Duplicate content can be a hassle even though it's not necessarily a punishable offense. It's as legal yet ripe for spamming abuse as bold tags, to be honest. Besides which, because Google is all about gathering unique and original results, the search engine has a tendency to group together pages that essentially contain the same material into just one result, which sometimes leads to a low SERP (search engine results page) ranking and a needlessly long and unfriendly URL full of parameters and special characters.
Why Duplicate Content is Bad for SEO
- Dilution of SEO: It's much more effective in SEO terms to have twenty back links leading to one link than twenty separate URLs and pages essentially containing the same material over and over. Such an act essentially dilutes the effectiveness of the back links between redundant copies of the same page. Because Google's main priority is to provide its users with relevant and unique search results every time in light of past web crawlers' tendency to have SERP full of spammed, repetitive, plagiarized, or otherwise superfluous material, it will automatically sort out identical pages and collapse them together under one slot in the SERP.
- User-Unfriendly URLs: One other problem with duplicate content is how Google will determine which URL will choose to represent the entire stack of identical content. Picking the right URL is as important to SEO as picking the right keyword density or the right title tags. By leaving Google to automatically decide which of the two or more URLs you have best represents the whole batch of identical pages can lead to disastrous SERP results or a URL that cannot be easily branded. Furthermore, having pages featuring duplicate content can sometimes reduce your rankings depending on the search query as well.
- Less Effective Web Crawling: Having redundant sites featuring the same content over and over again will make crawling your website a hassle to Google itself, so it's less likely for the webpage you do want to get the most hits and back links to get a higher page ranking in SERP. What Google looks for is new and original content, and it'll be hard for the search engine to see the material you want featured if it's hidden in piles and piles of redundant text and video. It's more likely for the crawler to move through duplicate content than find new material if your site is full of redundant sites.
How to Fix Duplicate Content Problems
You don't need to get rid of your duplicate content to get better SERP rankings in Google. When it comes to picking the best URL to be displayed in SERP, what Google wants the most are "canonical" URLs. Canonical in this context means the simplest and most significant version of web content that a webmaster can come up with without losing its generality. In turn, a canonical URL is a URL that you can feature on the SERP that best shows the user what the link is all about.
If you have content that's available in two or more different web addresses, you should pick the one that's easiest to remember and best represents your site; that's your canonical URL. Once you've decided what your canonical URL is, you can then structure your website such that every one of its links will lead to the canonical URL (an act that's also known as link consistency). Not only will this tell Google what your canonical URL is; it should also help users link to the canonical version more easily as well.
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