On the long to-do lists of business owners looking to secure a fresh presence online, the written content to be used on their websites is almost never given priority. Often, copy is an afterthought – written by staff or lifted from other similar sites. Yet as Google continuously clamps down on what is known as ‘duplicate content’, we explain why it’s never been more important to ensure that the words you share with your audience are original.
What is duplicate content – and why is it an issue for Google?
Duplicate content refers to any portion of text (whether it be a paragraph or a page) that has been directly copied, word for word, from another site or page. Historically it was a real issue for Google and for businesses and writers, as plagiarising content became an easy way for businesses to get online quickly, easily and cheaply. This also disrupted rankings and the relevancy of search results, as sometimes irrelevant or spam sites were given priority over genuine results due to copied content.
To combat this, Google has created increasingly sophisticated algorithms that keenly identify duplicated content and eliminate all but one of the pages containing it based on a number of criteria.
Does duplicate content count for a penalty even when it’s on my own site?
Even if you wrote the copy yourself (or enlist the help of a professional copywriter), using duplicate content on your website (plagiarised or otherwise) is a big no-no. Google now sweeps, categorises and indexes pages independently, and even if pages containing duplicate content are situated on the same site (written by the same person) Google will only index and prioritise one of them. This means that if you’ve used the same text to cover several services, only one of those services can be found on and browsed from Google.
Is plagiarism a real issue online? How could it affect me?
Aside from any detrimental effects duplicate content could have for your website’s rankings on Google, it’s worth remembering that anti-plagiarism software is becoming increasingly sophisticated. It’s now easier than ever before for companies and writers to check whether their content is being used elsewhere on the web – and the incentive is higher, as they may be inadvertently penalised by Google despite being the original author. Therefore, it’s important to source original copy to avoid the costly plagiarism claims, lawsuits and compensation payouts that can arise if you are caught.
Getting around penalties for duplicate content
Google’s increasing stringency does mean that for businesses that are serious about making money online, professional help is a must. This means getting in touch with web development agencies and SEO specialists who work with copywriters so that the three can work cohesively to ensure that your website is optimised and will not be open to penalties from Google.
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