The Ugly Truth About Duplicate Content & Its Impact on Your SEO

It’s true, Google states that duplicate content is not grounds for a site penalty unless it’s very obvious that the content is there to manipulate the search results. So why do SEO service providers get their feathers all ruffled up when they find out you’re copying all your product and brand descriptions straight from your suppliers?

Well my friends, it’s the simple fact that your copied website content has a very little chance to rank on the search result pages, forget about page 1 right now. If your intent was to seduce organic users to the copied content page – it’s just not going to happen with your look-alike content.

Plus on the odd chance that Google thinks you’re a demon spawn out to manipulate the search results for that prime position 1 rank then Google will take action. Your website will be removed entirely from its index.

You know what that means right? You will not exist in the world of Google, even if someone types in your brand name, you’re gone. It’s a nightmare you DO NOT want to ever deal with.

Google Knows What’s Copied Content

I know it’s scary to admit, but Google is a lot smarter than you think. Every year there are around 500-600 changes to Google’s search algorithm to improve the functionality. So it’s safe to say if you’re copying large blocks of text from another website, Google will know.

Around 25-30% of all content on the web is duplicated, some of it you just can’t avoid. Think about all those terms & conditions pages across the web and other standard blocks of text (which we refer to as ‘boilerplate text’) that can only be written or changed in certain ways. Google won’t get its kickers in a twist about this. But like everything, if you can be proactive you will put yourself and your website ahead of your competitors – you need to become BFF’s with Google stat.

While multiple pages across the web with largely identical content may not seem to harm your website, it can reduce the amount of organic traffic your website receives. This is why as SEO’s we say a big fat NO to any duplicated content on pages which are important to your business and need to be found by your customers. You need to be adding unique content which is of value and interest to readers first and foremost and then to Google.

What does Google do with duplicate content?

Basically Google groups all the duplicates together and then based on when the pages are crawled, the quality of the websites they are on and a host of other small details, it will decide which one is the original and give it the most power in the search results.

In Google’s mind, it is bad user experience for searchers to see the same content repeated on the search result pages on different domains. Google wants to give you as the searcher the best, most original and most trustworthy content – otherwise it won’t be the useful resource we know it as.

Let’s take a look at some best practices to deal with duplicate content that you may encounter.

Best practises when dealing with duplicate content

There are various scenarios why you may come across duplicate content. Whether it’s text which is copied on various pages within your own website, or text which is copied on or from other websites. The best way to deal with it, is to be proactive.  Here are some examples of what you can do when it comes to duplicate content according to Google’s best practises:

1. Using 301 permanent redirects within your website

By setting up a redirect from the duplicated page/s to the original content page you’re going to rank stronger. By eliminating these duplicates and having all the information on the 1 page you’ll reduce the competition between your webpages in the SERP’s (search engine result pages) as well as creating a stronger relevancy for that page. Win-win!

2. Using the Rel=”canonical” tag within your website

This tag is put at the head of a web page in html to basically tell Google and search engines that the page is a close copy of another page. The original URL is within the tag, so that search engines know where to go to find the right URL that deserves the credit in the search results.

The tag looks like this:
<link href=”https://www.example.com/canonical-version-of-page/” rel=”canonical” />

3. Using a noindex meta tag on your re-posted content on other websites

If you’re syndicating content (re-posting the same content) on other websites, this is a good one to be aware of. Alongside linking back to the original post you can ask publishers to use the noindex meta tag which will tell Google not to index their version of the content and instead give your original piece the glory in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Syndicating has come under the spotlight in 2015 with suspicions that Google may classify the links back to the original articles as unnatural links and therefore manipulative. So be very careful when syndicating content.

4. Rewrite the content in your own words

An issue many businesses come across is what to do if they are re-selling or distributing products or services from another brand. For example, if you own a sporting goods store and website and you’re selling Nike trainers, can’t you just copy and paste the product description straight from Nike’s marketing material or website? Technically you can, but you’re not going to rank very well in searches for those trainers, meaning low sales for you. Not only will Google know that Nike is the original writer of the content, but think of all the other online stores like yours who have also copied and pasted the same content on their websites.

In order to differentiate your website from the hoards of others writing the same thing about those trainers (or whatever product or service you’re reselling) you need to take the core messages and ideas from the brand’s marketing collateral, but rewrite it in your own words. And to really stand out to both search engines and potential customers, you should also add your own expertise with additional comment. Think about what you’d tell your customers if they asked about the product or service? Why do you think it’s good, what are the benefits, why do you sell it, what people or situations is it suited to, what people or situations is it not suited to? It is possible to tow the line between brands being precious about the content written on distributor websites about them, and making your website unique enough to protect your own rankings and sales.

How to check for duplicate content?

Here at White Chalk Road we use the duplicate content checker tool Copyscape which will inform you about duplicated content across your website as well as against other websites.

What to do if a copycat is using your content without permission?

On rare occasions Google may rank an URL from a site which you haven’t given permission to re-publish your content. If this does happen and you believe they’re in violation of copyright law you should contact the site’s webmaster to ask for it to be removed first and foremost. If you have no luck you can file a request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act here.

At the end of the day, if you’re using content found on other more trusted websites without any ‘value add’, DO NOT expect to rank high in Google and gain organic traffic. Google is on the hunt for unique, rich, relevant, informative and remarkable content for the SERP’s. If your site is full of high-quality, original content and lots of it, then you’ll be rewarded in the SERP’s with good rankings and that’s that.

If you’re after advice on how to improve your website content from an SEO perspective, make sure to get in touch with the team at White Chalk Road today who can steer you in the right direction.

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