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Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V: Why Copying Copy Is a Bad Idea for Your Seo

17 May

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”

– Pablo Picasso

While Picasso is regarded as one of the most influential artists of the post-expressionism era, we’re not sure we agree with his comments above.

High-quality, credible and regularly updated content is a key pillar to your organic strategy.

While good content takes time to create, it can pay dividends in raising your search engine rankings and turning your website into a long-term lead generator for business.

Unfortunately, many businesses are unwilling to spend much time (or money) on their SEO or ads – many decide to cheap out as a result.

For these businesses, the solution is obvious: copy what worked for another website and paste it into their own site. After all, if it helped a competitor rank, it has to help them too!

Outright copying content from a competitor’s website is sketchy to say the least… not to mention, it can also have negative consequences on your site’s online rankings!

We’ve written before about black-hat techniques before – if you missed that series, you can click here to bring yourself up to speed.

So what’s wrong with copying?

How does duplicate content harm my site?

The internet is huge. There are millions of websites and even more pages online – who’s going to notice your site copying from someone else’s?

You might think that with the internet being so mind-bogglingly big, the chances of being discovered copying somebody else’s content are nonexistent.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Search engines (just like Google) use powerful bots to crawl the web looking for content to index in its search results.

And if they detect copy and pasted content on your site, there could be serious repercussions for your site’s SEO:

1. Duplicate penalties

“In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the one already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.”

Does this snippet sound familiar?

To provide the best search experience for their users, search engines like Google will rarely show duplicated sites. It wouldn’t be a very good search engine if it gave you the same results, would it?

And Google is very good at determining which pages are the original and which ones are original. We’re talking about a company that’s developing self-driving cars and glasses with computers in them, after all (though neither have quite taken off just yet).

Needless to say, their bots are quite capable of identifying and hiding copied content!

In most cases duplicate content won’t harm your site’s overall credibility – you won’t need to worry about quotes and reblogs getting you blacklisted.

What it will do however is harm the ranking of individual pages.

Copying content from other sites can result in your pages receiving 90% (or more) less traffic compared to completely original content.

Don’t be surprised if pages that carry duplicated content don’t show up on a Google search. In some worst-case scenarios, it could even result in your site (or a particular page) getting flagged as spam.

2. Duplicate content can dilute search engine results

In addition to having identical content to another website, it’s also important to ensure you don’t copy content from your own site either!

While it might be convenient to recycle content (especially if you have a range of similar products), doing so can dilute the amount of inbound traffic towards your site across your pages.

One of the factors search engines like Google consider when ranking individual pages is the volume of inbound links.

If a lot of people are coming into one well-optimised page, naturally that page is going to rank really, really well.

But if you have multiple pages saying very similar things, all of a sudden each individual page isn’t ranking as highly.

This is because the total number of inbound links is spread between two, three or even ten pages instead of the one.

The result? A dozen low-ranking pages instead of one high-ranking one.

Obviously, it’s always good to diversify that said, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing!

Our advice is to try not to clutter up your site with a bunch of pages saying more or less the same thing if you can avoid it.

When writing content for your pages, make each one distinct: optimise each one for a different search term.

3. Legal troubles

Copyright ©. iformat, Digital Agency Melbourne.

Scroll down to the bottom of this very webpage and that’s the message you’ll see. Repeat this experiment on almost any website on the internet and you’ll likely see a similar disclaimer.

What this line of legal-speak says is that all the content of the site is the property of the site owner – it’s their content. And unauthorised usage is stealing, legally speaking.

If another site owner discovers you’ve nicked some of their content, they can appeal to Google to have your page struck from results pages.

Keeping tabs on your own content

Plagiarism is a two-way street.

Just because you’re not copying other sites doesn’t mean that other site owners aren’t doing the same to you! Someone stealing your content can harm your brand image – not to mention it can steal site visits and followers away from you.

We know what it feels like – we’ve had first-hand experience of this ourselves.

Sometimes, you might not even realise it – some unscrupulous SEO agencies copy content in order to save time, and don’t tell their clients about it, hoping they never notice.

Lastly, it just plain doesn’t feel right to be on the receiving end. You pour your heart and soul into creating original content – it’s only natural to be a bit ticked off!

Searching for copied content is actually relatively straightforward. If you’re using Google Chrome (and with almost 50% market share, you probably are), finding out whether your site photos have been copied online is easy. Just right click on your image, select “search Google for this image” et voila!

Searching for text is a tad harder. No one has the time to manually type in every block of text to look for duplicates.

It takes almost no effort to copy someone else’s content – fortunately however, it’s just as easy to track down copied content! There are a number of free tools you can use to track your content. Copyscape is a great one – just enter a URL and the site does the rest.

After that, it’s important to take action. There are a range of options at your disposal:

  • Get in touch with them: you’d be surprised how many plagiarists fold when pressured!
  • Lawyer-up: a cease-and-desist letter doesn’t cost that much. What it does do is show that you’re serious about protecting your content – in many cases, the threat of legal action is enough to make people think twice
  • Talk to their host: usingfree tools like Webhostinghero, you can find out who’s hosting a plagiarist’s site and file a complaint with them

Go to Google: the nuclear option. Over 90% of web traffic comes from Google searches – getting something taken off search results can cripple another site. If you want to get in touch with Google, you can use this form here to file a complaint.

Cutting down on copied content

The easiest way to cut down on copied content is to simply not copy other people’s work.

Unfortunately, things aren’t quite that simple. A lot of the time, you mightn’t even realise that a lot of your content is duplicated!

Like we mentioned before, flat-out plagiarism isn’t the only form of duplicate content that might be hidden away on your site. Things like boilerplate content, highly-similar product descriptions as well as URL trickery can also cause Google to register duplicated content on your site.

You can learn some additional ways to reduce the amount of duplicate content on your site by following this hand guide from Google itself.

Finally, the best way to cut down on copied content and improve your search engine results is to create good, original content for your site. It might take some time, but it ultimately pays off!

Don’t worry!

Content. Is. King. It’s not just us – talk to any digital marketer and they’ll tell you the exact same thing.

At this SEO agency Melbourne, we’re all about that high-quality content. If you ask us, this is the best way to get your site to rank higher on Google.

Good content can take time – take it from us however, it pays off. As part of an effective content marketing strategy, your online content plays a key role not just in informing your customers, but encouraging them at every stage of the purchase cycle.

It’s not enough to cram your product descriptions full of buzzwords. You need to understand what your customers want to learn when they click on a specific page and tailor make informative, relevant content around that.

And that’s something you’re never going to get by just hitting ctrl+C and ctrl+V.

Have a different take on the issue? We’d love to hear your thoughts!