Your business – no matter what it is – has to be unique. The same applies to the online content you publish on your website. Search engines are constantly striving for enhanced user experience, and one way they do that is by ensuring users only get authentic and original content – pushing duplicate content into the void.
In this article we’ll walk you through what duplicate content is, how it can impact your TMS clinic’s website, and the steps you can take to deal with it.
Let’s get started.
What Does Duplicate Content Mean in the Context of SEO?
In Search Engine Optimization (SEO), duplicate content is any blocks of content found in two or more places under different URLs. Duplicate content can exist as similar content (sloppily paraphrased from separate pages) or copied content (spammy/identical content across different pages).
Does Google Impose a Duplicate Content Penalty?
Contrary to popular belief, Google doesn’t impose any penalty for duplicate content issues – at least not in the way most marketers think.
Even though Google doesn’t impose any “serious” penalty that could jeopardize the online presence of your TMS clinic, it has its own way of filtering out duplicate pages.
Same is the case with Bing.
If There’s No Penalty, How can Duplicate Content Affect My Clinic’s Website?
Here are two ways duplicate content can adversely affect your TMS clinic’s website:
- Content’s Ranking Potential – if your single piece of content can be accessed through different URLs, your organic traffic and performance in the search engine rankings will essentially be split in half.
- Confusion for Search Engines – Googlebot (Google’s web crawler) won’t know which version of the content to index, rank, and display for relevant search queries.
Your website won’t suffer from an immediate drop in rankings or search traffic, but in the long-run, it’s certainly not the best situation to be in.
Different Ways You Can Unintentionally Create Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is usually a byproduct of “technical SEO” malpractices.
Here are some ways you can unintentionally create duplicate content for your TMS clinic’s website:
- Using Different Prefixes in the URL
A URL prefix specifies the protocol used to access a webpage and is mentioned at the beginning of the URL. These typically include http:// or https:// (secured)
If your website can be accessed through both (http://tmsclinic.com and https://tmsclinic.com) you have unintentionally created duplicate versions of your homepage.
Similar to HTTP and HTTPS, a website can also have a version that begins with “www” prefix and another “non-www” one, like so:
If your website is available on all two of these URLs, you must know, you have created two different versions of your site.
- Using Copied Content (or Having it Scraped)
Scraped content is created when your original article is copied word to word by other websites without your consent and without them linking back to your website as the original source (also known as plagiarism), on the other hand, copied content is when you become the scrapers of that content.
This usually happens with category pages on eCommerce sites, when every website uses the same descriptions for all products.
- Variations in URL
URL parameters in a URL are everything written after the question mark (?).
Even though they help search engines to discover, crawl, and index your landing pages the way you want them to, they can create a wide range of duplicate content issues.
If any of your URL adds/subtracts a URL parameter, or changes the sequence of two different parameters, you will end up creating different URLs for one single web page.
If you add a pagination parameter (used for splitting content across more than one page for better user experience) in your URL, you must know that the following are two different URLs and will be causing a duplicate content problem.
How to Handle Duplicate Content? [The Right Way]
Now that you know the many ways your content can be duplicated, fixing them is a matter of specifying which of the URLs are original/preferred version.
Let’s look at a few ways to help you deal/avoid duplicate content problems.
- Use Rel=“Canonical” Tag
The specification of one URL for a unique content under different URLs is called canonicalization.
One way to do that is to use the “rel=canonical” tag.
The rel=canonical tag is used for specifying the original URL from a selection of URLs including identical content. This allow search engines to treat a page under a copied URL as a duplicate of an original URL (canonical URL) and credit all the internal links and organic traffic back to the original one.
It is advisable to use self-referential rel=canonical link to deal with content scrapers.
- Use 301 Redirect
A 301 redirect is used to redirect a user from one URL to another URL.
Suppose that your website uses an SSL certificate (the HTTPS) protocol. If, for some reason, someone types in “HTTP” instead of “HTTPS,” and you’ve used a 301 redirect, they’ll automatically land on your webpage.
Here’s a real example of a 301 in action:
After hitting enter, you’ll be automatically redirected to the HTTPS version:
This allows your content’s ranking power under multiple URLs to stay in one place.
- Use Meta Robots Noindex, Follow
The “Meta noindex, follow” can be used to prevent search engines from indexing duplicate pages.
This allows search engines to discover and acknowledge that a certain page is a duplicate URL version of another page’s content, and is not to be indexed in the search engine results pages (SERP) database.
- Link to the Original Article When Syndicating
Content syndication is the republishing of your content on third-party websites. for the purpose of maximizing your content’s visibility.
The best way to deal with syndicated content is by adding a link to the original article, along with a small message that redirects users to the original source (this can help redirect a good chunk of that traffic to the intended page).
Here’s an example:
- Use the Right Tools
You can check duplicate content issues using the following webmaster tools:
- Copyscape – for duplicate content problems linking to other websites.
- Siteliner – for internal duplicate content problems (issues linking within your own site).
- Plagiarism Checker by SST – if you’re using the WordPress content management system, you can consider checking out this native plugin.
Additionally, Google itself is a great option.
Just copy a paragraph from your content, paste it in Google search bar within quotation marks, and run a search.
You’ll know within seconds if your content is duplicated or not.
Furthermore, you can always use Google Search Console for ensuring these practices. GSC is a suite of tools webmasters use to monitor if their website’s URLs are stored in Google’s database (also known as indexing status).
Even though duplicate content isn’t penalized by Google, it surely is a huge deal if your goal is to win the TMS clinic marketplace.
Therefore, it is best to monitor your TMS clinic website for duplicate content issues regularly and always create unique copy – even when two pages are very similar.