The Anatomy of a Google WordPress Duplicate Content Penalty – and How to Fix It!

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End Duplicate ContenteSo recently I had cause to do a hell of a lot of research into Google penalties after my lingerie website got booted from the SERPS during the May update.

For one reason or another, it took me about 5 weeks to work out what the issue was and fix it. Actually, “penalty” is probably the wrong way to describe this issue. It’s more of a “filter” which is much less problematic to deal with!

So I thought it would be dashed nice to point out what I think went wrong for me, why, and how you can make your WordPress blog duplicate content proof.

WordPress Category Arrangements Are The Villans Of This Piece!

As I’m sure y’all know, the way that WordPress stores your carefully crafted posts can be problematic. Often this leads to the same information being displayed under more than one URL. In my case, I created a category for each product brand and populated it with a single post. This meant the same post ended up being indexed twice thusly:-

SiteName.com/BrandName

SiteName.com/BrandName/BrandPost

Although this particular issue happened because of my particular site structure, it can happen to pretty much any WordPress blog due to your content being indexed from many different directions.

Causes Of WordPress Duplicate Content

  • Monthly Archives
  • Tags
  • Posts By Author
  • Trackback URLs
  • Next / Previous Entries Links
  • RSS Feed Content
  • WordPress Permalinks adding in A /category/ directory to URLS accessed from certain parts of your blog.

Lots of Potential Woes There Hey? And Google Might Not Like It AT ALL…

Phew, so as you can see… there are lots of opportunities for Google to see your site content twice. They quite specifically say they’re not too keen on this, although they do also say it shouldn’t be a problem if its non-malicious. BUT if you’re unlucky enough to be flagged up as having dupe content for less than pure reasons, this might happen to your organic traffic stats: -

Google Duplicate Content Penalty

Ouch.

But Fear Not, It Can Be Fixed – Even Better… There Are Plugins To Help You!

So here it is, your handy dandy guide to eliminating duplicate content in your WordPress blog!

  • First off, lets stop Google indexing all those pages from lots of different directions. I used Joost De Valk’s No Follow Plugin. I liked this because he’s very carefully explained why you might want to take some of the options within the interface. Whilst you’re on his site, grab his RSS Footer plugin. It means you can insert backlinks to your site within your RSS feed so that anyone reproducing your hard-earned content on their site rewards you with a backlink, and doesn’t claim credit for your work!
  • If it’s an issue, get rid of that cumbersome /category/ in your permalinks with the Top Level Categories plugin.
  • Sort out your Robots.txt file to make sure Google doesn’t index that RSS or other content in WordPress that can cause dupe content horror for you and your blog. Shoemoney said it better than I can here.
  • If like me, your category structure might cause something to be indexed twice but you still want your categories to be indexable – try a 301 redirect as Google suggests. Don’t know how to do that? Panic ye not – I found an amazingly simple to use WordPress 301 Redirect Plugin. It’s got really cool stats on it too. It was this particular plugin that sorted my own issues right out. I’d already used most of what I’m chatting about above, it just wasn’t quite enough!
  • Finally, just to be totally belt and braces about things, give your posts individual meta tags with this Great Meta Tag Plugin. I doubt you’d get a dupe content issue from these, but while we’re doing the 30,000 mile WordPress service I think it’s a great addition for a whole lotta reasons.

Phew. Finished? Here’s The Effect Of My De-Duping Efforts…

Google Stats On The Up Again!Within about 3 days of applying these principals to my blog, the traffic began to return and is still steadily increasing every day as Google sorts its way through my site.

I think that’s a fairly good example of just what a massive effect duplicate content can have on a site, but also just how quickly the changes you make can improve things.

Finally…

Well, this has been a long guide but I hope really worthwhile in helping people deal with dupe content. If I have missed anything out or if anyone knows a good plugin for this type of issue, please do post it in the comments field and I’ll add any interesting ones to the bottom of this post.

Happy De-duping guys!! :)

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22 Responses to “The Anatomy of a Google WordPress Duplicate Content Penalty – and How to Fix It!”

  1. Joost de Valk Says:

    Glad you liked my plugins! You should probably also check out my WordPress SEO article :)

  2. Mark Says:

    Very useful post. Thank you. The link to the Top Level categories is broken. Joost is a star. I’m looking forward to hearing him at the a4u Expo in Oct.

  3. Kirsty Says:

    Some good reading there Joost – love your work!

    Mark – cheers for heads up, I’ve popped in an alternative URL now.

  4. Lammo Says:

    Have used several of those plugins myself – The NoFollow plugin was particularly useful, as Google had decdied to index my comments feed rather than the actual content for one site – One tickbox (and 24 hours) later, and hey Presto – my main content’s back in the G.

