Use Excerpts to Avoid Duplicate Content Problems

WordPress is an extremely flexible platform. One aspect of it’s flexibility is that it provides many different sorts of aggregate pages, you can choose to show your posts chronologically, grouped by your tags and/or grouped by category. And of course the home page shows a list of your posts unless you have chosen to show a static page instead. However having all these different ways to show the same content can be seen as duplicate content by the search engines.

Unfortunately duplicate content in wordpress is a rather complex topic, but in this post I want to focus on just one aspect that has a relatively straightforward solution to it. But first let’s understand the problem better. When I talk about duplicate content, I am talking about content that is the same across multiple pages of your site. This is beyond having duplicate pages. Google and the other search engines essentially don’t want to see the same block of content on multiple page. Which is precisely what you have when you have category, tag, home and archive pages showing your posts in their entirety.

So what’s the answer? Simple, you want to have your aggregate pages to not show the full length of the each post. You want an excerpt of the post (essentially an summary) to show on these pages.

So what you can do?

  • Use the ‘More ‘ tag to create teasers of your post on the home and other aggregate pages. Teasers are not excerpts but still provides a way to show the first part of the post.
  • Install an excerpt plugin such as Homepage Excerpt Plugin.
  • Update the appropriate php file (such as as index.php) to use “the_excerpt()” rather than “the_content()”.

Although the last option seems a bit scary, for me it was the easiest and fastest option. Adding tags to more than 100 posts seemed like a lot of work. Here are the steps I took to implement option 3:

  1. Appearance –> theme editor
  2. Selected the index.php
  3. Highlighted the entire file and made a copy (in case of a problem)
  4. Located “the_content(Read ..)” and replaced it with “the_excerpt()”
  5. Saved my changes

For a good explanation of the issue and to see a demo of editing the file check out this video:

Manual vs. Automatic Excerpts

The wordpress “the_excerpt()” code will create a summary of the first 55 words of your post unless there is a manual excerpt available. If there is, it will show the manual excerpt as well. Manual excerpts are hand crafted summaries that you write in a field that is typically right under the main post field.

To truly create unique content on your home and other aggregate pages, use manual excerpts. It’s not only a good thing for SEO but also it is your opportunity to write an inviting summary to entice a reader to click to the whole post. Does your first paragraph of your post give an good and inviting overview on the topic you are writing on? If not write an manual excerpt.

Today’s themes tend to use excerpts, they even have thumbnail images that are displayed with the excerpt. However if your theme does not, then you either need to change it to use excerpts or upgrade to a new theme.

More on excerpts from the WordPress codex.

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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Leave a Comment:

Vincent says April 20, 2011

Very good information. Duplicate content is a problem we must avoid, you can see the solution that I created to minimize its effects.

I hope this helps.

Shane says May 3, 2011

dude- I was installing one excerpt plugin after the other, no one quite broke it down like you. I did exactly what you said and I now have excerpts on my home page. BTW I am using the twenty ten theme. You saved me from having to change themes. Thank you.

Why I noindex tags in the All in One SEO settings says June 17, 2011

[…] exception is if you have written unique manual excerpts for your posts (they are different than your your main post) AND the excerpt is shown (many themes […]

When to index WordPress Category Pages says August 7, 2011

[…] Use manual excerpts: Instead of having your them show the full posts on your category page (or the first bit up to the more tag), craft unique excerpts for each posts. Your first paragraph is not always a great representation of the post, create a nice little summary of the post and highlight the benefits for the user to click through it. Again, many themes do not show the excerpts but this is not too hard to change, here’s my post on using excerpts […]

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