Duplicate content: the effect on SEO and how to solve it

You’ve run an SEO test and the results are shocking: you have more than 200 duplicate content errors! 

You look at your website bewildered and wonder how you’re going to get rid of all these errors. Just the thought alone makes you tired. 

The question is, however, is this cause for panic well-grounded? Very briefly, no. Generally speaking, duplicate content does not have a major impact on SEO. With a few exceptions. 

There are a lot of misconceptions about duplicate content. Time to clear them up once and for all. In this article we tackle the following four topics:

  1. What exactly is duplicate content?
  2. How duplicate content comes about
  3. Duplicate content is bad for SEO
  4. Detecting duplicate content
  5. How to prevent duplicate content

What is duplicate content anyway? 

Duplicate content is a term you often come across in SEO land. But what is it really? 

Duplicate content, also known as duplicate content, is website content that appears in more than one place on the internet. In other words, content that appears on multiple web pages or URLs. 

The question that is often asked is where the line is drawn. In other words, when is something duplicate content and when is it not? Google says it’s about “substantial blocks of content” that are either completely the same or significantly similar. 

What this means: a few copied texts from a website are therefore not duplicate content. It really has to be about large substantial blocks. So you can copy and rewrite small pieces of text without being penalized for it. 

However, there is still much uncertainty about whether it is exactly the same content, or whether it is content that is a certain percentage similar. Google leaves us in the dark with this issue. 

Types of duplicate content

There are roughly two types of duplicate content. Two identical pieces of content that can be found on two different websites are called ‘external duplicate content’. Copied content within one domain, is called ‘internal duplicate content’.

External duplicate content 

Because a lot of content is stolen and reused on the Internet, this is a form of duplicate content that occurs regularly. Many ‘copy pasters’ think: “if I copy this piece of content, then my website will be a bit more filled out, and I can quickly benefit from a better ranking”. 

Copying a piece of content from another website is allowed, as long as you ask permission. So are you planning to copy a piece of content from another website? Then be smart enough to ask the author for permission :). If you don’t do this and the author ever makes an issue of it, it can even get you a lawsuit or an expensive damage claim. 

Unfortunately for these copy pasters, copying content does not mean that you also build an SEO advantage. Which is what is often thought. A search engine only shows the original piece of content. And this is logically the piece of content that comes from the original source. This means that your copied piece is not or hardly shown in the search results. 

To be fair everyone copies a piece of content for their own website from time to time. However, the extent to which and the way in which you do this is of great importance. If you blindly copy a large piece of text, the copied content has no chance of ranking well. What works better is to copy a small part of the text, then rewrite it and complement it with your own content. This way Google will see that the new piece of content is original and will be awarded with a better ranking. 

Internal duplicate content 

Internal duplicate content is generally caused, usually unconsciously, by yourself. When Google crawls your website and discovers that two web pages are similar, confusion can be caused. As a result, Google then ranks the page they think that is the most relevant. It could be that this is the very page you do not want to be ranked higher at all. 

For example: on the website of an web agency there is a services page with information about developing a website and a blog with information about why to develop a website. The text on both pages is almost identical and therefore there is a good chance that Google sees it as duplicate content. 

This phenomenon is also called internal competition or keyword cannibalization. The pages cannibalize each other’s ranking, so to speak.  

It occurs at various websites, but especially at web shops. It is often the case with web shops that you can take different paths to the same product page. How does this look like? Just look at the fictitious example below: 



Even tough the URLs are different, Google still sees this as duplicate content as the slugs overlap too much. 

How duplicate content comes about 

Actually, most website owners don’t intentionally create duplicate content. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there. In fact, more than 29% of content published on the web is considered as duplicate content. 

Let’s look at some of the most common ways duplicate content is unintentionally created: 

Copy and paste

This occurs at both internal and external levels. Internal duplicate content occurs by creating multiple pages with the same text. External duplicate content occurs by literally copying the content of another website onto your own website. This happens a lot with web shops. They receive standard texts from suppliers which are then copied unthinkingly. The result is that many web shops have the same texts in the search results. This is not beneficial for their SEO. 

URL variations 

URL parameters, such as click tracking and certain analysis code, can also cause duplicate content problems.

For example:

www.wpupgrader.com/blue-widgets?c… is a duplicate of www.wpupgrader.com/blue-widgets?c…&cat=3 “class=” redactor-autoparser-object”>

www.wpupgrader.com/blue-widgets is a duplicate of www.wpupgrader.com/blue-widgets?cat=3&color=blue

Session IDs can also be a common reason of duplicate content. This happens when each user visiting a website is assigned a different session ID stored in the URL.

