Duplicate Content- What’s the Big Deal?

Although double the flavor makes for fantastically delicious spearmint gum (just look how happy all the twins are!), duplicate content on the internet deserves to be a serious worry for SEO’s and site owners. If the content on your site is exactly the same as the content on another- Google generally believes that one of these sources is legitimate while the other is just a duplicate. They only want one of these sources to show up in search engines so they try to devalue, in no rankings, the copied content. If Google fails at identifying and rewarding the original source (as is apt to happen at times) then each version of the content essentially splits the reward and value attributed to it by search engines, hurting the results for both. Site owners who have the one version of content on a ‘Services’ page will be splitting the rankings with their ‘About Us’ page if each have identical content. Because of this, savvy SEO’s try to focus the reward onto one page- the one they want to index higher and that drives the most conversions (purchases, phone-calls, etc.).

Google launched the rel=”canonical” coding element to address this very concern- allowing developers to point Google to the preferred version of the content. However, when Matt Cutts originally announced it, he made it clear that it worked withing domains and not across URL’s. The included video offers Matt’s thorough- over 20 min- overview of the element and it’s uses.


Duplicate Content on Separate URL’s

Google posted the video in February, 2009. As you saw in the video, Matt clearly outlines the limitations of the new coding element (technically, not a tag). Later, in December, 2009, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog updated their support to include recognizing rel=”canonical” element between domains. They state:

“For some sites, there are legitimate reasons to duplicate content across different websites — for instance, to migrate to a new domain name using a web server that cannot create server-side redirects. To help with issues that arise on such sites, we’re announcing our support of the cross-domain rel=”canonical” link element.”

At Gravitate, we’ve had to use the rel=”canonical” link element on sites that have duplicate content issues within a site or when they have legitimate duplicate content on multiple domains. Allowing Google to index the correct version and focus the credit to the applicable page of content.

I’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with duplicate content issues. Let me know if you can add any flavor or depth to the discussion.