Duplicate content and SEO


Duplicate content and SEO

Updated March 2021

We know that duplicate content and SEO can seem like a minefield. With so many articles online about it that use complex and confusing language, it’s often considered a topic that should only be ventured into by digital marketers. But duplicate content and SEO can impact those in any industry that has an online presence; including law firms.

So we want to show you what duplicate content is, how you can detect duplicate content and other key aspects to clear this confusion up. Bridging the gap, we want everyone to understand why duplicate content can be bad and why you should avoid it.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is a set piece of text (or other content) that appears on the internet in more than one place. If you’ve written exactly the same content as another website has, it will be defined as a duplicate.

Nowadays, it might seem difficult to write original content. And whilst in actual fact, there are no explicit penalties associated with duplicate content, if you don’t want your rankings to be affected, you’ll want to stay away from it.

Google might find it difficult to rank the duplicate content and will have to decide which site's content be the original. This could result in your content being considered less relevant.

How do I check for duplicate content on my site?

When you’re writing your content, it might unintentionally be the same as other published content. So, it can be a good idea to double-check everything that you write using plagiarism tools.

Through these tools, you’ll identify if your content is unique.

Although there are paid tools such as Grammarly and Plagium, there are also several free sites that you can use:

With each of these featuring their own handy tools, they will highlight the duplicated content and show you the percentage at which it matches other existing content on your site. If you’re still unsure if the content is duplicated, you can use a variety of different plagiarism checkers – this will give you a more accurate result.

You can view research that selected 8 commonly used and free plagiarism checker sites and tested each one, providing pros and cons for each, here.

If you’re at all concerned about duplicate content, this is an essential stage in the process. It will put your mind at ease when it comes to publishing new content.

Is duplicate content bad for my SEO?

If you’re still wondering whether duplicate content is bad, this might answer your question.

As mentioned above, Google will rank your content on individuality and uniqueness. So, if it finds your content is the same as (or substantially similar to) other published content (and also, that it happens regularly), you could lose your web page’s search engine rankings. But that’s not the only reason it’s bad for your SEO.

As well as not ranking certain pages, Google won’t even index them. The Google Index lists all of the web pages that it’s aware of. If you want your content to be included in the results pages after a Google search and for it to rank well, you need it to be indexed.

A common reason behind it not being indexed is that the crawl budget could be being wasted on the duplicate content you’re producing. For those that don’t know, a crawl budget is the number of pages that Google indexes on a website within a set period of time. With an increasing number of new websites being published in recent times, crawl budgets are stretched and some new sites will find that even quality pages are taking longer to index than they did, say five years ago.

What if your duplicate content is accidental rather than deliberate?

When duplicate content is accidental, Google can often understand that it’s not done maliciously or as a way to rank well using ‘black hat’ marketing strategies. Yes, there are content scrapers that exist that ‘steal’ content from other websites in order to rank highly on Google (or another search engine).

But if you do accidentally publish some duplicate content, it will just result in your content ranking lower than the original site. So, it’s a better idea to try and avoid it by using those plagiarism tools that are available to you.

Can you duplicate your own content?

Lots of people duplicate their own content across their website; for example, if they have a handful of category pages that are the same or substantially similar. And although Google won’t penalise you for this, it may affect your website in terms of SEO.

When someone is searching for something, these duplicated pages will all appear (possibly in a series of results, one after the other), resulting in some of your pages receiving more traffic than others. If you want to stop this from happening, ensure that you have an SEO professional on hand that will advise you as to which pages need adjusting.

Alternatively, you can search within your website for duplicate content by doing a simple trick:

Type Site:yourwebsitename.comintitle: target phrase

This will restrict your search to your website only. Generating results that correlate to that specific phrase you enter, it will show you all of the pages which feature content around it. You can then go into each individual page and rewrite the content so that it’s unique.

Will my site be penalised for duplicate content?

People often wonder whether Google penalises sites with duplicate content. The simple answer is no; when it comes to accidental duplication.

However, if the intent is to be deceptive or to manipulate the results that come from a search query, they might be penalised.

In this case, your content may be removed from search results. If you notice that it’s been removed, you should review Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to see how to adjust it. Once you’ve made the appropriate changes laid out by Google and you’ve run all the content through a checker, you can re-submit your URL for inspection with Google Search Console.

Google is constantly updating its duplicate content policies. Detailing its approach to duplicate content, its indexing process, how you should keep URLs ‘friendly’ and more.,Webmaster guidelines are a useful resource to use when you’re creating new content for your website.

Final thoughts

Make sure you look at your website through the eyes of your clients and site visitors. They are searching online for useful and informative content, not duplicated content. If they keep seeing the same content over and over again, they get pretty frustrated, pretty quickly. Remember, user experience is key to high site performance.

So, spend time to ensure that all of your content is well-written and unique so that your visitors will have the best experience possible when they’re on your site.

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