If you want to learn more about gaining relevant search engine traffic to your website, then you might want to understand more about some of the technical elements that are involved and how they work. This includes how to present your website’s content in an optimal way so that you can achieve the highest possible position in the search results.

In SEO, duplicate content is the same or very similar content appearing in more than one place with different URLs. In order to provide the best experience for users, search engines will rarely show multiple URLs with the same or similar content. Whilst technically speaking, there is no penalty being applied, if duplicate content is present on a website, it will usually suffer from rankings and traffic losses. 

Duplicate content on a website can cause an issue for search engines as they become confused and struggle to understand which URL to index and show in the search results because the content on the pages is too similar. Something called “keyword cannibalisation” happens when you target multiple pages with the same or similar keywords, so when possible you must try to provide a single unique page that is most likely to be the best result for the user. However, there are also valid reasons why your site might have different URLs that point to the same or similar page content, dynamic URLs for things like search parameters or session IDs are common on ecommerce websites.

To help tackle this, when Google indexes a website it chooses the page that it thinks is the most useful and marks it as canonical. If you haven’t added canonical tags to your pages to explicitly tell Google which URL is the canonical version, then it will make the choice for you, which could lead to some unwanted search results. In some cases, even when you explicitly designate a canonical page, Google might choose a different one that it decides will provide better content or performance. You can use the URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console to learn which pages on your website Google considers to be the canonical URL. Google Search Central offers plenty of help with choosing the right canonical URL for your duplicate pages.

By specifying a canonical URL, you are telling Google which URL you want people to see in the search results, consolidating link signals for similar or duplicate pages, simplifying tracking metrics and you’ll also avoid wasting crawl budget on duplicate pages.

To specify a canonical URL for duplicate URLs or similar pages on your website, you can add a rel=canonical <link> tag in the code for all duplicate pages, pointing to the canonical page, send a rel=canonical header in your page response or specify your canonical pages in a sitemap. 

Canonicalisation can be applied to any website to help prevent and resolve any duplicate content issues so adding canonical tags to your website is highly recommended to resolve any issues that may be arising in search rankings from duplicate content appearing on multiple URLs. Contact Us to find out more.