As we know, Google focuses on quality content as opposed to the quantity of content for ranking purposes. Part of what conveys quality to the search engines is originality. In the early days of SEO, web content publishers would post the same blog post, article, etc. on many sites thinking that the more times it was out there on the web, the better the chances were that the search engines would find it and rank it for specific keyword search terms. The same content was being published nearly anywhere that accepted content submissions. Then, along came the Google Panda update and this practice was severely punished. Article sites that allowed duplicated content were hit by the algorithm update and took a hit in the search results. Some of these sites completely disappeared from the search engine results page and were forced to shut down.
Duplicating content is a big search engine “no no” today, however many website owners are still doing it, sometimes without even realizing it. Content duplication is sometimes something that happens during the web development process. Since the website still looks good and functions properly, the site owner may be unaware.
Here are a few things to be on the look out for to ensure that you aren’t duplicating content:
Multiple versions of the homepage
A standard homepage should look like this: http://www.yourwebsite.com, or this: http://yourwebsite.com. However, it’s common to see versions of the homepage that look like these: “http://www.yourwebsite.com/index.html”, “http://www.yourwebsite.com/default.html”, and “http://www.yourwebsite.com/home.html”. Visitors typically land on these versions of the homepage when they are clicking back to the homepage from an interior page of the site. The page is exactly the same as the main version of the homepage so it doesn’t impact the usability of the site at all, but what it is doing is duplicating it, since it is viewed as an entirely different URL to the search engines.
Extra characters in the URL
Duplications don’t just happen on the homepage. On some sites an interior page may look like this: “http://www.yourwebsite.com/interior-page” and like this, “http://www.yourwebsite.com/interior-page/”. The extra character of the slash at the end could result in it being viewed as a different page and could get it indexed twice, resulting in a duplicate content issue.
Creating multiple domains
What some business/website owners do is purchase multiple domains because they are easier to remember or may serve a unique purpose even though these domains are all meant to support the same content. Your best bet is just to stick with one domain but if you are using this approach, make sure that each domain redirects to a main domain instead of having the same content across multiple domains.
If it appears as if you may be guilty of duplicating your website content in some form or another, it’s advisable to remedy the situation as soon as possible. Even if you haven’t been penalized that doesn’t mean that you won’t be in the future. Duplicate content also hurts your SEO because it means that your inbound links are being spread across multiple URLs. If people are linking to a /default version of your homepage, it isn’t passing trust to the original version of the homepage. When correcting the duplicate content error, be sure to 301 redirect in order to preserve as much link trust as possible.