Duplicate content is defined by Google as “blocks of content within or across domains that completely match or are similar”. And believe it or not, it makes up a staggering 29% of the internet. That’s almost a third of all words on the web which aren’t unique – which is highly confusing to search engines.
If your site contains duplicate content, the information on those pages will just get lost and you won’t attract nearly as much traffic as you could. Here’s why:
- Search engines don’t know which version to include or exclude.
- Search engines don’t know where to direct the link metrics for that content.
- Search engines don’t know which version to rank in search results.
- There is no value or expertise within duplicate content and, therefore, no reason for search engines to favour it.
Crucially, Google says the following about how it will treat duplicate content:
“The lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the main content on a page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Such pages should be rated lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source.”
So, obviously, copy and paste is not our friend. When it comes to creating content, “unique” and “longform” are key words – give users what they are looking for and you will be rewarded.
However, if you discover existing duplicate content on your site, there are steps you can take to make things right. A duplicate content strategy is essential in creating a quality site – as told at this year’s Brighton SEO conference by Eleni Cashell, UK Editor of Hotcourses.
Whether new to the industry or the founder of a company, a properly planned strategy will easily avoid search engine penalties. Being flexible and adaptable is key, and while you don’t necessarily need a lot of money or resources, it does require time, perseverance and a way with words.
Where does duplicate content come from?
Here are the most common sources of duplicated content:
- Product descriptions from manufacturers.
- Freelancers who pitch to multiple sites.
- Clients who pay you to be on their site and have limited resources.
- Press releases which potentially go out to hundreds of publishers.
Identifying duplicate content
There are several ways of finding out if your content is unique:
- Paste your link into CopyScape for a list of results with similar content.
- Do an internal duplicate content check on Siteliner.
- For specific pages, paste a line or two of your content into a search engine.
- Use Google Search Console (under Search Appearance and HTML Improvements).
How to fix duplicate content
Once you’ve found the pesky duplicate content, what should you do with it? (Hint: don’t just delete it all immediately). Your plan of attack should start with the following:
- Carry out an audit – go through your entire site and record which pages need attention. (Our free Content Audit whitepaper will help with this).
- Tell Google where to send traffic with canonical tags, which redirect duplicate content URLs to your required ones.
- Pick your primary canonical URL and use cross-domain canonical link elements. Ensure that this is built into your sitemap.
- Do not attempt to take shortcuts by peppering your duplicate content with synonyms and related words – this is just counterproductive. The best content for SEO is natural - see this excellent MOZ article on Semantic Search.
Assemble your team
Decide who will be involved in implementing your duplicate content strategy. You will ideally need to involve:
- An SEO expert.
- A sales representative.
- A content writer.
- A point of contact for anyone providing content.
Form your gameplan
Ensure that your strategy runs smoothly from the start by properly communicating your plan to all involved parties. The less potential for confusion and misunderstanding, the better. Address each of the following:
- Who will rewrite the content?
- How much content needs rewriting?
- Who will be impacted the most?
- How much budget can be allocated to the strategy?
- How much resource do you have? Is external help needed?
Write clear, concise guidelines
Create a shared spreadsheet for everyone to communicate in, to keep everything under one roof and make the process easy to follow. Make clear what is happening and record everything in this document, without forgetting any of the following:
- Summarise what you're doing, the reasons why, and how it will be carried out.
- Outline what you will and won’t need.
- Set clear rules about what team members can and cannot do.
- Give firm deadlines for providing alternative content.
- Update the document when links to newly-created content are live.
- Maintain a consistent strategy across multiple accounts, so that all clients receive the same service with no risk of conflicting messages.
Report on the success of your strategy
Once your duplicate content strategy has been carried out, keep an eye on traffic to measure and report back on results. Remember why you implemented the strategy in the first place and continuously measure its effectiveness.
Promote successes on social media and shout about the fact that your content is unique!
Most of all, don’t ever undo your hard work by allowing more duplicate content on your site. You don’t need telling twice!