Programmatic SEO: 8 ways to avoid and fix duplicate content

By Arso Stojović
Read time 11 min
Posted on December 1, 2022
Updated on December 13, 2022
Share it on:
Duplicate content

Duplicate content is bad.
It is bad for SEO.
You need to avoid it.

Duplicate content is bad.
It is an issue for SEO.
You need to dodge it.

Duplicate content is bad.
It can tank SEO.
You need to avoid it.

Imagine while you reading this that you are an editor; what would you do if a writer delivered to you this kind of content? You would be confused, for sure. Maybe you'd think it's a joke…

Well, Google would do the same with your web pages because if they are full of duplicate content, they are simply useless.

Keep reading this guide to avoid duplicate content on your programmatic SEO pages so that your content can reach the highest position on Google search results.

  • The first BCMS instance is free

  • Free migration

  • Free support

  • No credit card needed‍

Create your account

What is Duplicate Content on Programmatic SEO pages

Carefully look at the following image. It's an example of duplicate content. 😅

Duplicate content example

No, I don't have a twin brother; it is just me.😎

Whether it is on your or on an external domain, Google can identify duplicate content across pages. Exact copies, or really similar content, Google treats as duplicate content.

In some cases, duplicate pieces of content are word-for-word replicas of the original content.

Duplicate content on a page

Furthermore, Google can also consider content that's similarly written as duplicate content:

Duplicate content on page #2

Ok, we have established what duplicate content is. Now let's go a step further to see why it is bad not just for Programmatic SEO but for any other SEO strategy.

Why avoid duplicate content in Programmatic SEO?

Google does not impose a "duplicate content penalty," but having the same or similar content on multiple pages or locations can negatively impact your website.

Having duplicate content can be problematic for search engines as well as for site owners.

Duplicate content may bring difficulties not only to search engines but also to you as a site owner.

Why does duplicate content matter for search engines?

Duplicate content can cause three major problems for search engines:

  1. Search engines are unsure which version(s) to include or exclude from their indexes.

  2. Search engines are unsure whether to consolidate the link metrics (authority, anchor text, link equity, etc.) on a single page or keep them separate across multiple versions.

  3. Search engines are unsure which version is a duplicate one and which one should be displayed in search results.

Why does duplicate content matter for site owners?

Site owners can suffer ranking and traffic losses when duplicate content is present. Two central problems cause these losses:

Search engines will remove all duplicates from the search results to provide the best search experience. Ultimately, they must choose which version will likely yield the best results. As a result, each duplicate is less visible.

Another problem is that search engines may select (by mistake) a duplicate version, and that's how even an original piece of content can suffer ranking penalties.

3 reasons why duplicate content is bad for Programmatic SEO

Having identical content confuses Google and makes it do unexpected things, such as:

Wrong pages are showing up in Google results

Having identical content confuses Google, forcing it to choose which similar pages to rank in the top search results. In many cases, the original page won't be selected as one of the top results, regardless of who created the original content.

It is possible to attract backlinks if the same content is available at many URLs. It results in "link juice" (link equity) being split between URLs.

Backlinks

Having to choose between duplicate links further dilutes link equity. Rather than linking to one piece of content, inbound links point to multiple reports, spreading link equity among them. Inbound links can affect the search visibility of content since they are a ranking factor too.

Unnecessary Crawl budget consumption

Crawl Budget is an important factor for SEO because it represents the number of pages Googlebot crawls and indexes on a website within a given timeframe.

So if there is a lot of duplicate content, Google can keep your best content from being indexed. And if Google doesn't index a page, it won't rank for anything.

As Google's "crawl rate limit" is higher for responsive websites, this problem is more acute for slow websites with less bandwidth. They will also crawl fewer duplicate URLs.

How duplicate content happens?

There are dozens of reasons for duplicate content, most of which are technical.

URL Variations

URL parameters, such as click tracking and analytics codes, can cause duplicate content issues. In addition to the parameters themselves, this can also relate to the order in which they appear.

Also, there are some URLs that have the same content, but they differ only by the URL:

  • Print-friendly URL

thebcms.com/page

thebcms.com/print/page

  • Mobile-friendly URL

thebcms.com/page

m.thebcms.com/page

  • AMP URL

thebcms.com/page

thebcms.com/amp/page

Hence, with multiple versions of the same content present at different URLs, the issue of duplicate content arises.

Different site versions

Some sites have "www" as part of the address, while others don't. The same content is duplicated on both versions of your site if they have separate versions. The same can be said for sites with both http:// and https://. You could also run into duplicate content issues there; this can quickly happen after a website redesign or switching from a non-secure to a secure version of your site.

