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Should you be worried about Duplicate Content?

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Use the Canonical tag to correct duplicate content

What is duplicate content?

In a nutshell, duplicate content is content which exists at more than one URL at the same time, notice I said URL and not domain.  This generally happens in one of the following ways.

  1. Someone “borrows” text from another web site and posts it to their own with out significant modification.  Regardless of which site has the original content, when this is discovered by the search engines they will both be penalized.  Potentially by being dropped from the listings.  Obviously, this would be bad.
  2. You sell products online, and those products can be sorted into different categories, colors, groups – whatever.  These variations on the URL can create problems for your rankings since the search engines think each variation in the URL, regardless how minor, is a new page.
  3. Using session or other tracking codes in your URLS.  Believe it or not, this is still considered duplicate content.
  4. You run a blog and your posts are available from the home, archive, tag  and categories areas of your site.  By default, each of these areas will generate a unique URL for each post and even though they are all on the same domain, it’s still considered duplicate content.  While still bad, this is not as severe as having content on more than one domain and it is unlikely you would be penalized.  However, your rankings are probably being affected.  Because Google and the other engines will have to try to figure out which URL is the best to display, it requires them to look at other criteria as well, incoming links and internal links for example.  Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not.
  5. You run more than one site with very similar content hoping to get more links, visits and rankings.  Yes, the engines know you do this, and yes it is duplicate content.

Protect and Correct your content

There is nothing you can do to stop someone from stealing your content.  However, it helps to know that most of the time people (or robots) that do this are idiots and don’t bother updating the links.  If  you use full URL links, which include your domain it’s unlikely that the thief will notice.  By using full URLs, when someone follows a link on the duplicate site, it will go to yours.  Also, in the event you get banned from an engine, having those links will help you make a case for re-inclusion.

For e-commerce sites, or those using other dynamic URL parameters, help has recently arrived from the major search engines in the form the “canonical tag”.  This tag is a bit of code you insert within the non-viewable ares of your pages that tells the search engines which URL to consider the correct one.  It works likes this:

You may have the same content available for a blue colored “widget” at three different pages:
https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets?color=blue
https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets?style=printonly
https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets?sessionid=127896

By adding the canonical tag code to the pages, Google knows what URL is the best one to use and to include in it’s index.  The code tell the search engines what page is the right one might look like this:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets" />

If you are running a blog, particularly a WordPress powered blog, you are in luck.  There is a great plugin available called the “All in one SEO pack”.  Aside from its other useful SEO features, this tag allows you to define whether or not the various sections of your site are to be indexable by the engines.  The SEO pack even creates and inserts a properly formatted canonical tag into your posts for you.  It’s not rocket science, but do be careful and properly configure the all in one SEO plugin, or you could end up causing your rankings to go down instead of up.

If you run multiple, similar sites – just stop.  Seriously, stop, you are only hurting yourself.  In years past, it was thought that running multiple sites like this would create more rankings, all at the same strength – giving you greater visibility.  In fact, what this does is split your rank strength into multiple smaller pieces – reducing your viability.  To fix this you need to determine which site currently has the best ranking and consolidate all content to that one domain.  Then use 301 redirects on the old ones to send all traffic and rankings to just one place.

Should you be worried about duplicate content?

Yes. Yes, you should be worried, you should check your site and try and minimize your risks.  Thankfully, you now have the tool you need to conquer duplicate content.

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG (www.tgslc.org). In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    May 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Thanks Jack, I’m making a few of these mistakes right now – soon to be corrected….

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Ken Brand

    May 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I didn’t know Jack about Google ranking and stuff like this. Now I do. This is extremely helpful and appreciated. THANK YOU.

  3. Greg Staker

    May 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Here is a great resource from Google on duplicate content.

    https://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66359

    A couple of key statements from the Google page:

    “If you find that another site is duplicating your content by scraping (misappropriating and republishing) it, it’s unlikely that this will negatively impact your site’s ranking in Google search results pages.”

    “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”

    The key word from a Google standpoint appears to be “deceptive”. Are you dupicating content in order to manipulate the results.

  4. Jeremy

    May 16, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    “Regardless of which site has the original content, when this is discovered by the search engines they will both be penalized.”

