Copying work is never okay. However, a lot of content online is unintentionally copied in multiple places. It could be a web page advertising a product or even a post in a forum.
When it comes to duplicate content, there are things to look out for. Let's define it, see what having duplicate content means for your website, and if Google will penalize you for having it.
What is Duplicate Content?
Duplicate content is content that appears more than once under one URL address. If we had this same article, filled with the exact text, posted on our Confectionary page, that would be an example of duplicate content.
According to Google itself:
"Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin." (Source: Google Search Central)
Emphasis on the 'not deceptive in origin.' Usually, when we think of anything duplicated online, it has a nasty, plagiarist air. It's not always the case.
For example, the same content can be as innocuous as an Internet forum posting info from another site or links to pages advertising a product.
Duplicate content is found all over the Internet, whether its search engine results to social media platforms, making up nearly a third of the web.
How Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?
With Google, duplicate content can present some problems. And while there's no duplicate content penalty, it can affect SEO. Let's see some prevalent duplicate content issues.
Firstly, duplicate content skews the way that Google indexes search results. If a site presented you with duplicate content from one source, which one would you choose as the cornerstone content?
This is a massive issue if you're looking to see meaningful SEO results during your marketing campaigns.
Challenging Your Authority
Even if it's your first day as an SEO copywriter, you know how important a website's authority can be in your industry. Your web presence becomes more prevalent, relevant, and widespread with expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
When you have instances of duplicate content, your site's authority takes a hit. As with indexing issues, Google doesn't know which of your pieces of content is the one it should be focusing on. This divides and waters down your E.A.T. page capabilities.
Aside from E.A.T. pages, duplicate content simply won't differentiate between content for search results. For someone working in SEO or on an SEO initiative for a website, this should be setting off alarm bells.
A great way that Google points you in the right direction is through canonical pages. Canonical pages essentially tell Google which page of duplicate content is the 'real' page or the one it should focus search results on.
"A canonical URL is the URL of the page that Google thinks is most representative from a set of duplicate pages on your site. For example, if you have URLs for the same page (example.com?dress=1234 and example.com/dresses/1234), Google chooses one as canonical.
The pages don't need to be absolutely identical; minor changes in sorting or filtering of list pages don't make the page unique (for example, sorting by price or filtering by item color). The canonical URL can be in a different domain than a duplicate URL." (Source: Google Search Central)
Is There A Duplicate Content Penalty From Google?
No, there is no duplicate content penalty from Google.
However, your search engine rankings can take a hit if you have duplicate content. Remember indexing and rankings? That's why if you choose to use duplicate content, you do it strategically.
Can You Use Duplicate Content To Your Advantage?
Yes. As long as your page offers something of use to the Internet user, duplicate content can be an asset. Now, this doesn't mean you totally lean into duplicate content, making all of your SEO pages different versions of the same thing.
But here's an interesting strategy for SEO copywriters out there.
An interesting and valuable method of writing about the same topic is to invert it. How? By taking the opposite approach. Here's an example.
Recently, we went over the '7 Questions To Ask A Copywriter.' Since copywriting is a topic with a lot of meat, we wanted to delve in again. But how do we do it? By taking the opposite approach.
Instead of questions to ask a copywriter, we flip it to '6 Questions Your Copywriter Should Be Asking You.' This way, we can explore a topic in detail without worrying about Google flagging it as duplicate content.
Final Thoughts on Duplicate Content
Although duplicate content is much more than simply plagiarizing someone's work, we feel it's vital to reiterate NEVER to steal someone's work. Always credit the author.
With that being said, duplicate content is an often misunderstood and feared aspect of SEO. As long as you're aware of how Google determines duplicate content and its effect on your SEO, you can make higher-quality web pages with content that people will want to engage.