Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Is Duplicate Content Bad for SEO?

I have had a few discussions with clients about "duplicate content" and does it affect a websites search rankings? 

One thing to be clear about - duplicate content is all over the internet, and all over most websites:

  • look at the footer info on almost every website, it will be the same on every page. 
  • If you sell a product, it may have a different page for each size or color, but the basic desciption will never change
Google knows this, you will not get penalized for having duplicate content like this. However, some people have pointed out that this means there are no real issues with duplicate content, in fact pointing to an article by Barry Swartz of "Search Engine Land" (a great website btw) that states "Duplicate Content Won’t Hurt You, Unless It Is Spammy"

Be careful how you read this - duplicate content is still an important consideration. 

From the last sentence in the above article:
  • "It is more about Google knowing which page they should rank and which page they should not.
  • Meaning you have to label one set of content as the "canonical" version so Google knows basically to ignore the other content...
The title of "unless it is spammy" is very misleading because it is not totally true...

Some reading material from trusted sources (and a little more up to date then the referenced material above):
And if you read a more recent article by Barry Swartz (the author above) he states "But I guess in this case, to help with rankings, you may, as a publisher, want to use the rel=canonical tag to help Google know which is your primary page."
  • In other words duplicate content is important for SEO, according to the same author a year later... and nothing to do with "spammy content" at all...
Last, but definitely not least:  
  • Google recently clarified this a bit (John Mueller of Google in October 2015,) 
  • a good breakdown which was just updated 2 weeks ago can be found here, including the video John Mueller made.
  • and it comes down to
    • "The reality in 2016 is that if Google classifies your duplicate content as THIN content, or BOILER-PLATE content, then you DO have a severe problem that violates Google’s website performance recommendations and this ‘violation’ will need  to be ‘cleaned’ up."
Translation - Duplicate content bad...