/Trailing Slashes/ vs. Non-Trailing Slashes

In Google's opinion, URLs with and without trailing slashes are distinct. You will have duplicate content issues if your content is accessible via URLs with and without a trailing slash.

Scrapers and content syndication

The majority of the causes of duplicate content are your fault or the fault of your website. However, other websites may use your content, with or without your permission. They don't always link back to your original article, so the search engine misses it and has to deal with yet another version of the same article. The more popular your site becomes, the more scrapers you'll attract, escalating the issue.

Localization

If your site has similar content to people in different locations who speak the same language, it can cause duplicate content.

For example, back where I come from (The Balkans), a lot of companies have different versions of their site for people in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. Since these languages are quite similar, Google may consider them as some kind of duplicates.

How to check for duplicate content?

There are a few SEO tools with features designed to detect duplicate content, but before choosing them, you can check without any tool; how?

One simple way to find out if a page has a  duplicate is to copy around ten words from the beginning of a sentence and then paste them into Google by using quotes. This is Google's recommended method of checking.

If you test this for a page on your website, you should see only your webpage and, ideally, no other results. If other websites appear alongside yours, Google indicates that it believes the original source should be the first result displayed. You may have a duplicate content problem if this isn't your website.

  • Check indexed pages

One of the simplest techniques to identify duplicate material is checking how many pages from your website are indexed in Google.

How to check indexed pages? Type into Google site:example.com and click on search.

Google Indexed pages

If you want to use SEO tools to check out duplicate content issues, you can use Siteliner,  an online duplicate content checker. With Siteliner, you can quickly get how Google analyzes your web page by copying the URL to this checker.

This tool can detect duplicate content pages on the internet. It's an excellent tool for tracking down plagiarists who have copy-pasted your content.

Copyscape can quickly check the content that you have written against already published content. By comparing your content with others, you will be able to what percentage of your content matches already-published content.

How to avoid duplicate content in programmatic SEO pages

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you end up with duplicate content; fixing it before it tanks your SEO rankings is imperative. You need to specify which version is the duplicate and which is the original. After you sort this out, you have a couple of options:

301 redirects

In many cases, the best way to fix duplicate content is to implement 301 redirects from non-preferred URL versions to preferred URL versions.

A 301 redirect can be set up between the duplicate and original content pages. By combining multiple pages that rank into one, they will stop competing with one another and become more relevant.

Make content for different search intents

Optimizing content starts with knowing what the search intent of your customer really is. When you are able to distinguish different search intents, you will be able to make diverse content based on your keyword.

For example, the page for each keyword does not have to be for the same intent. Some pages can be educational, others are inspirational, and some a step-by-step guides.

Creating content based on those different customer intents can drastically decrease duplicate content.

Let’s say you have a cooking website and want to use a Programmatic SEO strategy to make landing pages at scale for vegetables. You can create your content like this:

”The best carrot recipes”

”The best cabbage recipes”

”The best potato recipes”

But as we saw above, there is a great risk that Google could consider this as a duplicate.

But what would happen if you create your content based on different customer intents? By using different templates, you can get this as a result:

”Why is carrot so healthy? + 10 recipes”

”Fast and easy, 10 cabbage winter meals”

”42 step-by-step guides to preparing potatoes”

Does this seem like a duplicate? Definitely not!

Make variable paragraphs

Imagine creating 3k landing pages with Programmatic SEO. If you don't set the right commands at the beginning, it can lead to many copies and the same text on those pages. One possible step to prevent this from happening is to make variable paragraphs. How to do that?

You can write one and the same paragraph in several ways (the more, the better) and then randomly display a different paragraph for different words. Many useful tools on the net can help you in this process. One of them is Wordtune.

Let's see how it looks with an example:

Here is a Wikipedia paragraph on duplicate content:

“Duplicate content is a term used in the field of search engine optimization to describe content that appears on more than one web page. The duplicate content can be substantial parts of the content within or across domains and can be either exactly duplicate or closely similar.”

What does the paragraph look like after first editing in Wordtune?

"Duplicate content" refers to content appearing on more than one web page in search engine optimization. It can be either exactly duplicate content or content that is similar to it within or across domains."

What does the paragraph look like after the second edit in Wordtune?

“In search engine optimization, duplicate content refers to content that appears on more than one web page. Content can be identical or similar within or across domains."

And after the third editing?

"Double content in SEO refers to content that appears on more than one web page. The content can be identical or similar, within or across domains."

And so on and on. You got the point.

I just want to mention that this process is not as easy as it seems.