  5. Breakingwaves Says:

    Thanks for the guide. I have been looking at my own duplication and ‘think’ I have it sorted now. Is there is a scanner that you could point at your website to detect potential duplicates. If anyone knows of one it would be a useful tool ?
    Thanks again
    Adrian

  6. David Hobson Says:

    Good post duplicate content in blogs is a major issue and one many bloggers simply dont bother doing anything about.

  7. blair Says:

    Nice post. If anyone is using Drupal, I wrote a post ages ago about avoiding duplicate content by changing the robots.txt file.
    In light of your post, I have released there is more stuff that I need to add to mine. Will do that soon.

  8. Elijah Says:

    This is a great resource for myself at a perfect time! I am just starting to get into wordpress and hosted blogs, and this will save me tons of time and hair 6 months down the road when the big G decides to come knocking on my door because I’m kicking too much arse in the blogging world.

    Cheers!

  9. Sean Says:

    My understanding is that there is one very easy to ensure that they are no duplicate content issues on wordpress blocks – use the excerpt function on the homepage, category page, author page, etc. Limit to say 50 words

    This means that the only place google can see the full content is the actual post page.

    Problem solved and should only take 2 mins.

  10. Jez Says:

    Im surprised it made such a difference, as you say, it is a filter not a penalty… all I would have expected is that some of your dupe pages dropped into supplemental, would not have expected your traffic to drop like that…

  11. Kirsty Says:

    @Sean. What you say isn’t wrong, but the homepage duplicate content in WordPress is but one of the places Google will detect duplicate content in a blog based offering.

    If you read the details in the above post you will see there are many other routes by which the same content can be seen twice by Google… so you need to make sure those are taken care of also.

    So not two mins, but maybe only five instead!!

  12. Kirsty Says:

    @ Jez, yes it surprised the hell out of me too. The effect immediately after I implemented the 301 redirects was so marked that I’m in no doubt my dupes had triggered some kind of percentage based filter. So beacuse almost everything on the site was duplicated twice, I think an automated filter was triggered.

    Thats why I wanted to make this post, as it really was totally fascinating how Google reacted.

  13. Eyes Wide Shut No Longer As We Get All Analytical | One Little Duck - Affiliate Blog Says:

    [...] we thought were doing ok (they weren’t) have also had a bit of a going over based on the excellent wordpress duplicate content penalty fix by [...]

  14. bramster Says:

    I have been heard about the google sandbox for a few months now, with only traditional , link and content building as solutions.

    This is the best and most useful post I have read in weeks.

    Thanks

    bramster

  15. Ed Says:

    Kirsty, like Sean said, when using the excerpt function you get rid pages having duplicate content, because any page that could return an exact duplicate…thus the full article on another URL on the same domain is then only showing the excerpt.

    The post page only displays the full article and Google recognizes the original article.

    And of course Joost’s excellent plugin also takes care of some issues.

    The excerpt is not only usefull to prevent having duplicate content on the home page, but also other possibilities the WordPress platform can return.

  16. Kirsty Says:

    Ed, I’m not disagreeing with Sean or you. I totally agree about using excerpts. My point is that this is not the only area where duplicate content arises. There’s no benefit to wiping out one area of duplication when the bulk of it lies in all the various “extra” URL structures created by WordPress.

  17. James Says:

    Sweet! There’s some great tips in there. Thanks.

  18. LiveMobiles Says:

    Very Good Post. Thanks for the information and re-assuring us that things like this can be rectified

  19. Dr. Kirsty’s Google Filter Diagnosis - More Site Problems! » UK Affiliate Marketing Blog - Kirsty's Affiliate Marketing Guide - Affiliate Stuff UK Says:

    [...] sure many of you read my the post I made a while back as I was delighted I’d sorted out my Google Duplicate Content issues. My traffic rose nicely, and has remained at a reasonable level. However, after a few weeks of [...]

  20. Getting Past The Google Over Optimisation Filter - Hurahh!! » UK Affiliate Marketing Blog - Kirsty's Affiliate Marketing Guide - Affiliate Stuff UK Says:

    [...] so for those of you that don’t know about the issues you can catch up here, here and here on the Google filter fun I’ve been having with my [...]

  21. Jupiter Facts Says:

    RSS Footer is great, I recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have it yet. I have been using it for a while and it has certainly saved me a few times (3 to be exact) People try to use your content without permission all the time, simply install the plugin and it will backlink to your site, easy as pie!

  22. LipoaspiraĆ§Ć£o Says:

    Do you also had to write a reconsideration letter to google or just the fixes on your site were enough?

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