What is Duplicate Content in SEO?
Duplicate content is content that appears at more than one web address. It is basically a piece of content that is available on the internet in more than one place. Also called “thin content”, “duplicate content”, or “low-quality content” by some, content duplication is a serious issue when it comes to SEO.
Why Duplicate Content is Bad News for SEO?
Duplicate content confuses search engines and they don’t know which version(s) to rank for query results. Meaning, Google doesn’t know whether to direct the SEO metrics (trust, authority, anchor text, link equity, etc.) to one page, or keep it separated between multiple versions. This makes site owners suffer in terms of ranking and lose their traffic. The net result? A piece of content doesn’t achieve the search visibility it otherwise would.
Who Suffers the Most?
Content Duplication is the most common in the eCommerce industry when compared to others. This is the reason why many eCommerce store owners struggle to get better rankings despite hosting good quality content on their websites.
In my opinion, rectifying this issue can give great results and that’s what makes it one of the low hanging fruits of SEO. In this blog, I have tried to cover all the areas of an eCommerce store where content duplication can happen.
Content Duplication Factors
External Content Duplication is related to content issues outside the website. At times, website owners steal content from another website to increase the visibility of their websites. This creates external duplication issues. You should avoid doing this at any cost since if you are flagged for manipulating Google’s search index, your website will either be ranked significantly lower or will be removed from the search results entirely.
In my experience the 70-80% of the content duplication is caused due to the first factor which is internal and a webmaster or store owner can control or fix this easily by taking a few important steps.
Internal content duplication factors: Internal Ecommerce content duplication occurs on at the website level. Below are some major points that contribute to internal content issues.
1. Multiple Homepage Version
Your website has preferred and multiple non-preferred versions. For eg. Your main website version is https://www.example.com and its other version is https://example.com which is a clone version of your site. They both are returning 200 status. These multiple versions can thus cause an internal duplication.
To avoid duplication, you are required to tell the search engine about your main canonical version through a canonical tag and 200 status. Also, the second URL which is your non-preferred version needs to be redirected to the preferred version with SEO friendly 301 redirects.
2. Homepage Content Duplication
The Homepage is the most important page of any website as it receives the maximum traffic. Google also gives a lot of SEO weightage on the website’s Homepage. The Homepage has a content block typically below the fold or near footer that speaks about your services and business. This content block is a great place to plant your main keywords
But if the same piece of the content block is copied on all other webpages, it will create an internal duplication. Suppose you have a content block written specifically to target Homepage keywords but if you copy the same on category and product pages, then it can cause cannibalization. Although, a piece of content limited to 2-3 lines won’t really affect anything but a content piece larger than that will cause internal duplication.
Hence it is important to keep the Homepage content unique and optimized to avoid duplicate content SEO issues.
3. Category Navigation Filters
Category pages show multiple options to sort and filter your results like price range, view type, product attributes like size, color, type, and other custom specifications.
These multiple versions not only result in the content duplication but also lowers the chances of your actual category page SEO rankings. Now, there are several ways to handle this issue. The easiest way to fix this is to have a canonical tag on these pages pointing to your main SEO friendly canonical tag. You can also use the Robots.txt file and Search Console URL Parameters handling tool to control content duplication.
Below are some examples of Category Navigation filters URLs that can become the worst enemy of your SEO targeted category URL https://example.com/cateogry.
4. Site Search URLs
Almost every eCommerce store has a search option feature for users to easily find the products they are looking for. The typical URL of site search looks like https://www.example.com/catalogsearch/result/?cat=2&q=shoes
The problem is, these site search URLs can cause thin content issues on a website. Hence it is advised to block or prevent the Site search URLs from search engines. Sometimes users copy the site search URL (duplicate URL) and share in forums and blogs which results in backlinks for those pages. So it is best to handle them in the first place. Make sure that your site search URLs have been blocked and not affecting your SEO negatively by creating thin content issues.
