When it comes to search engine optimization, imitation is NOT the sincerest form of flattery. In fact, it could get you a big old wrist slap from Papa Google. We’re talking about duplicate content.
According to Google, content is considered duplicate when “substantive blocks of content within or across domains either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”
Duplicate content can generally be categorized as either accidental or malicious. In accidental cases of duplicate content, you usually see things like print versions of web pages or both www and non-www versions of a domain (twin domains). In malicious cases of duplicate content, webmasters deliberately duplicate content across domains to manipulate search engine rankings to get more traffic.
What’s the Problem with Duplicate Content?
Search engines like Google are trying to match searchers with the most relevant and authoritative websites (based on the search query). The problem with websites that contain substantially duplicated content is that they don’t add much value to searchers. Imagine if you did a search and Google returned 10 websites with nearly the same content!
Does Google Penalize Websites with Duplicate Content?
When Google decides which pages to index and where to rank them, it’s possible that it won’t choose to rank or index a page that has content too similar to an existing page in its index. In general, Google will not penalize a site for having onsite duplicate content—it will simply pick which page it thinks is most relevant to the search query and not rank the other one. According to Google, “If your site suffers from duplicate content issues… we do a good job of choosing a version of the content to show in our search results.”
However, when duplicate content spans across multiple domains, this can be more of a problem.
“In rare situations, our algorithm may select a URL from an external site that is hosting your content without your permission. If you believe that another site is duplicating your content in violation of copyright law, you may contact the site’s host to request removal. In addition, you can request that Google remove the infringing page from our search results by filing a request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”
How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues
The best way to remedy your duplicate content issues on your company’s website is to create unique content for all of your pages—that includes a unique title tag and meta description. Unfortunately, you’ve got a business to run and probably don’t have time to bang out awesome, unique, and SEO-friendly content.
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