Is Duplicate Content Still An Issue For SEO?

Recently, Google’s John Mueller shone a spotlight on one of the longest running debates in SEO: duplicate onsite content and its implications. Read on as we explore why duplication has been given such negative connotations as a practice, and we’re weighing in on Mueller’s latest take on the topic — assessing whether duplication is still as detrimental as it was once regarded. 

What is duplicate content?

Referring to duplicate content in SEO simply means having the same content across multiple pages or URLs. Having duplication issues can imply that content may not be relevant to a certain page, if it has been shared at different locations on the same domain.

Why is having duplicate content an issue for SEO?

Duplication is flagged as an issue by many of the most popular SEO audit tools, though Google has consistently assured those within the industry that it is not a penalisation offence in the majority of cases. Duplicate content can negatively impact search engine rankings though. Having the same content across different URLS within a site can make it harder for them to be crawled by search engines, as these platforms are simply looking to prioritise the most valuable content to show users. 

One of the main negative impacts of content duplication is that it can drain your crawl budget. If you have the same content across different URLs but you only want one to be indexed, the duplicate pages will still be crawled, making it harder for search engines to identify the most valuable pages. It can also confuse and dilate link equity, as internal links between pages that are displaying the same content have little to none of that all-important ‘link juice’. Link equity will be split across the duplicate pages, rather than focused on the page that you want to be indexed.

It is also a common cause of internal competition for both the search engine and the user. Search engines will struggle to choose which page to rank, and users will have difficulty in sourcing the right information from the right page. It’ll also lessen your onsite content relevancy.

What’s the latest take on duplicate content?

In a recent out-of-hours SEO, Google’s John Mueller delved into the issue of duplication. The first noteworthy takeaway for content writers was his distinction of ‘plagiarism’, implying that if you are reusing your own content, then this shouldn’t be a matter of duplication.

He said: “From Google’s point of view, if you’re taking content from your own website and publishing that again with some elements of the page changed, that’s essentially up to you”. Mueller continued to emphasise the importance of providing value in content — and using this premise as the determining factor on any pages that you may be having duplication issues with. 

He outlined this idea, suggesting: “[...] My feeling is, from a strategic point of view, probably you would be better suited writing something unique and compelling for those topics or to create one article that covers kind of these different variations”. 

So, interpreting Mueller’s commentary suggests that there are workarounds when it comes to managing duplicate content. If you’re dealing with product descriptions or category content, it may be worth considering what you’re covering in the content and its relevancy. This might look like:

Researching long tail queries around your topic and including an FAQ section on each page to differentiate your content. 
Optimising meta content and ensuring your onpage copy incorporates the exact content you’re assigning to each page.
Reviewing your content for relevancy — reusing pieces but reviewing them to ensure that the content is giving users exactly what the page promises is essential.

High quality content will generate high quality engagement with your website, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. For our expert insights into content strategy, contact us today and learn more about adding value to your website. Alternatively, check out our content marketing and social media marketing services to find the right fit for your business' goals.