Printer-friendly versions of content can also cause duplicate content problems when multiple versions of the pages are indexed.

HTTP vs. HTTPS or WWW vs. non-WWW pages.

If your website has two different versions (‘www.site.com’ and ‘site.com’, with and without the ‘www’ prefix), and the same content appears in both versions, you may also encounter duplicate content problems. The same goes for sites that maintain versions on both http: // and https: //.

Duplicate content is bad for SEO

As we told you in the introduction, duplicate content technically can’t get you a penalty. But that still leaves the question: how bad is duplicate content for SEO? There are a number of less-than-pleasant scenarios that can occur. We’ll discuss them below.

Google shows the wrong web page

When there are multiple pieces of similar content in more than one location on the Internet, it can be difficult for search engines to determine which version is most relevant to a particular search. In many cases, Google will have to choose between the duplicate content pages and show only one.

The search query has a big impact on how Google handles duplicate content. Imagine you have both an American and Canadian web shop and a potential customer wants to know your delivery costs. Accordingly, they then look up delivery costs with your website name. The only problem is that two pages are exactly the same and therefore Google will have to make a choice. Because the potential customer has not included a country name in the search query, Google will choose the page with the highest domain authority. And it may then happen that this is exactly the wrong page. 

Weakened link strength of backlinks

In most cases, Google handles duplicate content very well, and it does not have a negative effect on your ranking. Still, it can affect link strength if another website links to your duplicate content. This is because the links that refer to your website don’t know where to link to. They get confused that the same content can be found in multiple places. 

Instead of all links pointing to one unique page, the links are distributed among all duplicates. As a result, you will rank lower than if there had only been one unique page on the website. 

Keyword cannibalization 

We’ve given it as an example before, but another negative effect on SEO from duplicate content is keyword cannibalization. Because search engines are forced to choose between two pages, the one with the most authority is shown. So in the case of the example of the web agency, only the services page or the blog will be ranked high in the search results. It is very unfortunate when you have relevant information on both pages and only one is shown. 

You are then literally competing with yourself. To avoid this problem, it is better to use unique content and a unique keyword. 

Wasting your crawl budget

Every so often, Google goes through your website. This is called crawling. In this way Google knows what can be found on your website and what you have to offer. Using this information, Google can match a search query with the content on your website. Because Google uses a crawl budget, it is important that the right pages of your website are crawled. This is because only a maximum number of pages can be crawled. This is especially important for large websites as their crawl budget is more scarce. 

In the extreme: a penalty

Duplicate content does not lead to a penalty, unless you are really out of line. Only in very rare cases, when you are deliberately manipulating the ranking and misleading users for instance, it can have an impact on the ranking of your website. In extreme cases, a website may be removed from Google’s index and therefore no longer appears in the search results. However, this can only occur if, for example, your entire website consists of duplicate content. 

Detecting duplicate content

Solving duplicate content is not very difficult in most cases, but you need to detect duplicates first. There are several ways and tools to do this. 

The easiest way: search in Google

A simple way to search for duplicate content is to take a piece of text from a page of your website and search for it in Google. If you put the piece in quotes, you can see if there is a website that has literally copied your text. 

Duplicate content tools

If you want to do (large scale) research on internal and external duplicate content, it is wise to use a tool for this. There are many different tools to detect duplicate content. The ones we use ourselves are: 

External duplicate content check

A handy tool that can help you check for external duplicate content is Copyscape. In their tool, enter the URL of your website and it will investigate for you if there are duplicates of your texts. Do you see in the results that someone has copied your texts? Then send the owner of the website a request to remove the texts. 

Internal duplicate content check

With the tool Siteliner you can check your own website for duplicate content problems. However, you should make a distinction between duplicate content and content that you obviously repeat in multiple places on your website. Like your menu, footer and contact page for example. This type of content is also called common content and does not pose a threat to SEO.

Google Search Console: extensive audit duplicate content

If you want to do a more extensive audit for your duplicate content, we recommend the tool Google Search Console. With this tool, you can see that certain pages are not indexed because they are seen as duplicate content or if a duplicate page was found without indicating what the original is. You can also see which of the duplicates Google has selected as canonical pages. The handy thing is that when you click on these error messages, the location of the problem is presented. 

SE Ranking: duplicate keywords 

Another very useful tool for detecting duplicate content is SE Ranking. In addition to showing you which keywords your website is shown for in Google, this tool also shows you whether a keyword is linked to one or more URL(s). For example, it can happen that a keyword is linked to three different web pages. As a result, Google does not know which page should rank highest because all three pages are very similar. 

