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9 Dos and Don'ts when solving duplicate content in Joomla

9-dos-and-donts-when-solving-duplicate-content-in-Joomla

If anyone thinks duplicate content doesn’t happen in your Joomla site, you are terribly wrong.

It could happen to any site, even the biggest ones. For Joomla users, duplicate content is even more prevalent as the CMS itself has so many ways to generate the issue. It's harm your Joomla SEO effort badly and you need to resolve it immediately.

In this article, we will introduce you to 9 Dos and Don'ts when solving duplicate content issues in Joomla! Site.

  1. What is duplicate content
  2. Why does duplicate content happen
  3. Why do you need to solve this issue
  4. How to avoid duplicate content in Joomla
  5. Which methods you need to avoid when fixing the issue

What is duplicate content

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches 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.

(Reference: support.google.com)

That definition is straight from Google documentation.

However in Joomla, even if you create 100% original content, duplicate content still happens, and it is mostly within your site.

Sometimes, you will see 2 or more different URLs direct to the same article. For example:

https://yourdomainname.com/aritcle-a
and
https://domainname.com/categories/aticle-a

https://yourdomainname.com/your-content
and
https://yourdomainname.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=3&Itemid=90

Do those URLs look familiar to you? I bet you have seen these many times. The second one is causing duplicate content to your Joomla site and needs to be fixed immediately.

 

So, why does duplicate content in Joomla happen

The most common cause is due to multiple URLs redirecting to one destination.

All the unnecessary and unwanted URLs exist for one of the following reasons below:

- A page is reachable from multiple menu items.
- www or non-www
- URL generates from Joomla Editor preview feature
- Included index.php or index.html at the end of a URL.
- Parameters in a URL
- Trailing Slashes at the end of a URL.
- Uppercase, lowercase character

Even after enabling the SEF URLs in the Joomla Global Configuration, you still see these kinds of URLs get indexed by Google. 

Why do we need to solve this issue

Any duplicate content in your Joomla site could have harmful effects on your SEO.

Though the content in your site is not copied from any sources, having pages being reachable from multiple URLs will cause trouble for search engine bots when crawling your site.

  • The bots don’t know which URL or version should get listed on SERPs.
  • SEO metrics from a page could be separated between its multiple versions.

As for your site visitors, they can find those duplicate URLs very unfriendly.

How to fix the duplicate content in Joomla! Site

In this section, we will learn 7 ways to fix duplicate content in your Joomla site. Please note that you need to enable SEF URLs in the General Settings of Joomla Configuration. 

  1. Correct menu set-up
  2. 301 Redirects
  3. Canonical tag
  4. Meta tag robots
  5. Using an extension
  6. Submit sitemap
  7. Using Google Search Console

1. Correct menu set-up

One of the most common reasons for the duplicate content issue is sometimes one article can be reached from multiple menu items

To make it clear, let’s look at the picture below:

Incorrect Joomla menu set-up

You can see that the article: “About your homepage” can be reached from /footer menu/ and also from /about/submenu URL.

From the users perspective, the above problem could be ignored completely. However, from SEO point of view, it’s bad when crawl bots find 2 identical articles.

As I said, they don’t know which article is the original. There is a high chance the duplicate one will get indexed if we don’t instruct them with any extra information.

Besides coming from multiple menu items, the duplicate content may also come from the breadcrumb path or module assignments.

Unfortunately, this is how Joomla works, but we can fix this by avoiding creating a new link for the same content. These are usually 2 conventional ways to deal with this problem:

  • Avoid a new identical menu
  • Using Menu item alias

1.1 Avoid a new identical menu

If you want to reuse any menu and put it at a different position, all you have to do is create a new “menu module” and assign it in the position you want.

Remember: do not create new menu items that are the same as the one you already have.

Using a menu module to publish the same menu in a different position

1.2 Using Menu Item Alias

If you want to reuse just one or two menu items for another menu, this method will suit you best.

By this way, you will have a new menu item that has a direct link to the original one. NO new URL created.

You can find the feature in Joomla as follow:
Add new menu item-> Menu item type -> Choose select -> System links -> Menu item alias

Menu time alias

2. Use 301 redirects

301 redirects is a technical way to tell both users and search engine bot to go to another address after clicking or typing a specific URL.

For example, when using 301 redirects method,

If somebody clicks on this link:

https://www.joomlashine.com/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=125&catid=1&id=18&lang=en&view=article

They will go to this link:https://www.joomlashine.com/blog/joomla-sef-urls.html

Which is the same content, but the URL is much more user-friendly, and it has a positive impact on SEO.

