Sometimes, duplicate content just happens.
Even if you write all of your content for your dealership’s website yourself, you cannot stop other people from finding that content, thinking it’s create, and using it for their own dealership’s website.
Despite your best efforts to avoid duplicate content, both on other websites and on your own, between your own pages, it is not always possible, and this can have rippling effects on your website, it’s ranking, and your ability to attract new customers to your dealership.
Here are eight ways you can check for duplicate content to ensure it is not harming your ability to rank well in relevant search results:
1. Check your HTTP and HTTPS URLs.
If ideally want to have only one of these protocols. If you have both, this likely means that your website is being indexed twice and it might look like your website has been duplicated.
Having both of these protocols for a short period of time usually means that your developer has switched you over to HTTPS (which is more secure), and has not yet used a 301 redirect to send your traffic to that version of the site from the HTTP version.
Some developers only use HTTPS on certain pages of certain websites, which could duplicated those pages, if the appropriate redirects are not in place.
2. Watch out for scraper sites.
The easiest way for someone to steal your entire site is to scrape the code and use it for themselves.
Luckily, there are a few ways that you can make it difficult for those sites to be able to copy you. For example, you could use an absolute URL for all of your pages.
Another good addition to your website are self-referencing canonical tags.
If someone tries to copy and paste your content, those tags will usually reference back to your website, which allows Google to easily determine whose website is the original and whose website is the copy.
3. Get rid of abandoned subdomains.
Maybe you had a website before your current website.
Maybe you have an old subdomain that you are no longer using.
If you have repurposed any of the content that was on that old website or subdomain onto your new website, you could be unintentionally duplicating content.
Sure, it is your content, but Google sees that it is already located somewhere else.
You are going to want to use a 301 redirect to send any traffic from that old site to your new one.
4. Block Google from looking at your brand new website.
If you have a website that is still being developed or is just waiting in the wings to be released, Google might already be trying to index that website.
Even if your website is in staging, which, to you, clearly means it is not ready to be indexed, Google often crawls and indexes those website, which could lead to serious confusion when you actually do release your website.
How can you combat this to make sure it does not become a problem for automotive SEO?
Make sure to add a noindex tag, which will block the crawlers from your website until it is ready to go—just make sure you remove the tag once you are ready to be indexed.
5. Clean up URL strings.
If there are several different ways to get to a certain page on your website, your website might be serving up a variety of slightly different URLs for that page.
You might not think that Google could find and try to crawl those URLs, but it might, which could leave it thinking you are using multiple versions of the same page.
Again, canonical tags are the solution.
This will tell Google which version you actually want them to crawl.
6. Make sure you have location targeting enabled.
If your website has subdirectories for specific places (for example, your dealership has three locations, and you have a subdirectory for each), you will want to set up location targeting to make sure that Google does not think that you have simply replicated the same page three time to try to scam your way to a higher search ranking.
Also, you might want to determine whether or not you really need those subdirectories.
If they are all targeting essentially the same audience, you might not require all three.
7. Syndicate your content.
If you want to use the same content in a different way, you might want to make sure that you have the right canonical tags lined up.
For example, you might want to add a noindex tag if you are just going to be publishing an old blog post again.
Identifying which piece of content you actually want Google to index and crawl is a good way to make sure that you can syndicate your own content, without getting hit with a penalty.
8. Watch out for similar content, too.
Did you know that Google also looks at the general information in articles and webpage content and can get testy if two pages contain essentially the same information, even if there are not identical lines between the two pages?
This means that if you have separate pages for all of your dealership’s locations that include the very same information in different wordings, Google might still ding you.
Consider adding a canonical tag to one of the pages or consolidating the pages together.