When you have a blog post, landing page, product description or other piece of web content that is working well for you, the temptation to use the same copy elsewhere is real. That’s probably why we get this question all the time: Does duplicate content affect SEO?
Yes. Absolutely. And make no mistake — the effect is a negative one.
We get it. Business owners and entrepreneurs are busy. Who has the time to write original content for every single page and post? Few people do, but the investment in original content is worth it if you want to give your website the best chance of ranking well for relevant keywords. Below, we take you through the SEO hazards duplicate content can bring and how you can avoid them. Read on.
At Hire a Writer, everything we write for our clients is original, optimized for search engines and crafted to convert readers into customers. If that’s the kind of content you want on your website, drop us a line.
Defining Duplicate Content
On its face, duplicate content is a concept that’s relatively easy to understand. It’s just content that’s the same as other content. When you’re talking about duplicate content online, you’re talking about content that appears at more than one URL.
That’s simple enough, but it’s important to understand that content can be considered duplicate down to the sentence level. In other words, you can have two very different web pages with distinct titles, purposes and tones, but if they share a few sentences in common, you have a duplicate content issue.
The SEO Risks of Duplicate Content
Let’s get this out of the way: Google does not officially penalize sites for duplicate content. But anyone who has been keeping up with the SEO world for a while can tell you that Google’s official rules are not always reflective of the exact rules the search giant plays by.
With that said, Google does openly discuss the duplicate content issue. After all, at least one expert has estimated that more than 25% of the entire internet is duplicate content. The basic takeaway from Google’s discussion of duplicate content is this: usually, duplicate content is not a malicious attempt to manipulate search rankings, but when it appears that the duplication might have some sneaky intentions behind it, Google may take action against the site.
Despite Google’s somewhat confusing position on duplicate content, there are some clear SEO risks of duplicating content. Let’s take a look.
The whole point of SEO is to increase your website’s rankings for relevant keywords in Google results. But if you are duplicating content — whether it’s from other pages on your own site or other sites entirely — you run the risk of hampering your SEO efforts.
Why? Because Google has clearly stated that it may reduce the rankings of sites that appear to be duplicating content with the intent of gaming the search engine’s algorithm.
Removal from Google’s Index
This is another potential penalty associated with duplicating content on your site. Although it’s extremely rare, Google can remove your site from its index entirely if you appear to be duplicating content with the intention of manipulating the search results.
To be 100% clear, this is the absolute worst thing that can happen to your site from an SEO perspective. It means your site will not appear in search results for any keywords. Your organic traffic will drop to near zero, and you will likely lose business because of that.
Pages Competing for Rankings
There’s also the issue of confusing the search engine. If you have two pages with the exact same information on them, Google may not know which one deserves to rank for particular keywords. The result can be diluted ranking power for both pages that contain the duplicate content.
Individual Pages May Not Rank
In some cases, Google may decide that one page deserves to rank and another page with duplicate content shouldn’t be in the index at all. This issue is especially common for ecommerce sites, and it leads to seriously negative outcomes.
Here’s how it can happen: you run an ecommerce site, and on that site, you have several products. Each of those products has variations that are similar to the base product but different enough to have their own product page. Instead of writing a unique description for the variations, you duplicate the base product description. Suddenly, Google sees this duplicate content and decides to rank just one of the variation pages. The rest fall out of the index and get little to no traffic or sales.
Diluted Link Equity
Whether you’re actively pursuing backlinks or just racking them up organically, you need to know that there is SEO power in backlinks. The pages on your site that other sites link to will rise in the rankings in almost every case.
So, what happens if you have several pages on your site with the same content? When the owner of another site reads one of them and likes the content, they may want to link to it from their site. That’s one backlink, but then another of the duplicate pages gets a backlink.
Instead of having two strong backlinks pointing at a single page (making it more authoritative and rank-worthy in Google’s eyes), you have two pages with one backlink each. If you want to risk diluting your link equity and limiting your rankings, duplicate content is the way to do it.
How to Avoid Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is serious business. If you care at all about your site’s ability to rank well in search engines, you need to avoid duplicate content at all costs. Here are a few ways to do that:
Combine similar pages. If you have two or more pages on your site that contain largely similar information, consider combining them into one larger, more powerful, more informative page.
Be careful when syndicating your content. If you syndicate your content to press release services or other blogs, you run the risk of the other site’s version of your content ranking instead of your original version. You can give yourself a better chance of avoiding this issue by including a link back to your original from the syndicated version and asking the site you are syndicating to to use a no index tag to block search engines from indexing it.
Don’t use boilerplate language. A lot of website owners like to use the same about-the-company paragraph or call to action in every blog post they publish. Please — don’t do this. It’s called boilerplate language, and it absolutely counts as duplicate content. Write original CTAs every time, and reserve your “about us” information for a dedicated about page you can link to from blog posts.
Use redirects. If you have duplicate pages on your site that are the result of a redesign or restructuring of the site, you can use 301 redirects to point all the duplicates to the version that you want to rank in search engines.
Canonicalize. Canonicalization isn’t perfect, but it’s one way you can tell Google that you prefer one page over the duplicated versions that are on your site. To do this, make sure your preferred version is the one linked to in your sitemap, and label it with the rel=canonical tag.
Be original. This one requires the most work, but it’s the most effective way to avoid duplicate content: don’t write duplicate content. Ever. Just be original. It takes time and hard work, but the results are worth it.
Need Original, Optimized, Outstanding Content? Hire a Writer
Duplicate content does affect SEO, but there’s another great way to avoid it: work with an experienced SEO copywriter who can make sure every word on your site is 100% original. The added bonus is that the content will be perfectly optimized, crafted to convert and designed to engage your audience.
That’s exactly what we offer at Hire a Writer. Our team of expert copywriters is ready to write the content you need to grow your business. Get in touch.