In school, copying others’ work is called plagiarism. Remember the times when your teacher warned you never to copy exact words from Wikipedia? I bet you were engulfed in fear of getting caught and sued by the law. All you wanted was a simple piece of text for your academic work.
Well, if you’re a blogger like me and you know this feeling, then I assume you want to know if Google has the same rules for copying content. You think big G is going to punish you for being a copycat of another blogger’s content.
But hold on, I want you to read this entire article to really understand how duplicate content works on the Internet. You’ll find out it’s not that bad to copy other’s work or rephrase it on your own. Plus, I’ll help you get over with duplicate content issues by showing you what to do.
A Quick Introduction to Duplicate Content
Here is Google’s definition of duplicate content:
Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.
Basically, if the blocks of text that you have can be found elsewhere in a different URL, then you can call it a duplicate. Normally, you might think it’s copy-paste’s fault, but this is where things get complicated.
Even if you’re not a bad guy who wants to cheat SEO, do you know that your website can generate duplicate content all by itself? Often times, you are unaware that copies are made as a result of some technical issues or actions you have done in the past.
Some examples include:
- www vs. non-www
- http vs. https
- no-slash vs. slash vs. /index.html
- printer-friendly pages
- syndicated content
- scraped content
- boilerplate content
- session IDs
- affiliate tracking
- product variations
- geo-keyword variations
- comment pagination
Basically anything that undergoes slight change in URL is prone to becoming duplicate content. Admittedly, this issue can be hard to address because it happens on the technical side of things.
But the real question is, what does it do to your SEO?
How Duplicate Content Affects Your Rankings
Having two or more versions of the same thing causes confusion to Google. Although the search engine can have a pretty good guess of which one is original, it can still make mistakes.
Imagine a blog post you published, which happens to have a duplicate in another domain. Since both pages are indexed, Google will have to choose which one is better. The winner gets the higher rank and the loser gets buried in the index. If the loser happens to be you, it will look like you’ve been “penalized” in the search engines.
The truth is, duplicate content is not a penalty at all. It’s not like Google Panda, Penguin or Hummingbird in which you get de-ranked by doing shady SEO tactics.
The reason why I’m confident in saying this is because Matt Cutts said it himself:
He mentions that duplicate content does happen frequently (around 25-30%) and is an issue that even Google will fail to interpret correctly. So it’s not a bad thing to have copies of content from other pages.
In general, if your intention for creating duplicate content is to game the search engines and create an unfair advantage, then you can expect a penalty coming your way.
How to Deal with Duplicate Content Issues
The truth is, you can leave your duplicate content unattended and let Google take care of it. But if you take the time to fix the issue, you might get rewarded with higher rankings. So how do you handle duplicate content? Here are some techniques you can use:
1. Do 301 Redirects
Links pointing to identical pages must be sorted out. If you’re going to create a new version of your old blog post, use a 301 redirect to point the old page to the new one. A plugin called simple 301 redirect will do the job.
2. Use the rel=”canonical” tag
What does canonicalization do? It assigns the content that is “original” so that Google knows what page to show higher in search results. You can place this inside the link tag (in HTML) that you want to declare as original and see how it will affect the page’s rankings.
3. Avoid having empty pages in your website
No one benefits from blank page content. But if you’re going to make one, make sure to noindex the link so that Google won’t see it. I once did this, but that was way back during my site’s early days because I didn’t have the content to place in my post yet. I realized that it was bad for SEO, so I saved it first as a draft.
4. Link back to the original source for citation
Don’t just copy a paragraph from Moz or HubSpot. Link back to them and use blockquotes to show professionalism in writing articles. Also, when you are syndicating your content, tell the other website to link back to you or noindex that content. In that way, Google knows which content is original.
5. File a DMCA/Spam/Scraper Report
When you notice someone who uses your content without asking for permission, take the necessary actions to sue them. Report the scraper for DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) or through Google’s Webspam or Scraper Report.
6. Use Copyscape for detecting plagiarism
Copyscape is a powerful tool for detecting copied content. I advise you check your site once in a while to see all the websites that use your content. Also, when outsourcing the article writing to others, use Copyscape to ensure that the work they made is original.
7. And of course, stay ORIGINAL and UNIQUE with your content
Nothing beats original content because that is “king”. Great content is the foundation of any online business and is one that will drive raving fans to your website. It might feel tempting to grab those fresh $1 PLR articles to have instant content or copy-paste other bloggers’ work. But remember, adding your own unique blend is always better.
For more tips and tricks, check out these related articles:
Have you experienced any duplicate content issues in your website? If so, what actions did you take to fix it? Let me know in the comments area and let’s talk about it.