It is very important that the paragraph is “displayed” or “not displayed” depending on some constant condition.

So, if there is one paragraph for a particular keyword ( in this case, duplicate content), it must always be that paragraph.

Why is that important to set it like that? It will be easier to update a page without changing paragraphs every time.

Use long tail keywords

Since Programmatic SEO is a strategy that can help you create many different but similar landing pages that target specific keywords and/or variations on groups of keywords, the best thing to do is to focus on long tail keywords. Why?

Long tail keywords are more specific; they focus on specific user intent and usually have a higher conversion value. Also, being specific and precise can help you avoid duplicate content traps.

Again, I will take vegetables as an example. Carrot (short tail keyword). If you use a short tail keyword, your content will look something like this:

The orange carrot is a root vegetable, most known for it best known for its positive effects on the work of the heart and for improving eyesight. Besides the orange-colored roots, white-, yellow-, and purple-fleshed varieties are known.

The white carrot is a root vegetable, most known for it best known for its positive effects on the work of the heart and improving eyesight. Besides the orange-colored roots (the most famous), yellow-and purple-fleshed varieties are known.

Let’s see what happens with your content if you shape it with the help of long-tail keywords.

5 fun facts you didn’t know about a CARROT:

  1. The largest carrot by weight ever recorded was 18.985 pounds. It was grown by John Evans of Alaska in 1998.

  2. According to the Carrot Museum, the current record for the world's longest carrot stands at 6.245 meters (20 feet, 5.9 inches).

  3. The carrot root is not the only edible part of a carrot

  4. Did you know that there are the 8 most popular carrots in the world?

  5. Do you know what the most expensive-looking carrot cake looks like?

As you can see, long-tail keywords reduce the possibility of duplicate content.

Use variable images

Using variable images in your Programmatic SEO strategy means applying the same logic to a whole section of your site without customizing each page individually.

With the help of services such as Unsplash or Cloudinary, it is possible to place dynamic images on the site for each keyword.

What are the benefits of using:

  • There are no URL variations

  • They can boost your advertising impact and value by

  • They show visually relevant information that is difficult to convey with text only.

  • By showing a preview of what a user can expect on the landing page, it can inspire users to click through.

Use different testimonials for different keywords

It’s no surprise that testimonials are helpful tools for building trust and credibility, but they also contribute to better rankings for your pages, especially product pages. Targeting more keywords with testimonials is a smart way to improve your website’s SEO, but in order to avoid duplicate content, you must use different kinds of testimonials for different keywords.

There are several types of testimonials you can choose from:

  • Videos

  • Quotes

  • Social Media Reviews

  • Case Studies

  • Interview-Based Testimonials

  • Blog Post Review

Conditionally display paragraphs

Not every paragraph or section needs to be on every Programmatic SEO page.

It is possible to make it so that if the length of the keyword (number of characters) is even, the paragraph is displayed; if it is not, it is not displayed. With a condition created like this, you get the opportunity to avoid duplicate content easily.

Of course, this should only be done with paragraphs that are not extremely important to the page's narrative and SEO.

On search engine results pages, related keywords are variants, synonyms, or semantically related terms to the main keywords you're trying to rank for. Using additional information, you can enrich the content around the key phrase.

For example, if you create programmatic SEO pages for airline tickets: "20 destinations to fly to from Paris under $100."  you can add a section for the nearby cities of Beauvais, Reims, and Rouen, and thus make each page more unique.

Now you know how to avoid or fix duplicated content on your Programmatic SEO pages

What we learned through this guide:

  • Duplicate content is bad.

    It is bad for SEO.

    You need to avoid it.

  • There is no such thing as a Google penalty for duplicate content, but there is no ranking for the same reason

  • Duplicate or similar- it doesn’t matter; it won’t get ranking

  • Duplicate content happens everywhere

  • There are awesome tools that can help you detect duplicate content

  • There are even more awesome tricks to beat duplicate content so that your content does not end up in the trash

  • You need to think out of the box

  • You need to be creative

  • It is okay to have small amounts of duplicate or similiar content on a web page

  • That the largest carrot by weight ever recorded was 18.985 pounds 🤓

Maintaining awareness of duplicate content issues is one excellent way to strengthen your efforts, but it's not the only one.

Check out my detailed write-up on How to find keywords for Programmatic SEO pages, so you can learn how to use them to help your website climb even higher in relevant SERP results.

Or, if you are not quite sure how Programmatic SEO works, there is a complete Programmatic SEO guide with practical examples that can help you understand the whole process.

  • The first BCMS instance is free

  • Free migration

  • Free support

  • No credit card needed‍

Create your account