We often see content creators and SEO experts whining about duplicate content ruining their hard work. But what is duplicate content exactly?
As the term suggests, content that appears in more than one place on the internet is known as “duplicate content.”
The original place of the content is unique that shows the content’s location. But when that content is present in other sites apart from that unique URL, it is considered duplicate copies of the original content.
SEO experts consider content duplication a problem is because it impacts the rankings on the search engine. The reason is that the search engine’s algorithm may face difficulties when it is unsure of which content is more relevant and reliable to the keywords. As a result, it may mess up the rankings of the original website.
Causes of Duplicate Content
Multiple reasons can explain the presence of duplicate content on the internet. Usually, people assume that someone has plagiarized the content, but there are far more technical reasons that can lead to content duplication. After all, plagiarizing content only causes down-ranking, so it doesn’t make sense for someone to sabotage website rankings intentionally. Hence, the general practice dictates that the borrowing website refers to or internally links the source.
How Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?
Duplicate content directly impacts your website’s ranking with the additional possibility of it not ranking at all. The matter worsens when you have competitors ranking against you. In the long run, duplicate content leads to decreased organic traffic due to a lack of digital authority and fewer pages indexing on search engines.
Another problem arises when e-commerce related websites have to produce content. The existence of too many similar products makes it challenging to create unique descriptions every time.
However, there’s still a silver lining in all of this. Google and SEO experts suggest using canonical tags to create unique URLs. Canonical what? Exactly, same thoughts!
If you’re new to the term, you can quickly go through a beginner’s guide to canonical tags to learn more about what these tags are and how to use them for SEO. But we’ll simplify things for you right now.
Canonical tags are tags in the URL that inform the search engine that this specific URL is a master copy of a particular content type. The rest of the pages that don’t possess the canonical tag are automatically identified as a duplicate content. Adding a canonical link can help you prevent the issues addressed above by specifying that URL as the preferred version on search results. The URL is thus known as a canonical URL.
What Pages Can You Put A Canonical Tag On?
All the pages you deem worthy of canonical tags! Every inbound reference generates a unique URL for the same webpage. If these URLs are not canonicalized, they can affect the rankings on the search engine.
Different management systems for content can allow URL paths to have access to the same website’s content. When that is the case, search engine crawlers can crawl through these URLs back to their sources and identify each of them as duplicates of the canonicalized content.
And now to the crux of this article!
How Can Canonical Urls Boost SEO?
1) They Help To Identify The Master Copy Of The Original Content
The reason why duplicate copies of your content can affect your SEO is that search engine crawlers can get confused about which copy is the original among multiple copies. As a result, it messes up the webpage result rankings on the search engine that can affect your SEO negatively.
However, using canonical URLs when the content is the same or very similar on two or multiple URLs can save you from this hassle. It will improve your rankings by identifying the master content URL or copy from duplicates and will generate the link that is the most relevant result on SERPs.
2) They Help Identify Content According To Searcher Intent
This scenario is specifically applicable to e-commerce websites. Duplication can happen when there are so many similar products, especially apparel and accessories. The content may not be necessarily be plagiarize word-for-word, but the structure and phrasing may be similar. Canonicalizing is still essential in these cases.
The idea is to optimize and use canonical tags and URLs, keeping the search intent in mind. If the content on the site addresses the same or similar search intent, then canonicalizing is preferable. Doing so will allow the search engine to do a better job at ranking your content according to the keyword tags associated with it. It won’t split the link equity or scatter your page’s ranking signals. But help in showing the searcher all the best content in the same place.
3) Preserve Old Versions And Add Upgrades Or Republishing
Many website owners and content creators simply delete the older version or refresh the info later to avoid duplications. But there are exceptions when someone doesn’t want to delete the old webpages, especially if you’re going to retain the ranking and traffic it diverts to a more recent page. As an alternative to avoid duplication, you can republish the content on a new canonicalized URL while still keeping the older one separate. This way, older, un-canonicalized links will not hinder your SEO and nor will your content be flagged for duplication.
4) Transfer It To The Latest Link With New Information That Fulfills The Searcher’s Intent
Suppose your link carries an expiry date, such as a product being removed from a store or an event ending. In that case, you can use canonical tags to redirect visitors to more useful pages. However, you need to understand the searcher’s intent and focus on presenting them with the next best product or information you have available. Focus on how you can resolve the searcher’s problem or fulfill their need with other types of content readily available. Once you determine that, canonicalize it.
By now, you probably understand the importance of canonical tags and how they affect your website’s ranking on the search engine. So be sure that whenever you upgrade, refresh, or renew your content, canonicalize it. If you want to keep the older versions, then direct its traffic towards fresh content. In any case, canonicalizing your URL can save you from running into content duplication and slumping rankings on SERPs.