How to use duplicate content safely across multiple websites with WordPress or Drupal

How to use duplicate content safely across multiple websites with WordPress or Drupal

What is duplicate content?

Google says:

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content could include:

  • Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
  • Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
  • Printer-only versions of web pages

So all duplicate content is not bad. But Google does not look kindly on maliciously used duplicate content. If you try to use duplicate content to deceive you run the risk of being booted from search results altogether:

In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.

What if you want to use the same content on different sites?

Technically, Google could perceive that as a way of deceiving users by making it seem like two sites have two unique pieces of content. But what about reusing content legitimately? There’s an easy way around this – we just have to tell Google what we’re doing.

Enter, the canonical url

Canonical url is a fancy way of defining something as being the ‘official’ version. If you have the same blog post on two sites, the canonical url says that one post is ‘official’ while the other one is not.
For example, my last blog post can be read here as well as at echoleaf.com. The version here is the ‘official’ version and Google knows it. This guarantees that I won’t get penalized for duplicate content.
This is done by setting a metatag called – surprise – canonical url.  And it’s Google approved:

  • If you syndicate your content for publication on other domains, you want to consolidate page ranking to your preferred URL.

To address these issues, we recommend you define a canonical URL for content (or equivalent content) available through multiple URLs.

Ready to learn how to do it yourself? I’ll show you how in both WordPress and Drupal.

How to set a canonical url in WordPress

To start, you’ll need to install the excellent WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. Once it’s installed, you’ll see a new metabox on the edit screens of all posts and pages:
WordPress SEO by Yoast - General tab
Click on the Advanced tab (highlighted above) and you’ll be presented with a number of options, including canonical url:
WordPress SEO by Yoast - Advanced tab
All you have to do is put the complete url (including http://) of the official version into the Canonical URL field and update the post/page. That’s it.

How to set a canonical url in Drupal

To start, you’ll need to install the excellent Metatag module. Once it’s installed, you’ll see a new metabox called Meta Tag on all node edit pages:
Drupal metatag canonical
You’ll have to click on Advanced to see all the options, including canonical url. All you have to do is put the complete url (including http://) of the official version into the Canonical URL field and update the node. That’s it.

Now you know how to safely use the same content on multiple sites!

Have you used this technique? Let me know in the comments.

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