Duplicate Content Is Hurting Your SEO Ranking; Here’s How to Fix It.

There's no underestimating the power of content when it comes to driving your eCommerce sales. Just how important is it? New research behind content marketing reveals just how vital it is:

  • Increases Conversion Rates by Nearly Six Times. The average conversion rate for sites without a content strategy is 0.5%, while those with a content marketing plan convert at a rate of 2.9%
  • Costs Less. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional forms of marketing.
  • Yields More. In fact, it'll generate around three times the leads that traditional marketing does.
  • Builds a Relationship With Your Audience. Over 70% of consumers would rather get to know a company based on their content than an ad.

Not surprisingly, three-quarters of eCommerce retailers boosted the content marketing budget in 2016, and yet only 30% of them have a consistent strategy for developing this contentIt doesn't take a rocket scientist to extrapolate the big story here — content marketing matters, and many aren't doing it right. 

Let's look at one of the most common ways eCommerce retailers are missing out when it comes to content.

What is Duplicate Content?


For a textbook definition of duplicate content, let's go straight to the source. Here's how Google describes it on their Search Console Help Center

"Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar."

Makes sense, right? Duplicate content is, well, content that matches other content. By and large, site owners don't intentionally create duplicate content. And yet, an incredible 29% of the internet is made up of duplicate contentIn fact, one study found that the average site had 71 pages of duplicated content. So, if it's mostly not intentional, how does it get there? Here are some of the most common ways:

  • Copied Product Descriptions. Many online retailers import or copy and paste the generic descriptions from the manufacturer's site, or take them from a competitor's site. By doing this, you're trusting customers to find your site in a sea of similarity.
  • Duplicate Products. Let's say you sell a Bluetooth speaker on your site. It comes in two colors so you create a page for the white one and a page for the black one. It seems like a natural thing to do, but it's actually telling Google that your site has duplicate content that should be ignored.
  • Identical Category Pages. Sites often create two category pages; one for internal/external search results and one for site navigation. It doesn't even matter if these pages have different tags and products. If they cover the same topic, they'll still compete with one another for Google's attention. Google will pick one page for its search results, and it could be the less favorable one. Also, you're cannibalizing your content, pitting one against the other for ranking rather than having one strong page.
  • Multiple URLs for the Same Product. Your content management system could be creating duplicate content. This occurs when one product comes up in multiple categories.
  • example.com/hardware/fasteners/product-id AND example.com/product-id
  • This can also crop up based on the user's click path:
  • example.com/anchors/product-id OR sale/fasteners/product-id
  • Printer-Friendly Pages. Creating an identical page in a printer-friendly format will show up as duplicate content. For example, URLs like http://www.products.com/jackets and http://www.products.com/print/jackets will look indistinguishable.

Why is Duplicate Content Bad?

One of the most common myths you may have heard about duplicate content is that Google will penalize your site for having it. This is false, as they've detailed in a recent Q & A. They will not technically levy a penalty on your site for duplicate content. 

However, they may still stop some of your content from coming up in search results if they find duplicate content. This can cause a whole range of problems:

Showing Unfavorable URLs. Your pages will still be indexed and, if the search engine sees similar or identical text on several pages, it will scrap all but the one it finds mostrelevant to the search query. This means that the other pages will "cease to exist" for all intents and purposes. Unfortunately, the page Google chooses isn't always the right one. If you have:

http://mygreatsite.com and http://mygreatsite.com/overview.html

You want visitors to go to the primary and most branded version, but Google may choose the latter.

  • Dilution of Link Popularity. If your URL structure isn't consistent, and you start building links, you're essentially distributing a bunch of versions of your site. Let's imagine you have a resource page that's performing well, generating tons of traffic from inbound links.

Despite the traction, you don't see the page authority jumping like you'd thought it would. Why? It could be that the back linking sites linked using different versions of the high-performing URL, and Google couldn't figure out that all the URLs went to the same page.

  • Wasting Search Crawler Cycles. Google's web-crawling robots are always out there, reviewing sites and indexing content. But they have finite resources with which to do this. For example, let's say Google's little helpers have the resources to crawl seven of your pages on a cycle and three of them have duplicate content. The resources they waste on your duplicate content could have been used to review your fresh content and boost your SEO.

How to Find Duplicate Content On Your Site?

There are a few options for locating duplicate content on your site. Let's look at a few:

  • Search Google.
  • It may be a little time-consuming, but one way to find out if you have a duplicate content infestation is to do a simple Google search. Use a keyword that you rank for and see what comes up. If you see the wrong pages, you have content that needs to be rooted out.
  • Use Google Webmasters.
  • Google's Search Console is an invaluable resource for finding your culprits. Login to your Webmasters dashboard here and look for alerts. Under the "Crawl" section, check out your "Crawl Stats." If you see an inordinate number of crawls, Google's bots are going over the same content multiple times.
  • Try Siteliner.
  • Siteliner.com offers an easy-to-use, quick tool for analyzing your site. Just drop in your site address and click "Go." Siteliner will scan and generate a report detailing broken links, HTML rations, common content and duplicate content, among others. 

How to Fix Duplicate Content in 3 Steps

In most cases, fixing your duplicate content will come down to one thing: defining the correct "duplicate." Once you've found your offending content, it needs to be canonicalized for Google and other search engines. There are a variety of ways to do this.

  • Implement a 301 Redirect.

If you want shoppers who visit page B — the duplicate content — to instead go to page A — the original content — a 301 redirect is the best, most SEO-friendly way to do it. A 301 redirect tells visitors and search engines to redirect permanently from page B to page A. This will also transfer anywhere from 90-99% of the ranking power from page B to page A, though it can take a little time for search engines to catch up.

301 redirects can get complicated because there are several factors to consider. But for most users on the Apache web server, this is the syntax you'll use in the .htaccess file if you want to go from "www.old-site.com/old.html" to "www.new-site.com/new.html":

Redirect 301 /old.html http://www.new-site.com/new.html

  • Rel="Canonical" Links.

Another common solution for handling duplicate content is a rel=canonical link. This link essentially tells Google that the page is a copy and that everything on it, including its ranking power, should be given to the URL you specify. For instance, you've got these two URLs:


You'd pick the URL you consider to be "canon" and add this rel"=canonical" link to the <head> section of your canonical page:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://mygreatsite.com/jackets/red-leather/"

  • Link Back to the Original Content.

If the above solutions don't work for you — perhaps because you don't have access to your <head> section or you can't get to your .htaccess folders — you can link back to the original page. You'll put this link either above or below the article or piece of content. Eventually, Google's crawlers will see enough links going to the original content that it will figure out it's canonical. 

Need More Help?

If you need more help removing duplicate content, EnableVue is here to lend a hand. We've crafted high-quality, unique content for many clients over the past 5 years. Our dedicated team creates reader-friendly, highly effective content to keep your site fresh and performing well.

Speak with us today to see how we can help.