    I have found this statement NOT to be true every time, more often than not, the site with the higher authority will outrank the lesser authority site.

    *****
    AG, nice to see you guys get your permalinks straight.

  5. Jack Leblond

    May 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Worried about duplicate content? https://bit.ly/18VB2e You should be.

  6. Sue Adler

    May 17, 2009 at 11:09 am

    So if we should be worried about duplicate content, isnt idx indexing duplicate content?

    Are you saying that the listing agent who writes original content on his/her site would be penalized for duplicate content if all of the random agents anywhere in that MLS have indexed idx on their sites?

  7. Jack Leblond

    May 18, 2009 at 9:55 am

    @Joe – Once a sailor, always a sailor. What “mistakes” are you making?

    @Ken – Thanks! Glad you found this useful.

    @Greg – I find the key phrase to be “if you find”. If you find it, report it. If Google finds it, depends on who finds and what mood they are in. If they take the time to determine who originated it, no worries. But having proper links embedded will certainly help.

    @Jeremy – Not many of the “rules” for Google are true EVERY time ;-D. Let’s hope the right site has the higher authority then.

    @Sue – Because of the way they are coded, IDX listings are frequently not included in Google’s index. As such, not a concern when it comes to duplication. Those that are indexed probably are treated just like product listings from retail stores. This is one of the reasons you NEED to have your listings in other areas of your site besides the IDX. If you have questions, feel free to email me.

  8. Louise Scoggins

    May 18, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Jack, great post! I have had problems with duplicate content in the past on one of my websites with 2 different agents / websites in my area. Literally they “copied and paste” verbiage I had personally written on some of my “city” pages…no kidding it was word for word. Luckily my webmaster (also my husband) frequently checks our sites for duplicate content and we were able to get the issues resolved by sending a few terse emails to the offending site. Thanks for bringing this issue to other agent’s attention!

  9. Jack Leblond

    May 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Worried about duplicate content? https://kl.am/iJ8

  10. Fred Romano

    May 21, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Regarding this topic from Google…

    https://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/duplicate-content-due-to-scrapers.html

    “I’d like to point out that in the majority of cases, having duplicate content does not have negative effects on your site’s presence in the Google index. It simply gets filtered out.

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Opinion Editorials

How I combat being burned out as a remote worker

(EDITORIAL) Being a remote worker is wonderful because I can dress down, but burn out can happen faster than in a traditional setting.

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remote work

Don’t get me wrong – working from home is great. However, like anything else, there are cons to working from the comfort of your humble abode.

The biggest struggle I have with remote working is being by myself for eight hours a day, then finishing out my day in the exact same place – my house. This is why I’ve started to branch out from the kitchen table and try a few public places.

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This is what I’ve learned since starting to work at Chicago’s largest incubator, 2112, Inc. I’ve been immersed in a land of creative thinkers which has brought on interesting conversation and great networking opportunities.

A coworking space is the perfect solution for someone who needs things happening around them to ignite productivity. This can also be a solution for combatting remote work burnout.

When working from home for days on end, it has a way of putting me into a routinized funk that is hard to break free from. But, when utilizing a coworking space, it provides the benefits of giving me a place to go, keeping me from at home distractions, and the aforementioned ability to bounce ideas off of others.

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To help avoid running into that again and again, get into the mindset of this is your office and you’re here to work. So, after settling in each morning, put pen to paper and determine what needs to be knocked out. Try and get a few things accomplished before getting up to get your morning coffee, where you will likely find conversation.

Remote work is great, but it can come with the distraction of becoming lenient with your workload. Find the best environment for you and don’t forget that, while you may not be being watched, you are still being counted on.

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First impressions matter – how to win over investors immediately

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meeting interview

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So how can you make sure you land this impression?

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Artificial intelligence wants to improve your resume

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skillroads artificial intelligence resume builder

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A human review can give you different perspectives from different people; unless all such perspectives are accounted for in an algorithm, you may not receive the most comprehensive audit possible. Furthermore, you can’t get feedback on things like in-person interview or phone screen performance from an algorithm. Not yet, anyways.

While a human review is still superior, this is a good first step to integrate artificial intelligence into a algorithm-oriented job application environment.

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