What is Duplicate Content? – How It Affects Search Engine Results

If you want your web content to get found by the search engines and receive high rankings it needs to be unique. If the content is duplicated 100s of times your rankings will suffer and the number of page views will decrease. Even though it takes a little more time to write unique content it benefits you in the long run because it consistently attracts new visitors.

The article below clarifies what duplicate means and how it affects search engine results.

Although there is no such thing as a general duplicate content penalty it is difficult to get high rankings for a web page which contents can also be found on other web pages. If you want to avoid problems with duplicate content, the following tips and illustrations will help you.

What is duplicate content and what do search engines do about it?

  • Duplicate content is if two or more different web pages contain the same or nearly the same content.
  • Duplicate content can occur within a single website and across many different websites.
  • Web pages can be considered duplicate even if they are not 100% identical.
  • Search engines want to list only one version of duplicate content on their search result pages.

Search engines want to return as many different options as possible in their result lists. That’s why they filter all duplicates in the search results and display only one version.

How do search engines determine which web page will be used for the search results?

When search engines find a web page, they compare it to previously found web pages to determine whether it is a duplicate or not:
duplicate content step 1

Web pages that are hosted by known spam sites will be removed from the list:

duplicate content step 2

The remaining web pages will be sorted based on the number and the quality of their inbound links:

duplicate content step 3

The web page with the best inbound links will be chosen for the search results:
duplicate content step 4

How to avoid duplicate content on your on websites

1. Hide duplicate content from search engines

If you offer different versions of your website content (regular view, mobile view, print view, etc.) then search engines might pick the wrong variation for the search results.

Add a noindex meta tag to your duplicate content versions so that search engines don’t index the duplicate content (you can use IBP’s website optimization editor to do it).

2. Require backlinks if you syndicate your web page content

If you syndicate your content to third parties, search engines might favor the version published by one of your partners.

Require a back link from your partners to the original document on your own website so that search engines can find out from which web page the content comes.

Duplicate content can cause problems with your search engine rankings. If you follow the tips above, search engine spiders should index your web pages correctly.

Also make sure that the web page content that search engine spiders index on your website has been optimized so that search engines can give your web pages the best possible rankings in the search results.


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Herman Drost is the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW)
owner and author of Web Design, Web Hosting, SEO

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