A Joomla user usually has 2 ways to use 301 redirects in Joomla:

  • Advanced rules in .htaccess
  • Using redirect extension

For a non-technical user, I suggest you choose option 2.

Note: For who wonder, what about the Redirect Manager component in Joomla? Let’s remind you that the component is used for redirect expire URLs. The features cannot solve the duplicate content issue.

Now, let’s go to the details of each option.

2.1 Advanced rules in .htaccess

If you not familiar with .htaccess, I suggest you should ask a technical guy who has experience about this. Making changes in your htaccess file may break your site.

Still, you can do it yourself following our suggestions.

After the URLs Rewriting option is enabled in the Joomla Global Configuration, you can use the .htaccess file to solve quite a few of your duplicate URL issues. The file is located in your Joomla root folder. If you are still confused, let’s take a look at this article.

-To redirect a single page

Put this code in your htaccess:

Redirect 301 /page-a http://www.domain.com/page-b

-To redirect URL with trailing slash

Your URLs can be accessed with or without a trailing slash, and it means that the link /page-a/ and /page-a will have the same content.

In this case, you can mass-redirect the one with the trailing slash to the other with just a short piece of code in your .htaccess

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule ^(.+)/$ http://%{HTTP_HOST}/$1 [R=301,L]

For more htaccess rules, you could read this helpful guide.

2.2 Using Joomla redirect extension

There are many redirect extensions in Joomla. You can search in extension.joomla.org. However, ReDj is the most popular and effective according to Joomla community. So, my suggestion falls on this extension.

3. Canonical tag

Canonical tag allows you to tell search engines which one among multiple duplicate articles is the original and indexes it to SERPs.

For example, a page can be reached in 2 ways:

https://www.joomlashine.com/index.php?option=com_content&Itemid=125&catid=15&id=18&lang=en&view=article
or
https://www.joomlashine.com/abc

If we insert the canonical tag after the section of the first link, it will tell Google that the second URL is the original, please index that one only.

Canonical tag may be simple for a traditional website that is built just by HTML and other web design code.

However, in Joomla as well as other CMS platforms, insert canonical require more works and a little bit coding knowledge. Not any Joomla user can perform this task smoothly without hours of Google search.

Fortunately, Joomla community is full of devoted developers and contributors that make our job easier. Daniel Morell is one of those guys.

His recently developed plugin, called “Custom Canonical” helps us insert a canonical tag in articles, categories, tags, or menu items extremely easy. Also, it’s totally free!!!

What a guy!

To save your precious time, I will briefly show you how to work with the extension in 4 steps:

Let’s say you want to insert to one of your articles:

Step 1: Download and install the plugin
Step 2: Go to Extensions/Plugins to enable the plugin called “Custom Canonical”.
Step 3: Go to Content/Articles, click the Publishing tab.
Step 4: Enter the original article URL to the “Canonical URL” field.

Save it. Nicely canonical tag has successfully inserted in your article.

Check your canonical tag by using “inspect” features of Chrome browser
Easy peasy right!

You could check the documentation for more details.

Besides, you can automatically put a canonical tag in every article by using Joomla custom fields. However, this method is a little bit complicated for non-technical users.

StyleWare Plugin can also do the trick. Feel free to try it. You just have to download and enable this plugin. It automatically put the canonical tags in all articles and categories. No additional work required.

Canonical tag is the only way for a Joomla webmaster to deal with duplicate content both on and off your site. Combined with other techniques like redirect to keep your site free from the duplicate issue.

4. Meta Tag Robots

What is the best way to prevent search bots from indexing a specific page?

Simple, tell them don’t index this particular page.

Of course, not by English or any verbal language. Joomla provides us the perfect ways to tell them: Meta Tag Robots.

You can find this feature in the Publishing tab of any article, category or menu item option.

Change the Robots field into: No index.

Change meta tag robots in Joomla

If you have 2 identical articles and you tell Google not index one of them, search bots will have to index the others.

Note:

  • FOLLOW – a command for the search engine bot to follow the links in that page
  • INDEX – a command for the search engine bot to index that page

5. Using an extension

If your site is a small one, it is not too difficult to prevent the duplicate content issue by configuring htaccess file, robots.txt, canonical tag and possibly an extension for 301-redirects.

However, if your site is a larger one, the task seems to be a big challenge.

In this case, using an extension is probably an easier and more efficient way.

In the previous sections, I have recommended some of the extensions up to a specific task. For you to have an overview, I will put a summary of some popular extensions here.

