The truth about duplicate content

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

Want to learn an SEO secret?

There is no duplicate content penalty.

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

However, that doesn’t mean your website won’t be penalized for having the same or similar content on multiple pages, or even multiple websites.

When Google encounters the same content on a website—or multiple websites—the search engine’s algorithm decides which content to rank.

In most cases, Google seems to rank the wrong content.

And when that happens, that shiny useful content you’ve worked so hard to create could be as invisible as Wonder Woman’s jet.

What is duplicate content?

Duplicate content is exactly what it sounds like. This is when the same copy appears on two or more websites.

Duplicate content can appear on your own website or it can be copied to another website that you do not control.

Duplicate content is not Elements like footers and other content that makes sense to appear on multiple pages.

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

You need to check for duplicate content

I’ve found that even seasoned SEO professionals rarely check for duplicate content, except initially during technical discovery.

This is a mistake.

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

It also occurs on websites as creating original content is difficult and it can be easier to just cut and paste content for similar pages.

I recommend setting up a schedule to monitor for duplicate content.

Some tools automatically monitor duplicate content on a regular basis and send an alert when they are found.

Duplicate Content Monitoring

There are many different tools to monitor for duplicate content.

We use three different tools.

Our first choice is Semrush.

In Semrush, the site audit report checks for duplicate content – ​​but only on the domain.

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

We’ve found Copyscape to work the best, but there are many other tools out there.

We also use Grammarly, which has a great Chrome plugin for quick checks of the websites you visit.

Most tools are intended for teachers 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 them.

How much duplication is okay?

As far as I know, the major search engines have not defined what exactly is duplicate content.

Many SEO experts have tried to define when content is duplicated from similar to.

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

I’m using an old “Keyword Density” application for this.

Several tools compare two pieces of content and report the percentage of duplication.

Go to Google and query “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’ve found it, it’s easy to fix duplicate content.

All you have to do is make the content unique.

But in reality it’s more complicated than it looks.

We all know that Google looks for content that shows expertise, authority and trust, or EAT.

When an author corrects duplicate content they’ve written, the rewrite can be stiff.

It is easy for corrected duplicate content to take on the format of a 5th grade book report, in which the student simply paraphrases what is in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

It’s usually better to have a different author than the original author of the content to resolve duplicate content issues.

One tip – don’t show the new author the content that needs to be rewritten.

Have the new author start from scratch.

This practically guarantees the uniqueness of the new model.

Advanced duplicate content correction

Sites with a lot of duplicate content can be difficult to troubleshoot.

We usually see a lot of duplicate content in ecommerce settings where products can be similar.

I advise you to avoid automated methods to fix duplicate content on big websites.

These automated solutions often produce unreadable pages that don’t convert – and nobody wants that.

My advice is to identify each page and hire individual authors to revise pages they didn’t originally write.

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

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

In this case, we find that the category pages rank slightly better and conversions occur from category pages.

Product pages with duplicate content may or may not rank.

And when they rank, they may not be able to maintain their rank if Google gets confused and unsure of what content to rank.

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

The temptation to use automated methods to fix the duplicate content issues is tempting, but don’t do it.

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

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

In fact, in almost all cases, being straightforward on product pages is better than trying to be clever or cute.

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

It works every time.

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Featured image: Alan Tunnicliffe/Shutterstock

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