Content is crucial in order to achieve good search engine rankings. One particular problem that hurts rankings is duplicate content. Duplicate content is when a website has two or more pages that share the same content. Creating pages with URLs that lead to the same content is often unintentional, especially on large sites. Google agrees that most of the time duplicate content is not deceptive in nature but it ultimately creates a poor user experience when visitors see the same content pop up in search results. If Google feels the content is intentionally trying to manipulate rankings or deceive users, the ranking of the site may drop or be removed entirely from the Google index i.e. not appear in the search results.
Google offers several suggestions to address duplicate content issues:
1. Use 301s to redirect users.
2. Keep your internal linking consistent.
3. Use top-level domains to handle country-specific content.
4. If you syndicate content on other sites, make sure it links back to the original article.
5. Use Google Webmaster Tools to tell Google how your site should be indexed.
6. Minimize repetition such as copyright text on each page. Use a link instead.
7. Don’t publish pages that don’t have any content yet.
8. Be familiar with how content is displayed on your website.
9. If you have pages with similar content, considering expanding each page or consolidating them into one.
Again, duplicate content is not grounds for action unless Google deems it deceptive or manipulative. However, since these changes can be implemented rather easily, it’s not worth the chance of hurting your rankings or worst case scenario, falling off Google entirely.