  • SH404SEF: known as one of the best SEO extensions for Joomla. It can help you with redirect task, insert metadata, canonical
  • JoomSEF: have the same features as sh404SEF, can manage your duplicate content issue
  • ReDJ: extension built for just Redirect.
  • Custom Canonical: Just like the name, it is built for adding a canonical tag. Free and easy to use.
  • Styware plugin: This plugin is also for adding a canonical tag in an article and category.
  • Meta man: allow you to manage your site metadata efficiently.

6. Submit sitemap

Any experienced webmaster will be familiar with this technique.

For anyone who may not know, sitemap or sitemap.xml is a file that contains every page that webmaster thinks are important and search engine should index them. It also helps search bots crawl your site faster.

Regarding duplicate content issues, the URLs you put in sitemap can be viewed as canonical URL. For sites that have a thousand pages or more, sitemap could be a very efficient way to deal with duplicate content.

To best execute this method, only put your canonical link in your sitemap.

However, Google also said that this method does not ultimately resolve the problem. Sitemap is just another criteria it looks for when you don’t use canonical tag. Therefore, adding canonical tag is still preferred.

If you want to know how to submit a sitemap to your search engine, please read this article.

For rending sitemap in Joomla, you could check out these extensions.

7. Using Google Search Console

Another way to get rid of duplicate URLs is by using Google Search Console.

Google provides us - webmasters- an excellent tool for keeping track of our site. Duplicate content is one of the issues will pop up in the dashboard when they find one.

There are 3 ways we can use this tools to get rid of duplicate contents:

  • Submit sitemap
  • Choose preferred domain - to deal with www or non-www issue
  • Using Parameter

7.1 Submit sitemap

As discussed earlier in the previous section, submit your sitemap is a way to deal with duplicate content. Consider this method when you have a big site.

7.2 Choose preferred domain

Www or non-www sites could be viewed as one of the reasons lead to duplicate content. It’s best when you tell search engine only to show one of them.

These steps below is how you choose preferred domain with Search Console.

Step 1: Login to your Search Console.
Step 2: Choose Site setting.
Step 3: Choose Preferred domain.

Choose preferred domain in Search Console

7.3 Using parameter

Parameter is a complicated but very effective to deal with duplicate content caused by having parameter in the URL.

Parameter can be a very wide range of items. You could find some parameter very familiar as “sort”, “utm”, “aff”, etc.

I will give you a small example for you to get the idea of this method.

forum/question/jsn-cube-update.html?sort=latest could be a duplicate content from forum/question/jsn-cube-update.html

Parameter will help you decide whether you want search engine bots to crawl the URL with “sort” or not.

To use parameter, let’s follow these steps:
Step 1: Login to your Search Console
Step 2: In the dashboard, go Crawl/URL Parameters
Step 3: You can Add more parameter or see the list they have for you.
Step 4: Choosing specific action for Googlebot to crawl

Parameter in Search Console

This technique is advanced so you can look to this documentation for reference.

Note: UTM parameter in URL will not cause duplicate content.

 

Outdated method for dealing with duplicate content in Joomla

There are some old school techniques that have been popular in the past, but due to updates from search engines, these methods are suggested not to follow.

1. Blocking with robots.txt

The robots.txt file is the one that instructs the search engines on how to index a website. In Joomla, it is included in the standard package and available via link yourdomain.com/robots.txt.

Thanks to it, we can shut down some parts in the Joomla site and define instruction to the default data to disallow the “/ * ?” element.

For example, if I enter “Disallow: /?/” in the robot.txt, all the URL that contains “?will be blocked from crawling.

However, after Google Panda update, all the sites which have been blocked will be marked as a unique one, whereas they should be marked as a duplicate page.

Also, all the links that linked to the blocked page will get a 404 error. It will harm your ranking in total.

2. Remove URL

Search engines provide you with “Remove URL” features. Like blocking with a robots.txt file, the URL will only get removed in your site. However, in Search Engine result pages, the blocked URL still gets listed as well as in other pages that use the link.

Therefore, it’s bad for users and doesn’t resolve duplicate content properly.

Try using other methods we listed above and avoid these techniques.

Conclusion

Duplicate content is a painful problem when you are using Joomla. However, every problem has a solution, and we have provided you the best ways to deal with it.

I hope after this article, the duplicate content issue is just “somebody you used to know”.

If you have any doubt with these methods, feel free to give your thoughts in the comment section. I will try my best to make things clear for you.

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