WordPress makes life easy for small businesses, bloggers, and large news sites. You have best practices automatically applied in many cases like canonical links and there are plugins for practically everything else you need.
With the ease of publishing content and designs, you also have a new issue:
Content duplication is a common reason why a WordPress website won’t rank.
Although it’s different from what we traditionally know in SEO as duplicate content (an exact replication of content from wording to code), it is similar and needs to be addressed.
Here are the five most common types of duplicate content issues in WordPress and how to fix them.
Tags are a huge problem for many WordPress websites. When you tag an article it creates a unique page that is full of other content you feel is relevant.
The page will feature snippets from articles or full articles. If the tag is the same as a category or main page on your core website (assuming it’s not a blog), then you’ve now created a competitor to that page on your own site.
Tags are also usually modified versions of themselves, which creates incredibly similar content that will compete with itself.
When this happens, none of the pages will rank and it can potentially devalue the site.
Good news! This is an easy fix.
You can either get rid of the tags altogether, or you can add a meta robots noindex dofollow.
The noindex dofollow tag will tell search engines this is a thin page but follow the links and continue to crawl and index my site.
Now search engines will know that the page isn’t as useful as others and you’ve shown them how to discover your good content – the individual posts and pages.
Category pages tend to feature numerous posts and articles like a tag.
They’ll have H1 tags that are the same as the articles, they don’t always answer a question or provide a good solution since they are article snippets and they may not be good to show for people looking for answers.
That is why they’re usually considered thin content.
There is an exception, though.
Search Engine Journal, for example, is a WordPress website where the categories are dedicated to channels and niches within a channel.
A user searching for information on a channel, in general, may find a category very useful. Because of this, you want to approach it differently than you would a tag.
In this case, you add a meta robot index and dofollow tags, but also create unique titles and copy for the category to introduce it – and, if schema is relevant, add that in as well.
Now you’ve helped to define the types of queries and people to show the page to.
You may be rewarded by the search engines for it. Just make sure they aren’t competitive with your core website pages if you’re a business.
3. Competing Topics
The next thing that I see when auditing WordPress sites is a lack of unique content.
Let’s think about food bloggers. Yes, recipe schema and other things will help to differentiate the recipes, but what if you aren’t using that or didn’t know in the beginning?
If you have 20 recipes for chocolate chip cookies, chances are many of them are using similar wording and ingredients, which is what could be creating competition.
Each recipe is unique and can serve a different purpose, but if you don’t put in the extra work, they may not be able to show up because they’re competing with each other.
In this case, you may want to do a category or subcategory for the cookies. If you can’t, revisit them and add modifiers (e.g., spicy, savory, chewy, for parties, for large groups).
Next, begin adding copy (not necessarily to the top, because you want to deliver the actual recipe quickly to the user) about the finished product. Make sure the copy stays relevant to the topic and shows why, how, and where it is unique from the others.
Need other examples?
Have you done a themed gift guide or holiday post? Has anything changed aside from the year? Mother’s Day craft ideas? Romantic Valentine’s Gifts for XYZ?
These are not unique enough. If you have multiple posts, they could all compete.
If you add a year to your title (e.g., 2016, 2017), people may pass you by in the search engines for not being relevant this year. That’s where the strategies above can help.
4. Search Box URLs
I haven’t come across this one as often, but search boxes on WordPress sites may generate URLs.
If someone externally links to one of these URLs, or if search engines can crawl and find them, they might be indexable.
Although you could try to automatically add a meta robots noindex dofollow like in the tags, that probably doesn’t have you covered.
To address this one you need to find the unique identifier that the search box URLs have in common. It’s usually a “?” after the main URL.
Now go into your robots.txt and add a disallow to this parameter. In theory, and if done correctly, this will help to reduce the thin or duplicate content issues from these.
With systems that automate a lot of work and make life easy, other issues can arise that create duplicate or thin content issues.
Look at your site and see if you may have other ones.
They could include creating PDF versions of content for printing that are also indexable, or alternate versions in quotes which can be bad for short posts.
You may have an RSS feed that posts content pages instead of snippets and only feeding titles or descriptions (I think I’ve only found this once, so it isn’t something a huge issue to worry about).
Overall, most of these WordPress issues are easy to detect and solve using the strategies above. By eliminating your duplicate content you should get the organic search rankings you want.
Image Credits: Paulo Bobita