Duplicate content: the nightmare of SEO
By Marion Hirtzig - SEO Consultant.
Once upon a time, on-site optimisation
Recently we have been faced with a bad case of duplicate content while improving a new client's website. It started with an ordinary process of on-site optimisation, and ended up with needing to rewrite most of the content. Thankfully it is not a 100 page website, but still, it was unexpected!
While I was trying to develop the website content a bit more while making sure it used appropriate keywords, I found a few strange phrasings and Googled them out of curiosity. What did I find?
Arrival of the Villain
I found out that strangely enough the sentence was also used on a competitor’s website – and a neighbouring business locally, for that matter. It seemed they had copied from us, though I didn’t have enough information on the history of both sites to prove it. Honestly, if you want to steal someone else’s work you may want to choose someone from another county, or country even, don’t you think?
The right path
I couldn’t ignore the problem, so I decided to get to the bottom of it. Once you spot a problem you can’t ignore it, you must face it, and fix it. So I therefore started to look at the content with more suspicion, and searched on Google for different other unusual sentences and paragraphs. I found out that some paragraphs could found, word for word, on up to a dozen website in the same industry. So much for original content!
One could hope that after having been told repeatedly at school and university not to copy things from books or from the Internet, people would have understood by now. Apparently, this is not the case.
Can we live happily ever after?
Here are some of the reasons why duplicate content is bad for users, for SEO and for your business, and not only because Google says so:
1) Original content is better for your readers, who are looking for something new, different, better, so if you can, do your best to give them what they want, and show your value at the same time;
2) Isn't it more rewarding to write your own content? It does take time but it allows you to know what’s on the website, and makes it easier to ensure keywords and hyperlinks are used;
3) It is not that hard: read, digest and summarise. If you speak a foreign language you can even read articles and things on the subject – when possible – and then you don’t have any other choice than transfer it into English – and don’t even think of automated translation!
4) A website, like a blog post, reflects on you and your business and introduces you and your work to the world. Now is the time to get creative and show you are not just spouting the same unoriginal slogans such as “best competitive prices on the market” like hundreds of companies that claim the exact same thing. If that’s true of your business, prove and explain it in an original way!
The value of original content
A high quality website has valuable, engaging and unique content. If the content can be found in dozens of other places, that’s not good. Especially if your domain authority is low. All the bigger fish in the sea will rank better than you, not to mention that if Google thinks you’ve copied your content from somewhere else they may hurt your rankings. After all, if someone else has written it before you, why would people want to read your content?
The question of what content came first will generally be settled by the date of publication. However sometimes domain authority can backfire and if your blog is cited on a big newspaper website they may be considered as the original authors.
In doubt for anything search-engine related, remember to check Google’s Webmaster guidelines. As far as internal duplicate content is concerned, you can have a look at SEOMoz’s 2011 tips and their latest Whiteboard Friday video.
I know it is a tough world out there, and time is money, but honestly proper SEO does take time, and from a personal point of view, isn’t it more rewarding to be able to say “I am the one who created this”?
Original content is also better for your business or organisation. Creating original material distinguishes you from your competitors. Quality allows you to offer unique information that’s useful to your visitors, so they will trust you and want to use your services. If Content is King, then duplicate content is the court jester – don’t be fooled!