Fixing SEO Duplicate Content with Google Webmaster Tools

Copied ContentAnother way of optimizing for Search Engines is by avoiding identical content on different posts/pages. In other words, 2 different URL's, e.g. and, that contain almost exactly the same information, can negatively impact your sites search engine rankings. One way to identify SEO duplicate content on a website is by using Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools - HTML Improvements

After a site is setup with Webmaster Tools, duplicate content issues that are found can be accessed from the Webmaster tools left menu under Search Appearance > HTML Improvements. Apart from the other useful SEO issues it finds, it will list Duplicate meta descriptions and Duplicate title tags.

Meta Descriptions

Most search engines will obtain a pages meta description in the following order if the predecessor isn't present:

  1. A websites header <meta name="description"> tag
  2. The post excerpt (Generated by WordPress)
  3. A paragraph within the content

Example Meta Description: <meta name="description" content="This is a meta description of this page."/>.

WordPress Websites should use a SEO Plugin that allows editing of a Page/Post's meta title and description directly.

Meta Titles

Similar to how meta descriptions are retrieved, the title tags are obtained via the followin:

  1. A websites header <title> tag
  2. The posts title (usually wrapped in a <h1> tag)
  3. The URL or domain name of the page

Fixing Duplicate Content Issues

The safest way to resolve identical meta titles and descriptions is by setting them directly in the sites <title> and <meta name="description" content=""> tags and making sure that they are unique on the website and also not copied from another websites page or post.

Lastly, consider the following before submitting new or edited content to avoid further SEO penalties:

Merging and Deleting Pages with Similar Content

If 2 or more pages are possibly about the same topic, for example a business listing that has been submitted multiple times by different users, then merging them may be a better solution. 404 Errors that occur as a result of deleting the duplicate pages, can simply be redirected to the newly merged page via 301 Redirects.

Page Title and Content

A meta title or description listed as duplicate, will likely have duplicate corresponding elements within the content itself. An identical meta title in a post, for example, may mean that the post title itself may be a duplicate as well and needs to be changed.

Same Listing, Different Place

For listing pages about a business that exists at multiple locations, adding the city to the title can be enough to take it off the Webmaster Tools list. Formatting titles of posts as "Company Name - Downtown LA" and "Company Name, Santa Monica" will avoid them being flagged and also contributes to better SEO.

WordPress Plugins for Meta Tags

WordPress users can leverage one of many available SEO plugins that enable setting meta titles and descriptions directly from each page/post.

WordPress Meta Tag Plugin
Snapshot from WordPress SEO by Yoast Plugin.

Updating Google Webmaster Tools

If you think you've resolved the duplicate content issues then it will be removed from Google's HTML Improvement list upon the next crawl. Submitting a new Sitemap to Webmaster tools may expedite this process.

I'm a developer at Maximus Business.
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