What's Considered 'Duplicate Content' & Why it Matters for Search Engine Optimization

September 15, 2014

If you copied another's essay in school and were caught, you'd undoubtedly get in trouble. Plagiarizing another person's work on the web is equally as serious as it is when it occurs offline, but did you know that you can even get yourself in trouble for copying your own work online? If you're struggling to wrap your head around how that's even possible, I'll explain.

Even if you're at all in-tune with search engine optimization, what's considered 'duplicate content' can be a bit confusing. As the name implies, 'duplicate content' includes any copy that appears on more than one page of a website, or that has been copied from one site and used on another.

The risks associated with trying to pass another's work off as your own, without asking for the original author's permission and citing the copy properly, are pretty clear. For the purposes of this post, I won't be referring to straight-up plagiarism because it's an obvious no-no. Instead, I'll be referring to those instances where copy appears in more than one place on one site.

Duplicate Content & Search Engine Optimization

Just so we're clear, duplicating one's own content can be something as small as using the same line of text at the bottom of a couple of your site's pages to using entire paragraphs in multiple places across your site. In our experience, duplicate content is most often found in product or service descriptions; one or two lines of original text describing a product followed by several sentences that are also used in other product descriptions.

Now, while duplicating your own content won't have legal consequences, your efforts to achieve those top rankings and the improved traffic volumes you seek can be hindered. Why invest in search engine optimization if duplicate content prevents you from achieving real results?

Here's How Duplicate Content Can Affect Your Site, Despite What Google Says

While Google representatives have said that only websites with 'spammy' duplicate content are penalized, even when the most naturally written copy appears across more than one page of a website, you can be inadvertently penalized. Here's how:

  • Search engines must choose which URL they think is the original source of the copy
  • Whichever page is chosen as the original source will be ranked for relevant keyword terms, not the page they deem is the duplicate, even if it isn't

Like you, Google wants to satisfy their customers (people searching the web), and they don't think that search results where the same content appears again and again is the way to do it. In the grand scheme of things, a page that contains duplicate content might as well not exist at all, because it will do very little, if anything, in the way of helping you to achieve those top spots in the search results.

Ensure that every line of text on every page or post on your website is working to help build your rock-solid online presence. To learn more about how duplicate content can and will affect your search engine optimization efforts, call us at (780) 539-SALT.

About Angie Saltman

I'm President and Visionary Lead at Saltmedia.  Hi! I’m a big ideas person with an extensive technical and creative background. Together with my fantastic team, we bring great ideas to life. Let’s put our heads together and create some success!
We love building great websites and creating effective marketing strategies. Let’s spice up your online presence today!
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