Duplicate Content- Can This Hurt Your SEO (Rankings in Google) in 2022?

duplicate content issue in SEO

What is duplicate content SEO issue?

Imagine you are given 5 books, and you have to choose the best one. What will you do? You would quickly scan or read them all to choose the one you prefer if you “don’t judge a book by its cover”. But what if all those books have the same content? How will you choose? How will you rank them from 1 to 5?

Google has similar challenge when it sees similar content on the web.

Let’s define it now. When the same content exists on different URLs, it is called “Duplicate content”.

This may come as a surprise to some of you but for search engines, https://site.com and http://site.com are two different pages or URLs even though they have the same design, content etc. The same goes for www.site.com and site.com. If you have the same content on both versions, then you have a duplicate content problem.

Examples of duplicate content:

  • http://site.com and https://site.com – are two different URLs with the same content.
  • For eCommerce sites, the same product info or specifications used on multiple pages is duplicate content.
  • URL parameters, such as click tracking and some analytics code, can cause duplicate content issues. For example www.widgets.com/blue-widgets?color=blue and www.widgets.com/blue-widgets two versions of a URL that have the same content creating duplicate content.  Similarly, www.widgets.com/blue-widgets?color=blue&cat=3  is a duplicate of www.widgets.com/blue-widgets?cat=3&color=blue
  • Printer-friendly versions of content can also cause duplicate content issues when multiple versions of the pages get indexed. Ex: http://Xyz.com/abc and http://xyz.com/print/abc


Any penalty for having duplicate content?

This is another question many are asking on forums or in comments.  There is no direct penalty, but indirectly it can hurt your rankings. No penalty means you won’t be banned for having duplicate content, but you will not be in the good books of Google. So, in short, you should always do your best to avoid duplicate content on your site. Try to write unique high-quality content for all your pages. As you read in our Page experience update blog, Google is giving more and more importance to the overall experience of users on a page. This includes page speed, navigation, definitely content quality and uniqueness and many more factors.

Having said that, minor duplication is not a big issue and won’t stop you from ranking.

An example of minor duplication is repetition of your company info. on all pages. Usually, websites add about us text on the footer, sidebars etc which means they will show up on all pages. That’s ok but having more than 20% similar content is not good. For instance, I’ve company info (around 100 words) in my website’s footer, which means all pages have the same company info, yet I’m ranking on top of the first page of Google for very competitive keywords.

Coming back to different versions of the URL problems, make sure you have only one version of a URL.

However, if you read this blog late and you already have duplicate content issues then you can implement this solution-


SOLUTION for duplicate content


Solution 1: 301 Redirect

It is simple, just redirect the URLs you don’t need to the ones you need. Set up a 301 redirect from the “duplicate” page to the original content page.

By redirecting, these multiple pages will stop competing with one another. This will positively impact the “correct” page’s ability to rank well.

There are many 301 redirect plugins in the market. Again, go to your WordPress dashboard, go to plugins, click on “add new” then search 301 redirect. Note: Some plugins, if installed, can cause security and functionality issues on your site. It is a good practice to look into the number of installations and reviews of a plugin before installing. Higher number of installations with great reviews are usually better than the new ones. Choose the one you like, download and activate any one of them. This blog by Hubspot covers 301 plugins in more detail.


Solution 2: Rel=”canonical”

Another option is to use the rel=canonical attribute. This tells search engines that a given page should be treated as though it were a copy of a specified URL, and all of the authority of that page or  “ranking power” that search engines apply to this page should actually be credited to the specified URL.

The rel=”canonical” attribute is part of the HTML head of a web page and looks like this:

General format:

<link href="URL OF ORIGINAL PAGE" rel="canonical" />

The rel=canonical attribute should be added to the HTML head of each duplicate version of a page.  The attribute passes roughly the same amount of link equity (ranking power) as a 301 redirect.


Solution 3: This one is pretty straightforward. Do not copy content web and paste it to your own website. Write original content from your own expertise. Content should be unique and of high quality. If you really can not write the content yourself for some reason, then you can always take the help of copywriters and bloggers but in the end, you should still edit them yourself before publishing. This is because you are the expert in what you do and you know your business better than anyone else. The article should have your touch in it.

Google considers all this in their latest updates that are focused on checking content quality.  EAT (Expertise, Authority and Trust) are three main factors that Google checks in content.

If you have a duplicate content SEO issue, hope this blog helps. If you still need professional help, you can contact us.


Vikas Rana

Vikas Rana - Director, Inbound Media. Vikas has over 12 yrs experience in SEO and in the last decade, he has helped 100 SMEs from small to large organisations.