How to prevent duplicate content

In the best case scenario, of course, you have no duplicate content on your website at all. It is better to prevent than to cure. This saves a lot of work. What is the fastest way to achieve this? 

Creating unique content! 

The only way to really rank well in Google is by creating original and relevant content. Content that is unique and relevant to both the search engine and the search engine user is really valued. Obviously, duplicate content is not. 

When creating texts for your website, try to copy as little content from other websites as possible. Otherwise, your website will never rank high in the search results. This is also the best way to avoid duplicate content. 

Has the damage already been done and have you discovered duplicate content? Not a problem! With the following tips, you’ll have your duplicate content fixed quickly: 

Adjust content

Have you discovered a duplicate content error on two or more pages? Try to make them all unique by picking a different keyword and rewriting the text. It can take quite a long time for Google to assign new pages a certain ranking. Therefore, adapting the content of already existing pages is definitely beneficial. Existing pages are also already indexed and have a ranking, so Google will notice the changes faster. 

Use redirects 

Are multiple pages on your website linked to the same keyword by Google? Then create a redirect from all duplicate pages to the main page. If a visitor lands on one of the duplicate pages, it will then be redirected to the original source. 

The big advantage is that because of the redirects, a large part of the value of the duplicate pages is passed on to the original source. This gives the original source a higher SEO score. 

You can create a redirect with a plugin like Yoast SEO or through your htaccess file.

Use canonicals

With a canonical tag, you can let a search engine know that one or more pages are duplicates. Just like with a redirect, all the value is basically passed on. The big difference however is that pages with a canonical tag are still viewable. Meaning that a visitor is not automatically redirected to the main page, as is the case with a redirect.

A canonical tag can be placed in the source code of your website. Just like the redirect, you can easily add it with Yoast SEO.

No index 

You can also choose not to have certain pages indexed. As a result, they will then not be shown in the search results. This can come in handy for ‘thank you’ or ‘old job application pages’, for example. You can choose to have the page still crawled but no longer indexed by using noindex + follow to maintain link strength. Do you want Google to ignore the page completely and all links as well? Then choose noindex + nofollow. Again, you can set this up with Yoast SEO.


Despite the fact that duplicate content in itself is not a reason for a severe penalty, it is too important to ignore. Therefore, we encourage you to work on it to improve your ranking and the user experience of your visitors. We wish you the best of luck.

WordPress caching: make your website changes visible

Have you ever experienced that you tried to change something on your website, for example adding an image, and it was not visible at once?

Or how about adding a new product to your shop and not being able to find it immediately on your website?

Probably it had to do something with your cache.

In this article we will tell you what WordPress caching is, what different caches there are, and we will give you a solution for making changes on your WordPress website visible again.

What is caching?

Cache means ’emergency supply’ and that’s actually exactly what caching plugins create. The result of each request is ‘cached’, so that an identical request that follows does not have to be recalculated. For example, when Visitor A opens your homepage, your server immediately caches the homepage. If Visitor B subsequently requests the homepage, the server does not have to do all the calculations again, but it is loaded directly from its memory.

In essence, a cache ensures that a static version of your website is stored. The purpose of this is to make your website faster and have heavy scripts preloaded before a new page view. This reduces the loading time of your website considerably. This is not only good for the visitor, but also contributes to the findability (SEO) of your website.

Caching for a WordPress website takes place on three different levels. These are: website (WordPress) caching, server caching and browser caching.

It can sometimes happen that one or more of the caches on the three different levels makes it impossible for you to see changes. This can be annoying when you make changes to your website. In this case it is wise to find out which cache is to blame by emptying them one by one. How to do this is explained below.

WordPress website caching

Caching on a website-level is usually operated using a cache plugin. This software creates statistical HTML pages from your website. These HTML pages can be shown to your visitors quickly, because everything is already loaded properly and does not need to be retrieved from the server.

The plugins W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache both offer many options for caching your WordPress website. Setting up website caching is not a very complex process. However, our experience is that you need to be pretty handy to get caching really working. You may be lucky to get it working right the first time, but in most cases it is a complex process to optimize the caching for your server and website.

If your website is already live and needs to keep functioning, it’s best to play around with the settings until you find a configuration that works for you. Is your website not loading (properly) anymore? Then uncheck your last settings and try again. In short: take your time!

