How Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?

Duplicate Content can be a product of your own making – or it might be that someone is stealing your content and posting it on their own website. Regardless of which one it is, there can still be negative SEO implications because of this.

No matter the size of your website, whether it’s a personal or large enterprise business website – all of them prone to duplicate content. A point can be made that large websites are at even greater risk due to their popularity.

While it’s not the worst that can happen to your SEO, it’s still something you should keep in check to ensure your SEO isn’t being negatively impacted.

What makes up for duplicate content?

Parts of content that are an exact match word-for-word, or even just nearly identical are considered duplicate content. Near-identical content pieces usually have very minor differences between them and the duplication is still obvious.

There are two types of duplicate content:

  • Internal – content which is duplicated within the same website
  • External – content which is duplicated (copied) among more than one website

Regardless of which one is happening to you, they can both be bad for SEO.

The definition of duplicate content is broad and depending on the level of duplication, it might not affect your SEO.

Essentially, a duplication can range from a single paragraph being copied word-for-word to a whole page’s content being copied to another page – this sometimes happens with news articles.

How does duplicate content affect SEO?

While we do not have an official declaration from Google on how exactly this affects the search engine results – Google’s always going for the best user experience. Google will usually ensure that two of the same content pieces do not appear on the same page.

The real issue is that there’s no guarantee that your website will be shown first in the results. Even if you are the original author of the content, Search engines will try to show the more relevant page.

With duplicate content, you’re betting your traffic on Google choosing you over the other website – which, although Google tries to identify which one is the original – is not the best strategy.

The main offenders for duplicate content

Let’s go over some examples of which elements are vulnerable to duplicate content and how the content gets duplicated.

Page Elements

Page content should always be unique across your website. The thing is, many times website owners will clone a page and forget to change some things such as:

  • The title of the page
  • The meta description of the page
  • The H1 / H2 tags within the content

These are perhaps the most important factors that decide how the page is indexed. Having these duplicated on more than one page can account for one of your pages not being listed in the search engine results.

When it comes to meta descriptions, sometimes it is not possible to write a different one for each page. In this case, you can leave it empty and Google will take a portion of your content and show it as the meta description. It’s always recommended to write one yourself though.

Product Descriptions

Product pages are perhaps the hardest to separate from the herd. All the websites get their information from one central place – the manufacturer of the product.

To ensure that your page gets ranked higher on the list, you have to do something to separate yourself from the pack. Keep in mind that in such a situation, hundreds of websites can have the same H1 tag – and this is not the best situation to be in.

Do not copy and paste your title and description. Instead, write them in your own words, even jumble up the sentences. Introduce some new information into the mix to ensure they’re different.

Another situation with products is when your products are on multiple websites. Understandably, in this case you’ll always want to have the same description. But again, it’s better for SEO to change it up a little, just enough so that it is not considered duplicate.

Duplications related to the URL

The link to your page can also be manipulated to show duplicate content. For example, on a WooCommerce website, a product with variables can be considered duplicate content if multiple URLs are indexed for the same product for each variation. This doesn’t affect all websites, but only the ones that use custom URLs for variables.

Another issue related to the URL can be the www, HTTP, and trailing slash versions of your page. Here’s an example, a badly configured website will show the same content for all the below:

As you can see per the example, we have HTTP/HTTPS versions of the page, www and non-www versions, and versions with and without a trailing slash (/) at the end.

Most modern systems such as WordPress will ask you to choose one URL. Then, the other variations will automatically redirect to the main URL to prevent duplication of the website in SEO.

External duplicate content

The above three examples were for internal duplicate content – which you can resolve by yourself. However, there’s also external duplicate content that’s much harder to resolve than it’s on other websites.

If you have great content, chances are, it will be republished on many different websites. Sometimes this will be automated, sometimes manual.

Web scraping is a method used to automatically steal content from other websites and publish it on their own. However, Google doesn’t like content scraping, so if you believe this is what happened to you, you can report this to Google and the website might get penalized.

Finding duplicate content

The easiest way to check for duplicate content is to use a free tool called Copyscape. This tool scans websites for plagiarism and lets you know if it was able to find your page’s content on another link.

Another method to find duplicate content is to simply copy a block of text from your page. Then open Google Search and paste it in quotes – it will show you all pages which have the same content word-for-word.


Working hard on your website just to see someone has copied it fully and has skipped all the sweat, blood, and tears is disheartening. But the fact that Google will try to index the original one first will be relaxing.

Unfortunately, the threat of duplicate content which negatively impacts your SEO is a never-ending one. While you don’t always have to react to external duplicate content, make sure you do not have any internal duplicate content as that can be easy