5. Product Pages Duplication
Product pages (also called money pages) constitute 80-90% of the pages of any eCommerce store. No matter how nicely you have optimized your Homepage or Category Pages, search engines always judge your website the most by its Product Pages.
One of the most common eCommerce SEO mistakes that the store owners do that causes internal duplication is to have the same descriptions for the configurable products that only vary in size, quantity, color, etc.
Many eCommerce stores that upload their products on 3rd party seller sites like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Etsy, etc. also face external duplication since they generally copy-paste the same products’ content on those sites. This creates SEO duplicate content product pages which lower the main website’s ranking on Google and restricts its organic traffic.
Hence, it is advisable to share different product descriptions on 3rd party sites and keep the SEO optimized description for your own website. To make at least your best seller products unique, you can also add FAQs so that they rank better on Google and attract better traffic.
6. Product Page Attributes (Color, Size selection changes URLs)
A product page can have multiple versions based on a few metrics like their color, size, quantity, etc. We call them Configurable products. In some eCommerce stores, there are a huge number of Configurable products depending on the business.
But these different product pages that are quite similar to users can cause content duplication trouble if their URLs are different. So it is best to keep the same product URL for such products and have canonical tags implemented on all pages.
For example, this product page sells pendants with the zodiac signs. Now there are 12 Zodiac signs but the product is configurable and it doesn’t change the URL.
For this configurable product, the canonical tags point to the main product which is https://www.example.com/products/zodiac-pendents, and hence they won’t cause any duplication. In case all the products would have different URLs, they would have caused thin content issues like this example below.
Although, in the above example, it is still ok to keep single URLs since the zodiac signs are different and each sign is unique and have a different set of keywords but when it comes to a product where only quantity or quality is changing, they can cause a lot of internal content duplication. Like this example below.
In such cases, you will always struggle to add unique content to optimize these products which will cause internal duplication. Hence, it is best to keep the same product URL for such products.
7. Same Products in Multiple Categories
This is the most common SEO issue on the product page. A product page can have multiple categories and by adding one product in multiple categories, you can end up creating so many versions of the same product. Hence, it is important to have a canonical tag in place to handle them appropriately.
This is pretty common on sites designed on Shopify where different products are added into multiple categories or collections. However, Shopify has a default canonical tag setting in place. But other platforms like Woocommerce, Magento, etc. might not have this default SEO setting which can create internal thin content issues among different product versions.
8. Review URLs
Another case of internal content duplication is Product review URLs. You may have a large number of user reviews on the products and each of this review can create a separate URL like
In both cases the content is unique but since the average review text of the user is very small, it can cause thin content issues. You should fix this issue by having a canonical tag on these pages.
9. Session & Tracking UTM Parameter URLs:
eCommerce websites have different session ids and tracking URLs associated with Marketing campaigns like Mailchimp, Adwords, Facebook, etc. For example,
These are important since they help in tracking different aspects of an online campaign and hence need to be kept separate. But to avoid thin content issues, it is important to have a canonical tag on these pages.
External Duplication on the other hand is related to content issues outside the website. In Ecommerce stores, the most common issue is when the products are uploaded on 3rd party seller websites like Amazon, Ebay etc, and affiliates.
The best way to handle is to send them basic and manufacturer-provided products content while optimizing your own products with SEO friendly and informative content so that it can be counted as a unique and valuable to Search Engines and users. Otherwise, your 3rd party sellers and affiliates will end up showing the same content and may even rank better in Google.
These are the most common sections and areas that can cause content duplication in your eCommerce store. To provide the best search experience, search engines will rarely show multiple versions of the same content and thus are forced to choose which version is most likely to be the best result. This dilutes the visibility of each of the duplicates and affects the ranking of your main website. Hence, it is important to deal with duplicate content SEO issues systematically and improve the SEO and the ranking of your website.
Need assistance in dealing with any of the above issues? Let me know in the comments below and I will be happy to get back to you with the possible solution or consult with our Ecommerce SEO Agency Experts.