Duplicate Content: It’s Not an Automatic SEO Killer

November 08, 2016

For the most part, duplicate content is not the best idea if you want to rank higher in search results. Duplicate content is defined by Google as:

“Substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”

But not all duplicate content is looked at the same in the eyes of Google. In some cases it’s not a big deal and won’t get your site red flagged. In others, duplicate content can hurt your website’s rankings.

Duplicate Content That’s Okay

During a Google office-hours hangout video chat, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller was asked whether having the same FAQ section across multiple pages of a site would hurt ranking. His short answer was no.

John then explained that when Google detects chunks of the same content across multiple pages it will simply choose one of the pages to display in the search results and disregard the rest. The pages are indexed normally to determine which page should be shown. So don’t expect to get the coveted double impression (scenario where your site shows up twice for the same search query) in the search results as a result of the duplicated content.

If a user is searching for information that pertains to the content outside of the duplicated section, then the duplicate content will make no difference at all.

Some common instances of harmless duplicate content include:

  • Having a regular version and printer version of a page.
  • Forums that repost a question or reply.
  • Republishing guest posts on your own site (using canonical tags).

If you do have duplicate pages on your site you can always tell Google which one to rank using canonicalization. In addition, you can also use the noindex meta tag to prevent one of the pages from being indexed by Google.

Duplicate Content That Will Hurt Your Rankings

You might not try to manipulate search rankings with duplicate content, but there are others that will. In the past Google has caught website owners that duplicate content across domains in order to show up multiple times in the SERPs. As you may have guessed, Google slapped their ranking way down the list or removed them all together.

Some SEOs and site owners will create pages across a single site that are almost identical. That creates a horrible user experience, which Google isn’t jazzed about.

The bigger issue for some website owners is having their own content plagiarized. The last thing you want is for Google to think you’re part of a duplicate content scheme when in actuality you’re the victim. In the same Google Hangout, John Mueller expressed how this isn’t always easy for Google to identify.

Unique Content is Still Your Best Bet

Even though small chunks of duplicate content won’t necessarily hurt your site, you may be missing an opportunity to improve it. Making some adjustments to the content so that it’s unique on each page gives you more opportunities to show up in the SERPs.

For example, let’s say you have a moving van rental company that operates in three cities. You have a page for each city on your website with an FAQ section at the bottom. Each FAQ section covers the most common questions and is the same on each page. But it may be more beneficial to rework each FAQ section so it’s specific to the city or region.

Duplicate content is just one thing we look for when we perform an SEO audit. Handling duplicate content issues could be a matter of improving your site’s technical SEO or the on-page optimization. Visit the SearchRPM website to receive a Free SEO Report that takes duplicate content into consideration.

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By Michael Ramirez
SearchRPM Founder

Michael Ramirez

Michael Ramirez is the Founder of SearchRPM, an Austin, TX based search marketing company that’s well-versed in Search Engine Optimization best practices. You can follow Michael Ramirez on Twitter @openmic0323 or on Google+ to see what he’s up to next.