The fact that language has a limited number of words means that you will inevitably have to repeat words, phrases and sentences. Further, you could be offering similar services to another business. As a result, you may describe and market your brand or products using the same words. Is this duplicate content?

Of course, you can get professional writers to produce original copy, from blogs to essays, to ensure you don’t run into any duplicate content penalties. But how, exactly, can this issue affect your online presence, especially website ranking? Let’s delve deeper.

What Is Duplicate Content?

As its name suggests, duplicate content is identical content appearing on two or more websites or pages. In digital marketing terms, it refers to articles, lines, paragraphs and sections of content that are similar and appear on multiple platforms. It is duplicate content because search engine spiders will encounter the same content multiple times when looking for the best results to serve a user searching the internet. 

Duplicate content is similar in description, wording and structure, and it may also appear on social media. This type of content is most often an issue on platforms owned by the same client or on websites run by different clients. Where similar content is published by two clients, it is regarded as plagiarism and will have a major impact on your web ranking. 

External and Internal Duplicate Content  

Duplicate content can either be internal or external. While both have an impact on your web ranking, one is worse than the other. You can correct one form of duplicate content while the other requires external intervention. 

Internal duplicate content

This is the most common and almost unnoticeable type of duplicate content. It occurs when you use the same words, phrases and paragraphs on different pages of your website. For instance, you may have a service page on your website capturing the same information as that of the profiles of your employees. The homepage may also describe your services or product using the same words on the actual service or product descriptions. It sounds innocent and no one will question your decision. However, it can have an impact on your ranking. 

Internal duplicate content will confuse search engines about which page to display at the top of rankings. As a result, search engines could highlight a page that will not deliver the best conversion rates. For this reason, be sure to use unique content for each page on your website and paraphrase the words on different pages to avoid confusing search engines during the crawling and ranking process. 

External duplicate content

The other name for external duplicate content is plagiarism. It means the exact content, format and structure appear on another website. This, again, confuses search engines and could result in the offending page ranking higher or eating into your traffic. 

Duplicate content arising from plagiarism should be reported – after all, you are using the effort and ideas of another person to promote your brand. Since you did not pay for the production of such content, it is regarded as theft. In legal terms, the original owner of the content will cite you for copyright infringement.

External duplicate content requires quick action. You can report the website to search engines for action or you will be reported if it is your site that copied the work of another brand. 

Search engines treat duplicate content with caution. Only one website will rank or one will rank higher than the other, resulting in zero or diminished traffic. (Search engines will, however, often consider the oldest content as the original.)

Impact of Duplicate Content on Your Website

Most brands’ major concern is how duplicate content will affect ranking. There is also the fear that your website will be pulled down or not ranked at all. While these penalties can be present to varying degrees, you will only experience challenges based on the extent of the infringement. Here is a deeper look at how duplicate content affects your website. 

Copyright Infringement 

The worst form of content duplication is that where a person copies your articles word for word. It usually happens with external websites and especially blogs. You have a right to claim copyright infringement or risk being cited for the same offense if you are the one who copied a blog from another website. 

The results include damaged reputation – visitors to your website may be aware that you do not produce original content. They will, in turn, begin to doubt the credibility of your products and services. In the present social media era where information can easily go viral, copyright infringement will attract serious backlash. The best way forward is to engage writers who can deliver unique content about your brand. 

Loss in Traffic 

Search engines rank websites based on the quality of content, time spent on a website and other aspects of the internal web structure. Duplicating content means that you will be targeting the same traffic as other websites. Consequently, you lose potential traffic. 

Your SEO also suffers when people land on your website only to find duplicate content. They may leave your website fast, increasing your bounce rate and sending a signal to search engines that your website does not offer the quality they should be looking for. It will slowly slide out of favor with search engines, resulting in a double loss. 

Reduced Return Traffic

Return traffic reduces the cost of digital marketing. When you have an assurance of return visitors each month, you spend less on ads and wooing visitors. As a result, your online presence will be more profitable. 

Visitors will skip duplicate content regardless of the esteem with which they hold your website. They begin to feel that your website is copying or failing to offer original ideas. Eventually, they will skip your website entirely. You would then have to spend money and other resources hunting for new traffic to your website or blog, increasing the cost of your online presence. 

Loss in Reputation

Brand identity is crucial online and offline. You build your brand through the quality of content you offer to your readers. Duplicate content will damage this brand. 

The secret of a successful business and online platform is to offer original products or services. If the content on the website is copied or can be found elsewhere, visitors begin to see you as a copycat. Once you lose any authority and authenticity associated with your brand, it will be difficult – and expensive – to regain it.

How To Avoid Duplicate Content

Evidently, duplicate content is harmful to your website or brand. You need to take quick corrective action to avoid the negative effects. Here are steps you can take to reduce the impact of duplicate content.

  • Engage professional content creators: Gauge the level of creativity when engaging content writers for your website. Avoid writers who deliver the same ideas using the same words. Every blog or website will require a creative content writer to escape content duplication. Your writer must develop insightful ideas, phrases and words to describe the same product or idea. Such skills help you to speak to your clients about the same products and services without appearing to repeat what you said in earlier pages or blogs.
  • Constantly search for duplication: Use duplicate content checking tools, such as Copyscape, to actively search for duplicate ideas and content. It helps you to isolate pages that have copied your ideas or reposted your articles. Alert the owners of these websites to pull down the content or raise the issue with your writers to establish why they delivered duplicate content. Plagiarism checking tools will help you to identify copied sections or websites that are using your content. You may report these websites to search engines or raise the issue directly with the website owners. This is a constant battle because other people will always take the shortcut of using content from other people.
  • Report any duplicate content: Search engines take action against duplicate content by manually eliminating them from the ranking list. The mention of taking such action will send shivers down the spine of any content creator. Do not shy from taking action on such content. If you are the culprit, know that similar action can be taken, resulting in a damaged online reputation.
  • Learn to paraphrase content: Learn paraphrasing skills. It means expressing the same idea using different words. Whether you use the skill on your website or when dealing with blogs from other websites, it helps you to skip plagiarized content. Paraphrasing makes old content appear new and refreshing to read. It should also involve creating different titles for articles covering the same subject.

Remember: Duplicate content will damage your online reputation. It also affects the perception search engines have regarding your website, resulting in poor ranking. Engage professional writers to deliver original and unique content. Search and report any duplicate content so that it does not affect your web ranking.

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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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