The Truth About Duplicate Content

One of the biggest SEO myths is the dreaded “duplicate content penalty.”

Want to know the secret of SEO?

There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty.

You will never see a notification from Google Search Console that you have been penalized for duplicate content.

But this does not mean that your site is not penalized for having the same or similar content on multiple pages or even multiple sites.

When Google encounters the same content on a site – or multiple sites – the search engine algorithm determines which content to rank for.

In most cases, Google seems to be ranking the wrong content.

And if that happens, the shiny useful content you’ve worked so hard on may be as invisible as Wonder Woman’s jet.

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What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is exactly what it sounds like. It is when the same copy appears on two or more web pages.

Duplicate content can occur on your own site or be copied to another site that you do not control.

Duplicate content is Not Elements such as footers and other content that make sense to appear on multiple pages.

Google knows that this content isn’t the “gist” of what you’re trying to say, and it usually depends on your pagination – or how your page is designed.

You need to check for duplicate content

I’ve found that even experienced SEO professionals rarely check for duplicate content except at the beginning during technical detection.

This is a mistake.

Duplicate content can happen when someone else scrapes your site and posts your content as their own.

It also happens on websites because creating original content is difficult, and it may be easier to cut and paste content for similar pages.

I recommend setting up a schedule to monitor duplicate content.

Some tools automatically monitor duplicate content regularly and send an alert when it is found.

Monitor duplicate content

There are many different tools available to monitor duplicate content.

We use three different tools.

Our first choice is Smash.

in a smrashThe site audit report checks for duplicate content – however Just in the field.

So we use a second tool to monitor duplicate content and other parts of the web.

We found it Cupiscape It works better, but there are many other tools out there.

We use too grammarwhich has a great Chrome plugin for quick scans of the sites you visit.

Most of the tools are for educators or others who need to check for plagiarism.

These tools may not be explicitly designed to find “duplicate content,” but they work great for finding it.

How much duplication is ok?

To my knowledge, the major search engines haven’t defined exactly what constitutes duplicate content.

Many SEO experts have tried to pinpoint when content goes from similar to duplicate.

I prefer all content to be at least 30% different from all other copies.

I use the old Keyword Density app for this.

Several tools compare two pieces of content and provide the frequency percentage.

Go to Google and ask about a “duplicate content checker” or “keyword density tool” and you should be able to find one that works for you.

How to fix duplicate content

In theory, once you find duplicate content, it’s easy to fix.

All you have to do is make the content unique.

But in fact, it is much more complicated than it seems.

We all know that Google is looking for content that shows expertise, authority, and confidence, or EAT.

When a writer fixes duplicate content they wrote, rewriting can be brutal.

It’s easy for the corrected duplicate content to take on a 5th grade book report format where the student simply rewrote what was in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

It is usually best to have a different writer than the original content writer to address any duplicate content issues.

One piece of advice – don’t show the new writer the content that needs to be rewritten.

Let the new writer start from scratch.

This virtually guarantees that the new version will be unique.

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Advanced correction of duplicate content

For sites with large amounts of duplicate content, fixing the issues can be challenging.

We usually see a lot of duplicate content in e-commerce setups where products can be similar.

I advise you to avoid automated methods of fixing duplicate content on large sites.

These automated solutions often create unreadable pages that don’t convert – and no one wants that.

My advice is to identify each page and assign unique writers to paraphrase the pages they didn’t originally write.

If this is not possible, rewrite at least any duplicate content on the category pages.

If you don’t have the resources to fix every page, setting up your category pages properly gives you the best chance of selling.

When this happens, we find that category pages rank a little better, and conversions happen from category pages.

Product pages with duplicate content may or may not be ranked.

And if they rank, they may not keep their rank if Google becomes confused and unsure of which piece of content to rank for.

If you have thousands of pages of duplicate content, it may take some time to fix everything.

It’s tempting to use automated methods to fix duplicate content issues, but don’t.

Take the time to go through the site with a competent writer and create unique and authoritative content for each page.

But also realize that not every product description has to be Pulitzer Prize-winning prose.

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In fact, being direct on product pages converts better than trying to be clever or nice in almost every situation.

The biggest secret I’ve discovered in fixing duplicate content is simply hiring new writers.

It works every time.

More resources:

  • 6 Types of Duplicate Content in Local SEO: Do They Help or Hurt?
  • Google: Duplicate content is not a negative ranking factor
  • The Complete Guide to On Page SEO

Featured image: Alan Tunnicliffe / Shutterstock

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