solve the duplication.

The benefits of having this audit long-term include being able to quickly identify what elements of the website need to be redesigned or refocused when you rebrand; without a complete view of what’s on your site, you can end up with some content based on an old brand, which isn’t a great look. 

Sites like Google Analytics and web-based tools like Siteliner and Copyscape can offer statistics and let you know if any of your content is duplicated. Depending on the level of duplication and complexity of your site, it may be worthwhile to also work through your website’s entire sitemap, ensuring that all sites have the information you actually want them to have. 

Five Great Ways to Fix Duplications

Once you’ve identified URLs that contain the same content (or too similar), you can make plans going forward that will improve your SEO as well as make the user experience for your site much stronger. 

1. Refurbish Old Duplicate Content With Updates

Rather than letting certain old posts get ‘reposted’ wholesale in order to boost them and get new readers, adapt those posts. In many industries, information from 1-2 years ago, and definitely older information, can be rewritten with substantial updated context to become entirely new content. Your readers will appreciate the updates, and as long as you aren’t just copying large parts of the old posts wholesale, you’re also solving the problem of duplicate content issues that occurs when you just repost an old blog post.

The best way to get started with this is to create a content strategy calendar. Begin by flagging old posts that are prime opportunities for updating and refurbishing. Schedule out when you want to post the updated versions, and include a bulleted list of what kinds of updates will make this an entirely new piece of content that isn’t flagged by search engines as a copy or duplicate. Then work with your SEO strategy team to schedule batches of revised and updated in time for the posting schedule. 

This is a particularly great strategy for a company with a deep blog who are struggling to find new ideas. A fully updated post functions like a new post on search engines, and new viewers of your site will most likely have never read the original post. Use your archive as a source of inspiration!

2. Delete and Redirect to Relevant Page

There will be times when it doesn’t make sense to replace content on your site but to instead streamline your site. If you know, for instance, that a particular URL offers duplicate content, make the change to delete that page and use that same URL address to redirect to the original. It’s a subtle change, since the user still gets to read the same thing, but it slightly reduces the number of pages you have in your site, which is helpful if that additional page doesn’t help your site. Less copied content is considered better overall for SEO, and a more streamlined sitemap makes future redesigns or reorganizations easier as well.

3. Add New Content That Better Complies With Current SEO

If your removal of duplicate content leaves you with a frustratingly sparse website, don’t despair. Writing new content now, with the most up-to-date guidelines for strong SEO, will give you multiple benefits, from the boost of having recently-posted content, to being able to align to your most relevant keywords. 

Some ideas:

  • Was there more to say on the subject of the deleted duplicate content?
  • Is there a new target demographic? What should address them?
  • Have your potential leads developed new ‘pain points’ or found new ways of using your product or service?
  • Has marketing keyword research unearthed new keywords?

4. Use canonical tags to avoid duplicate problems in the future

Canonical tags are a tool withing website design and creation that allow you to ‘tell’ a search engine that a particular document is the ‘master copy’ of a duplicated text. When there are multiple pieces of copied text in your website, Google and other search engines have trouble knowing which page to index for potential search engine traffic.

Search engines also ‘crawl’, or look for useful information on, parts of your website periodically, which means you could waste the crawler’s ‘time’ on pages that are simply duplicate content and not helping you at all.

Canonical tags solve these problems by signaling to search engines that this is the correct page to index and crawl, not the duplicate pages. These are particularly useful if you find it helpful to keep some duplicate content on your website for the sake of your users, but you don’t want to waste your limited exposure to search engines through indexing. 

5. Use Analytics Data to Drive Future Removal and Refurbishing Efforts

Identifying and Fixing Duplicate Content Issues
Businessman using internet analytics for marketing.

The last way to ‘fix’ duplicate content is really just good website hygiene to avoid the problem in the future. We mentioned a content audit earlier; by making your audit easy to access and understand, your team can avoid having to do another one when the website gets complex and confusing again in the future. 

Make a plan with your team about the life cycle of content on your site: how often will main pages get a refresh, and how often will you go back and either review or delete old, out-of-date blog posts? Use the data from your website’s analytics to see what kinds of posts are getting lots of page views and click-through, so that you can make a plan going forward.

Part of avoiding duplications in the long-term is to develop a sustainable supply of ideas that will keep your team churning out great, useful content that viewers want to return to in the future. 

Key Takeaways: Springboarding From Duplicate Content to SEO Strategy

The effect of duplication on your website’s SEO is an open question for some experts: while it is true that duplicate content may distract or waste a search engine’s time crawling your site, most people agree that wholesale copy-pasted pages, rather than simply having some duplication throughout the site,  is the major problem. For users, however, it’s important not to attempt to ‘learn more’ on a topic and find yourself rerouted to the same article again. When that happens, website visitors are apt to leave, so duplicate content is absolutely at issue there.

Luckily, implementing a comprehensive SEO strategy will result in less duplicate content without losing the benefits of linking between your pages and external links over to your site. Let a great SEO/PPC specialist help you craft the next part of your SEO journey, helping you pinpoint the perfect content to supplement your existing website while maximizing the utility of past research and posts. 

Expand your digital presence today by working with Direction, Inc. to fix duplicate content issues, as well as a range of other services. Schedule a discovery call with us today!

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