26 Dec Why Copying Content Hurts SEO
Copying content can be problematic for many reasons. Not only can it result in plagiarism, but copied content can also hurt your SEO efforts and lead to copyright issues. You may have heard the terms copied content and duplicate content, but are they the same? While related, copied content and duplicate content have their differences, but they can still both harm your SEO and overall website performance. While copied content is any content directly taken from any website not your own, duplicate content is your own content which appears on multiple places on your website or on other websites.
Whether you manage SEO for your website on your own or you employ SEO services with a digital marketing agency, it’s important to follow best SEO practices in order to rank high on search engines like Google and provide visitors with a satisfying user experience that will boost your conversion rate.
Copied Content and Duplicate Content Can Drop SEO
There is no way around it — copying content is bad for SEO. Copied content is unoriginal and does not provide value for visitors to your website. Search engine algorithms are designed only to promote one version of any piece of content, and the original website of the content is much more likely to be ranked far higher than a less popular website with copied content. When it comes to duplicate content within your own website, search engines like Google will have difficulty choosing which of your pages to rank on search engine results pages. Likely, only one page will be selected, thus drastically decreasing the chances of users visiting other pages on your website and dragging down page visits.
Causes of Duplicate Content
Copied content is pretty straightforward as content that is directly copied from a website other than your own without proper credit. When it comes to duplicate content, the causes may not initially seem so clear, as many of them are often technical in nature.
According to SEO Trade News, potential causes of duplicate content include:
- Improper URL Use — Generally, a content management system, or CMS, will help run the website. It’s possible that a website’s software allows a specific web page to be retrieved through multiple URLs. While developers see the unique marker for the page as the ID in the website’s database, search engines only utilize URLs to uniquely identify web content. Therefore, it’s important that each page of unique content has only one URL as often as possible.
- Session IDs — It can be useful to track how visitors interact with your website, especially if you have an e-commerce site. Sessions are brief histories of how users interact with your website, such as pages visited and items placed in their shopping carts. Session IDs are the specific tracking information to distinguish one user’s journey from another. While Session IDs are often stored using cookies, search engines do not track a user’s cookies. To get around this, some websites simply store session IDs in URLs, but this can also cause search engines to count this as duplicate content.
- URL Parameters — URL parameters that do not cause a change in the content of a web page can also cause duplicate content. Tracking parameters, for example, may help with discovering from where else online users are finding your website, but they can also bring down your search engine ranking.
- Content Syndication and Scrapers — Unfortunately, you have no control over websites that copy your content without approval. Search engine algorithms don’t know which website is the original owner, thus causing difficulty in ranking against competitors that may attempt copying your content.
- Order of Parameters — Your CMS may generate messy URLs that will bring up the same results in web browsers, but they won’t be as compatible with search engines. Check to see if your CMS will allow pagination for web content, such as comments sections as a way to avoid search engines tagging unnecessary duplicate content on your website.
- Printer-friendly Web Pages — If your web pages link to printer-friendly versions of those pages, search engines will locate these pages unless otherwise blocked. To search engines like Google, linked printer-friendly page versions count as duplicate content. Therefore, be sure to block search engines from accessing those pages.
- “WWW” or Non-“WWW” — When developing your website, be sure to stick to one version using either “WWW” in the URL or not using “WWW,” but not both. Both versions are equally accessible by most web browsers, but search engines can sometimes count them as two separate duplicate entities. The same can also happen with “HTTP” and “HTTPS.”
- Canonical URLs — It’s possible for multiple URLs to direct to the same content. For search engines, there can only be one correct URL for a piece of content, which is referred to as canonical URL. Therefore, make sure only one URL directs to each unique page of content
Fixing Duplicate Content Issues
The best way to fix copied content is to simply remove it and create original content. For duplicate content from your own website, there are a number of ways you can fix duplicate content issues, according to Moz:
- 301 Redirects — Use 301 redirects to direct web browsers to the original content’s web page. These redirects can consolidate multiple pages of web content into a single page, thus decreasing internal web page competition in search results and improving your content’s overall ranking.
- Rel=“canonical” — The rel=canonical attribute allows search engines to know that the linked content should be considered as part of a specified URL. This causes all links on the overall page to be counted as contributing towards the main URL.
- Google Search Console — You can visit Google Search Console to set your preferred domain and specify Googlebot to crawl other URL parameters differently. This is known as parameter handling. You may need to set up your preferred domain, parameter handling, or both depending on what’s causing your duplicate content problems. However, it’s important to do the same for other search engine webmaster tools, as well.
You can prevent further duplicate content problems by keeping internal links consistent within your website, ensuring your webmaster adds the link back to the original page for syndicated content, and adding a self-referential rel-canonical link to your web pages to prevent others from attempting to steal your content for SEO purposes.
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