Browser caching

If you are the only one who does not see changes on your website, it is probably because of your browser’s cache. A browser stores various web files such as images, CSS and JavaScript files. The goal of saving these data is that when a web page is visited, the information does not have to be requested again from the server. The result? An improvement in website speed, which provides a more pleasant user experience in return.

When you have emptied the website cache and changes are still not visible, you should probably empty the cache of your browser. The way to do this varies by browser:

Chrome – Settings (top right), More Utilities, Clear Browsing Data
Microsoft Edge – Options (three dots), Settings, Clear Browse Data
Firefox – Menu, Preferences, Advanced, Network, Buffered Web Content, Clear Now

If you followed the above steps for your browser, you should see your changes coming through. Still don’t see anything changing? Then try to empty your website’s cache again. If this does not help, the problem is probably with your server.

Server caching

When a visitor visits your website, the webpage is loaded in the following way: the server hosting your website receives a request to display the requested URL. The server processes the request and then sends the data to the visitor. This often takes a bit of time.

To ensure that the above process does not have to be performed again and again with each new visit, a server also uses caching. As you might guess this is called ‘service caching’. The result of server caching is that subsequent visitors are immediately shown the saved version from the cache, thus reducing the page load time. However, this is not always made known, so you may not be aware that caching is also possible at the server level. One hoster that makes server caching very easy is Kinsta.

It varies from hoster to hoster how easy it is to clear the cache. You can check if there is an option in the cPanel, DirectAdmin, Plesk or another control panel to empty the cache with your hoster. Does this not make you any wiser? Then we recommend you to contact your hoster about caching the server. You can then ask if the caching on server level is enabled and if there is a possibility to empty it manually.

Hopefully these tips will get you started on clearing the various caches and making your website edits visible.

SEO keyword research: finding lucrative keywords in 2021

Doing a SEO keyword research and selecting the right keywords for your website is crucial to becoming visible in Google and other search engines. In the good old days of search engine optimization coming up with keywords was very simple. You just stuffed your website with many keywords and almost immediately became visible in Google. A little later, this “keyword stuffing” strategy was no longer effective and every page had to revolve around an exclusive keyword. Each page was then set up according to one focus keyword and all content had to be completely in line with it.

The latter strategy is still used and can work very well. However, determining the right set of keywords is becoming increasingly difficult due to the constantly changing Google algorithm. With the so-called “Hummingbird update“, the context in which the search is performed has become much more important. This means that one should not think so much in keywords, but rather in different topics.

The shift to contextual search

Have you ever noticed that when you google ‘weather’ or ‘cinema’ for example, the most logical and relevant search results are displayed for you? For the keyword “weather” the temperature in your city or town is displayed. For the keyword ‘cinema’ the cinemas with their opening hours in your area are shown.

If Google had taken your search too literally, it would probably display Wikipedia pages of the terms. This so-called ‘contextual search’ is becoming more and more precise and in the long run search engines will understand more and more of your context. In addition to context, Google tries to gather as much information as possible from the searcher. This means that for every searcher, even if they google the same search term, the results shown will be different.

Does this mean you don’t have to take keywords into account anymore? No, not at all. People will continue to search primarily for more general keywords such as “weather” and “cinema”. It is therefore still important to have these types of keywords incorporated into your website. The main advantage of the update is that visitors will now arrive at your website with different search queries, depending on their personal preferences.

So how do I do a keyword research?

The funny thing is that you don’t actually need a marketing agency at all to do a keyword research for you. You have something very important that they don’t and that is: years and years of industry experience. Your industry experience and knowledge of your customers form the basis of the most powerful tool humans possess: common sense. What we are trying to say is that you know better than anyone else what your target audience is googling for. And this is exactly what Google wants to achieve with the Hummingbird update. Context and logic are becoming increasingly important. As an industry expert, you can capitalize on this.

Our top 4 keyword tools for a successful SEO keyword research

To confirm your common sense, you need objective data. Only then will you be able to compile an optimal list of keywords for your website. You need to know how often a keyword is searched for in Google and how likely it is that you will achieve a good ranking for the keywords.

Before you start analyzing the keywords, you should first try to create as large a database as possible of possible keywords. If you are wise, you will also use your common sense for this 😉. The keywords that you have come up with can then be used as input for a number of keyword tools that we have selected for you.

Option 1: Google keyword planner (free)

With Google’s keyword planner, it is very easy to investigate which keywords are being searched for and how often this happens per month. Based on the data, you have insight into the information needs of the target audience, and you can select relevant keywords that your target audience searches for.

To this day, Google’s keyword planner is still one of the best free tools available. This is not surprising because the data you see comes directly from Google itself. This makes the data accurate and reliable.

