Why Is Having Duplicate Content an Issue for SEO?


Kyle Roof
March 1, 2024


When you have duplicate content, it essentially confuses the search engine algorithms because it doesn’t know which URL should list higher on search results pages. As a result, both URLs may be ranked lower and offer preference to other web pages‒namely, your competitors.

The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to provide an effective, long-term strategy to help drive organic traffic to a website. While Google doesn’t officially penalize duplicate content, it has filters in place to prevent identical content from spamming the results page. It doesn’t matter if you’re an established brand or authority in your industry–duplicate content will likely not appear high in Google results.

What Is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content is essentially blocks of content that are either exact copies or very similar. Content blocks that are near-replicants of one another are also known as common or near-duplicates, where the content blocks are only slightly different from one another.

There are two types of duplicate content: internal duplicates and external duplicates. Internal duplicate content is when one domain creates copies of the same content through different URLs on the same website. External duplicate content happens when multiple different domains have the same content copy on their page that becomes indexed by search engines.

How Does It Impact SEO?

When content is duplicated across your own site or is a close-copy of content on an external site, Google’s web crawlers don’t know which content to promote in the search engine. This can result in both or all of the internally-duplicated content to get pushed down in search results rankings.

If your website is found to plagiarize its content from an external website, it may face ‘a manual action’ from Google. A manual action takes place when a human staff person from Google reviews your content and determines the pages on your website are out of compliance with Google’s spam policies.

A manual action can decrease your site’s organic traffic, lower your organic conversion rate, and cause the removal of your site from the Google Index entirely.

What Causes Duplicate Content?

Often, duplicate content isn’t a result of lazy content-production or plagiarism. In fact, many of the causes of internal duplicate content are technical. It’s common for developers to place one article or piece of content into the database and have it retrieved by several URLs. Session IDs can also time out and create duplicate pages, comment paginations can duplicate content across a URL, or the order of parameters can confuse search engines.

If you aren’t a developer or technical jargon goes over your head, you don’t need to know the exact processes to know there are many ways duplicates can exist. External duplicate content can include ‘scraped’ or stolen content from other websites and syndicated content. Syndicated content is when another website republishes your content with your knowledge and authorization.

Conduct Your SEO Audit With High Voltage

Whether intentional or otherwise, duplicate content can be considered a ‘black hat’ SEO tactic. Black hat tactics use unethical or deceptive tactics to rank higher in search results. While SEO aims to target every stage of the buying funnel and beyond, it can have the opposite effect if you manipulate the search engine results by going against Google’s guidelines. Duplicate content can result in lowering your rankings, or even flagging Google reviewers for a manual action.

You may have duplicate content on your website and not even realize it. Between 25% and 30% of websites consist of duplicate content. So, how can you check for duplicate content and what do you do when you find it?

High Voltage offers a selection of expert SEO audits that dive deep into your content and website looking for weak links, keyword deserts, and duplicate content. Call us today to schedule your discovery call and determine which of our SEO audit plans is right for you!

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