You may have heard that duplicate content is a bad idea for your website, and I often get asked the question “how different does my content need to be?” Some website owners even copy and paste huge chunks of sales rhetoric from supplier sites and think it’s fine (E-commerce Managers I’m looking at you).
First, I’ll dispel the myth that still gets banded around even the savviest digital marketers:
There is no Google penalty for duplicate content.
This was put to bed in a Q&A around this subject last year and the very keen amongst you can watch the full-length video here. You won’t be penalised as such, but if your content looks the same as all the other content out there, search engines will find it difficult to show your content above anyone else’s (or in some cases at all).
It is also worth clarifying that if you use other people’s content to manipulate rankings, you will fall foul of Google’s quality guidelines and risk expulsion from the results pages.
What Is Duplicate Content?
In a nutshell, it is content in which large chunks have been published elsewhere on the web, or on your own website. A Google Search Console Help Centre article states that content is duplicate when:
“…substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content, or are appreciably similar.”
Why Does Duplicate Content Harm Your Website?
Although we have established that there is no penalty as such for duplicate content, it can still harm your site’s performance by:
- Preventing your pages from ranking in the search results. Google will take cues from the pages it has in its index and will show the most relevant page to the searchers’ query in all cases.
- Diluting your link profile where content is in two or more places on your own website. Have one strong page with good content and high-quality backlinks and it will always be better than the same subject being split into two.
- Creating confusion as to who is the originator of the content, and even then, Google may have trouble determining who published it first.
How Much Repetition Is OK to Have on Your Website?
You’ll notice that I used a direct quote from another website in this post. Quoting from another source is fine. Replicating chunks of text verbatim without adding any additional value won’t benefit your users. I would consider whether to include such content at all.
Some examples of duplicates which naturally arise are:
- Specifications in product descriptions.
- Products appearing in more than one category on your e-commerce website.
- Pages of content which appear in two places on your website (for businesses or consumers, for example).
- Using another website’s content openly (press releases or feeds for local events, for example).
Tips for Ensuring Your Content Is Original
- When writing product descriptions, try to include more information than just the bulleted specification for the product. Tell your customers why they should buy from you above anyone else.
- Products appearing in more than one category, and pages appearing in two places can be resolved using a canonical URL on the duplicate to acknowledge the original source.
- When using another website’s content openly to provide additional value to your audience, consider the rest of your content. If it has value, there’s likely nothing more you’ll need to do. Just know that it probably won’t rank well, if at all. I would make sure you acknowledge the author, more out of courtesy than any tangible SEO benefit.
It’s important to realise that search engines aren’t out to penalise us for no reason. Not ranking well for a phrase, and you think duplicated content could be your problem? Keep the following in mind when you create any content for your website:
Make it unique, make it useful, make it engaging, make it targeted to your own audience.
It’s as simple as that. I hope this gives you a good overview of why duplication in your content can be harmful to your website. If your site is struggling and you aren’t getting the best from your SEO efforts, why not contact us to start seeing real results.