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One question that continually arises is whether two similar or even identical sites could both rank in Google’s search engine. For some time now, there has been a pervasive belief that any site that is the same as another will receive a Google penalty. Yet, according to John Mueller from Google, there are no such penalties.
Mueller has been quoted as saying that there is no manual web spam action or penalty for having virtually identical websites. Rather, Google’s systems choose one page as its canonical page, focusing all of its indexing, ranking, and crawling on that page.
If two pages are not identical, Google generally indexes both pages, although if a single document appears on two different websites, Google’s search engine chooses only one, showing it in its search engine results. In most cases, this isn’t a problem, but if both pages need to appear in search engine results, they must have significant differences between them, not only a different colour scheme or logo.
To understand more about how Google handles duplicated content and similar websites, you need to understand how Google ranks websites.
Whenever someone searches for something on the Google search engine, the search engine returns results, with each one having a ranking depending on how relevant it is to the query. Each page’s rank is determined by a 3-step process that goes as follows:
Google has its own ranking factors that it uses to determine where a website appears in the search engine results. These factors include:
As you can imagine from the name, duplicate content refers to content that has significant amounts of text that matches content that can be found on different websites and other web pages. Duplicate content covers everything from headers and footers to product descriptions and entire blog posts. In order for a piece of content to be deemed duplicated, it must either be extremely similar or entirely identical.
As long ago as 2013, Matt Cutts, who was a search engineer for Google at that time, was quoted as saying that as much as 30% of web content around the world is duplicated, and that is the reason why Google has no penalties for duplicated content since innocent sites could lose their ranking.
Although the idea of Google penalties for duplicated content is a myth, that doesn’t mean that duplicated content causes no problems. There are several ways that duplicate content can negatively affect your ranking.
Firstly, it will stop your web page from being indexed by Google’s bots. It also stops your web page from being ranked properly. Not only that, but duplicate content dilutes the equity of links. Whenever web pages receive backlinks, they get more authority via link equity. But if several versions exist of an identical page, other websites may link to a different copy of the page and that will dilute the link’s equity – a major issue if specific pages need to rank.
It isn’t always easy to solve issues surrounding duplicated content. Duplicates can’t just be deleted, particularly if they aren’t in your domain. However, you can manage issues like this by setting up controls to point to the original piece of content that tells Google to index that one rather than any of the duplicated pieces.
The first step to fixing issues surrounding duplicated content is to determine where the duplicate content is. Tools can do this for you. Once you’ve pinpointed duplicated content, the next step is to set up 301 redirects which point to the page you wish Google to use as the canonical page permanently. Alternatively, you can use a canonical tag to indicate that this page should be considered as the original, with all others being only duplicates.
It can be difficult to leverage unique and high-quality content consistently as a content creator or marketer. Since the penalty for duplicated content doesn’t actually exist, should you actually be worrying about whether or not there’s more than one version of your content out there online?
While Google has no penalty in place to punish you for having duplicated content on your website, that doesn’t mean that no problems can arise that could prove to be just as damaging as a penalty from Google. Fortunately, if you use the tips that we’ve shared above you should be able to manage those issues effectively.
By pinpointing where duplicated content lies and by setting up 301 redirects or using canonical tags to indicate which pages Google should consider to be the original for crawling, indexing, and ranking purposes, you can effectively overcome any possible problems that could arise for your website.
Having an effective content marketing strategy couldn’t be more important for any online business today, and making sure that your content is not only valuable and engaging but also entirely unique is always going to be the best course of action.
With entirely unique content you won’t need to worry about the potentially negative impact of duplicated content on your websites, and you’ll have one less thing to deal with to achieve your marketing goals.