Time and again it has been reiterated how important it is to have unique and high quality content and how duplicate content needs to be avoided. What is duplicate content; why should it be avoided; and how to avoid it; these are some of the questions we shall attempt to answer in this post. If the content in two places is similar to each other it is called as duplicate content. Duplicate content puts the search engine in a fix as it gets confused as to which content is relevant when a query is posed. This adversely affects the website that carries duplicate content as its ranking may go low and it will have to deal with low traffic. Their SEO efforts will fail to show results and online visibility will take a blow.
• At times, the duplicate content is not deliberate. Let us say if your article appears for a certain keyword on a certain url and exactly the same content shows up on another url. This article is picked up and linked to by certain readers on one url and others on the second url. Now this is where the confusion of the search engine arises. If all the links were to the same url then your ranking would see a rise but in this case it will go against you.
• Search engines have their own algorithms of measuring unique information. In case your website has more than one page with identical content, you can use the method of canonicalization to indicate your preferred url to the search engine. However, at times, the duplicate content is manipulative and used deliberately to get more traffic. Such manipulative practices cannot survive for long and is penalized by Google as they wish to give unique experience to their users and duplicate content does not go down well with users.
• In case you have restructured your site, there are chances of duplicate content showing up. Be sure to use 301 redirects to direct the users and search engines to the page that you prefer.
• In case you syndicate your content on other websites, then the search engine may end up indexing any page and not necessarily your preferred one. Ensure that you direct those sites where the syndicated material appears to use the noindex metatag so that the search engines do not pick up that content.
• Have a clear sitemap for your site so that no two pages end up displaying the same content. In case you have two pages with similar content, either consolidate those pages into one and if that is not possible then have different versions of the content making each page unique.
• Session IDs, often used in shopping carts, end up making various duplicates. Problem arises when certain systems start using Session IDs in the url resulting in duplicate content. This problem could be solved by storing session IDs in cookies.
Use Google Webmaster tools to trace the duplicate content and then find a solution to resolve it.