Is it a problem to duplicate content across 2 domains in same language with href lang?

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I currently have a Belgian website written in Dutch, let's call it examplemysite.be where I have around 300 blog posts that contain product reviews.
Around a year ago I started publishing duplicate content on examplemysite.nl (also in Dutch).
I mainly did this because I saw a direct competitor duplicate his examplecompetitorsite.nl to examplecompetitorsite.be.
I did employ any href lang or link rel alternate in my articles.

The main issue now is that for every article I update on examplemysite.be I also have to copy that content to examplemysite.nl.
Other issues are that I pay for a extra hosting spot and have an additional site to run.
I also fear that I'm confusing Google with my duplicate content.

In Google Analytics I can see that examplemysite.be has 60% Belgian visitors and 40% Dutch visitors.
The examplemysite.nl has 85% Dutch visitors and 15% Belgian visitors.
Because I have so many Dutch visitors on the examplemysite.be I was contemplating about putting permanent redirects from the examplemysite.nl to the examplemysite.be in order to reduce overhead costs and avoid having duplicate content.

Is there someone who can give some advice whether it is best to run one website or two websites in this scenario?
 

Ryuzaki

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I'm trying to understand why you did this in the first place. Simply because you saw a competitor do it?

The reason I'm confused is that the Netherlands' official language is Dutch and in Belgium about 60% of the population also speaks Dutch, right?

So the only thing you've really done is change the domain extension from .be to .nl to try to take advantage of geo-targeting, if I'm assuming right. But with these countries being about 100 miles apart, I feel like Google would have surfaced your Dutch language site to either users regardless.

It wouldn't surprise me if Google isn't already applying internal canonicals from one to the other, if you test it out in Search Console.

I could be wrong. I don't have a lot of personal experience with dealing with this kind of thing. But my inclination is that you doubled your workload for a reason that didn't warrant it, and I'd undo it with the 301 redirects. Hopefully someone with more experience can speak up.
 

ToffeeLa

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So the only thing you've really done is change the domain extension from .be to .nl to try to take advantage of geo-targeting, if I'm assuming right. But with these countries being about 100 miles apart, I feel like Google would have surfaced your Dutch language site to either users regardless.

It wouldn't surprise me if Google isn't already applying internal canonicals from one to the other, if you test it out in Search Console.

I could be wrong. I don't have a lot of personal experience with dealing with this kind of thing. But my inclination is that you doubled your workload for a reason that didn't warrant it, and I'd undo it with the 301 redirects. Hopefully someone with more experience can speak up.
It also depends on the geographic intent of a search - whether it is language-based, geography-based or independent of both. If for example you wanted to find a widget near you or you were searching for something with a physical location (e.g. childcare).

In the case of the second, Google will tend to surface country sites to country users. (To be clear, I'm going from my own experience in a similar situation, not being an expert in Benelux search.) Also note that a decent amount of searchers in each country will be starting from Google.nl or Google.be, depending on location, which may influence the results as above.

Lastly, moving on from search and having worked with someone from Belgium, Flemish is not exactly the same as Dutch and there are usage differences which would be obvious to each community if you are trying to localise. (A more extreme example would be the occasional horror of native French speakers listening to or reading Québécois or Swiss French.)
 
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I'm trying to understand why you did this in the first place. Simply because you saw a competitor do it?

The reason I'm confused is that the Netherlands' official language is Dutch and in Belgium about 60% of the population also speaks Dutch, right?

So the only thing you've really done is change the domain extension from .be to .nl to try to take advantage of geo-targeting, if I'm assuming right. But with these countries being about 100 miles apart, I feel like Google would have surfaced your Dutch language site to either users regardless.

It wouldn't surprise me if Google isn't already applying internal canonicals from one to the other, if you test it out in Search Console.

I could be wrong. I don't have a lot of personal experience with dealing with this kind of thing. But my inclination is that you doubled your workload for a reason that didn't warrant it, and I'd undo it with the 301 redirects. Hopefully someone with more experience can speak up.
Yes, because we saw them rank very quickly in Belgian search results with duplicate content on their .be domain.
You're right that 60% of the population in Belgium speaks Dutch.
But as ToffeeLa points out Dutch in Flanders is different from Dutch spoken in the Netherlands.
Every visitor will quickly notice if an article is written by someone from Flanders or from the Netherlands.

How can I check for internal canonicals in the Search Console?
 

Ryuzaki

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How can I check for internal canonicals in the Search Console?
You can paste the URL in question into the URL Inspection Tool at the top and it'll give you back some information about its status. I'd check both versions of several pages on both sites and see what Google has to say there.

Could be that they aren't doing these canonicals, but if they are then for sure I would reduce my workload, especially if these aren't geo-targeted or language based articles like @ToffeeLa brought up, and are just run-of-the-mill information articles.

You're not doing any active translation are you? You're just copy and pasting right? No fixes for dialect peculiarities, etc.?
 
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You can paste the URL in question into the URL Inspection Tool at the top and it'll give you back some information about its status. I'd check both versions of several pages on both sites and see what Google has to say there.

Could be that they aren't doing these canonicals, but if they are then for sure I would reduce my workload, especially if these aren't geo-targeted or language based articles like @ToffeeLa brought up, and are just run-of-the-mill information articles.

You're not doing any active translation are you? You're just copy and pasting right? No fixes for dialect peculiarities, etc.?
I checked a few URL's in the Inspection Tool and everything is green there, no mention of canonicals.
We're just copy-pasting, not adjusting for dialects.

Thanks for your responses, with your feedback I will implement following changes:
- set permanent redirects from the .nl domain to the .be domain
- solely use Belgian copywriters from now on
- focus on answering search queries within Belgium