Online duplicate content can occur in many ways, and the most damaging is also a common problem; content theft. If you know other sites are copying your content, or even if you’ve legally reused content for your own site, it can hurt your website. Here’s what you need to know about duplicate content damaging your site.
8 Ways Duplicate Content Hurts Your Website
The Duplicate Content Problem
According to Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s spam team, “25 or 30% of all content on the web is duplicate content.” However, most users don’t ever see the 2, 3 or 10 URLs on the same domain pointing to the same content.
Ideally, webmasters use canonical tags, redirects and other methods to reorganize a site and manage repetitive URLs. Google’s filters and algorithms are also programmed to filter these. When the filter is disabled, multiple URLs leading to the same page sometimes appear.
However, duplicate content on different domains can cause big problems.
Sometimes, duplicate content is unavoidable, like republishing press releases or guest blog posts. When it’s done properly, this won’t hurt your website. Other instances are more damaging. The following cases of duplicate content can hurt your website.
- Reusing product descriptions from a manufacturer.
- Buying a fill-in website content template.
- Stealing competitor’s content.
- Site scrapers copying and reposting content.
- Recycling content between domains.
- Reusing content for different landing pages for various cities.
- Reusing a site disclaimer or legal notice across different domains.
Problem #1: Keywords
Duplicate sites compete for the same keywords, making it harder for the original to rank highly on search results. This makes it harder for users to find your site, meaning your keyword research and content curation is going to waste. Google also recognizes duplication and may rank all the duplicate sites lower, or even filter out some results completely in favor of original content that is seen as more useful to users.
Problem #2: Backlinks
Backlinks are another key SEO component. When other reputable sites link to your page, it gives your site more authority and makes it easier to rank for relevant keywords.
However, if a copycat site uses the same content, how do other sites link to yours? And, if your content isn’t original and doesn’t give users anything new, why would they want to? Duplicate content reduces your authority and credibility, making it difficult to gain site-boosting backlinks.
Problem #3 Mix-ups
There’s a reason businesses protect their names and logos with trademarks. If competing businesses are too similar or products are described the same way, consumers can be confused, and buy from Store B when they’re looking for Store A. Or, if two businesses provide the same information, customers might not care which one they buy from.
Problem #4 Copyright Infringement
You’re not in danger of copyright infringement if you’re copying your own content to your own domains, but you might be at risk for further reproduction. A content thief looking for an easy target will likely choose content that’s already been duplicated, assuming the content owner isn’t paying attention. If you’re using a fill-in template or stealing phrases from a competitor, you might be risking a copyright lawsuit.
Problem #5 Inaccuracy
Generalized content isn’t likely to describe your business, or give your potential online customers any information about you. Worse, it might even make claims that aren’t true. You don’t necessarily have to write the content yourself, you can provide facts about your business and outsource your content, but duplicate content from a template or competitor won’t describe your business at all.
Problem #6 High Bounce Rate
Sites using duplicate content from competitors don’t give users any new or useful information. If a user has already read your content somewhere else, they’ll click away, raising the bounce rate on your site. Besides lowering the conversion rates and usefulness of your site, high bounce rates also indicate low quality to Google bots, which in turn lowers page rank.
Problem #7 Red Flags
If two domains use the same keywords and the same topics, users are likely to find them side-by-side in search results. If it’s not clear which is the original or why it’s been reposted, it raises suspicions for many users. Is the content stolen? Which one is the original? Which site is safe? Users can’t be sure, and might steer clear of all the replicating sites.
Problem #8 Blacklist
Google won’t blacklist your site simply for incidental duplicate content, but it will blacklist known plagiarists. If you think your content has been stolen, file an infringement notice with Google. Google will remove the site and, in some cases, remove the content thief from Google services altogether.
If you have duplicate content for a legitimate reason, like guest blogging or press releases, use canonical tags to help prevent confusion. To see if your content has been copied, simply search a phrase in quotes, or use a plagiarism checker like copyscape.com. Google Search Console can also help you find duplicate content problems on your own domain. And, of course, always use original content online.