Because the tool has been set up in recent years primarily to convince you to start with paid Google Ads, it also has some limitations. For example, keywords are often bundled with closely related search terms and merged into one search term. It also shows certain parameters that are only relevant to Google Ads.

That said, the keyword planner is certainly a suitable tool for finding new keywords.

Option 2: SEMrush (paid)

SEMrush is one of the most complete keyword research tools you can find. With the tool, it is possible to find new keywords, find out search volumes and analyze competitors through various options. The tool is available from $83 per month if you pay annually.

But SEMrush is actually much more than just a keyword analysis tool. In fact, you can extract an awful lot of different information for ranking higher in Google.

In short: SEMrush is a perfect replacement for the Google keyword planner and offers a lot more functionality.

Option 3: SE Ranking (paid)

SE Ranking is a very complete SEO analysis tool that we use for many of our clients. The handy thing about the tool is that you can track keyword sets and their positions in a very clear way.

If you are doing SEO yourself and you want to track the progress of positions, then our advice is to use this tool for your clients.

Other useful features that the tool offers: the backlink checker, technical SEO audits, index checker and a complete SEO plan that you can go through for a client.

Option 4: Ubersuggest (free and paid)

Ubersuggest is a keyword research tool developed by the SEO guru Neil Patel. It is possible to use the software for free, but there is a daily limit on this. However, the free version is useful for doing a quick check of the search volumes, competition and CPC of a number of keywords.

The tool is very useful for getting new content ideas for your keywords. You can also see the URL, backlinks, domain score and social shares of the competitors you will be competing against.

Strategies for selecting the right keywords

Now that you have some understanding of how to do keyword research, it’s time to select the right keywords. This is a very important process, as it is the basis for becoming more visisble in Google. If you pick the wrong keywords, you may not be found by potential customers.

Analyze with these three factors in mind

For the keyword analysis, it is important that you carefully analyze the following data:

The search volume of the keyword, check for yourself if this is high enough and how many potential visitors you can get on your website with this keyword;

The difficulty of the keyword, whatever tool you use, almost all of them will give you an indication of how difficult it is to score on the keyword based on the competition. Consider for yourself if the struggle is worth it or if you would rather score on an easier keyword;

The number of backlinks of the competitor, find out how many backlinks the competitors have on the keyword you want to score on. If there are hundreds of them, the chances are slim that you will overtake them, unless you also go to work on link building.

Use keywords that turn your visitors into customers

When selecting a keyword, it is wise to ask yourself the following question: can this keyword bring me more potential customers? A smart tactic is to boost your words by adding some extra selling power.

How to do this?

Adding purchase keywords

Buy keywords are the searches that searchers use when they plan to purchase a product or service. For example, consider the following additions to a keyword:

  • Children’s clothing offer
  • Garden furniture discount
  • Outsourcing kitchen assembly
  • Buying paracetamol

Adding related products keywords

When someone is searching for a specific product, they may add certain keywords to a product keyword that they want more information about. Adding related product keywords can make a big difference:

  • Apple Watch 3 Experiences
  • Acer Swift 3 reviews
  • Best headphones
  • Most popular vacations
  • Cheap suitcases
  • Affordable laptops

Long tail vs short tail keywords

An additional tip for picking out suitable keywords, is by distinguishing between short tail and long tail searches. Short tail searches are keyword that consist of no more than three words, such as “cheap running shoe” or “best restaurants”. These types of keywords have a high search volume and the competition on them is therefore fierce. Long tail keywords include longer and more specific search queries. More combinations are possible, but the traffic per search is usually lower. Instead of searching for “best restaurants”, a long tail search could be “best sushi restaurants in New York”. The number of visitors from long tail keywords will be less, but the chances of these visitors converting will be higher. There are also fewer competitors on these types of keywords.

How do I incorporate the keywords into my website?

To ensure that the keywords you have selected score well, you can incorporate them in the following places:

  • All the different page titles
  • In your meta description
  • In the slug
  • In the alt attribute of your images
  • In the URL of the page
  • About once per paragraph
  • Note: choose a maximum of one keyword per page!

Extra tip: install Yoast SEO to receive hands-on tips about how to optimize your pages for Google and other search engines.

Now it is time to start developing your SEO strategy

With the strategies and tips we have given in this article, you can take some first steps towards developing your SEO strategy. However, there are more important SEO strategies for ranking higher in Google and other search engines. Meaning that, with only a keyword research you will not achieve the rankings you desire.