When it comes to writing for online publication whether it be for websites, blogs, press releases, articles and the like best practices suggest doing so with fresh content that is completely unique and original. When you don’t produce original content you get into what is called duplicate content issues, or content that is the same or very similar on different domains. This may not be entirely deceptive in origin but is often a frequent occurrence that search engines are looking out for. Although Google has not leaked the percentage of duplicate content on a webpage it looks for many estimates lie in the 80%-90% range.
It is important to recognize that websites that have duplicate content that is produced in a non-malicious manner aren’t a target for action unless the content appears to be deceptive and manipulate to search engine results. For example, a site that discusses various shoes may have different webpages with the same content with the exception of the color or the size of the shoe. This would be an example of duplicate content although Google generally does a good job of choosing which content to show in the search results. This doesn’t mean we would advise you to leave it up to Google to decide what content to choose or not to choose, and we explain the options you have below.
Inversely, if you have cut and paste content from another website onto yours this would be an example of duplicate content and may be a grounds for action. If the search engines have indicated that you have engaged in this kind of deceptive behavior your website may be completely removed from the search results. Thus is important to avoid this type of behavior and to attract the search engines with original content so that you stand out, especially in areas where your competitors have very similar or the same products or services.
Ways to Avoid Duplicate Content
For starters the key to avoid duplicate content is to write original, fresh content. As writers this doesn’t mean you can’t gather information from other websites just don’t do it verbatim. Plagiarism not a crime online but it is not going to help you in any way. Interpret things in your own words and consider your audience when writing. Content Professional always likes to use at least three different sources when researching and writing for clients to get a solid foundation of good information. We then take that information and formulate our own thoughts and ideas and always try to improve upon what everyone else has done. This not only makes you look like an authority but it also makes you more attractive to the search engines.
Outside of purely writing, there are things you can do on a programming level:
Use 301 redirects- If you have a page within your website that you know is getting hit for duplicate content set up a 301 redirect from that page to the original content page. They will no longer compete with each other and will positively impact their ability to rank.
Syndication Concerns- If your content is syndicated to other sites you risk duplicate content. If you do this make sure the other sites link back to your original content or ask the users of your syndicated content to use the noindex meta tag to prevent duplicate content issues.
Content Management Systems (CMS)- WordPress and Joomla sites for example often run into duplicate content issues because they often show the same content in multiple formats such as blog entries on the home page, an archived page, and in other pages within the same label. Make sure this is alleviated the right way.
Avoid blocking crawler access- This used to be a good option for duplicate content but Google has said that they no longer recommend web owners blocking crawler access to duplicate content on websites.
Utilize the rel=canonical tag- the rel=canonical tag tells the search engines that a page should be treated as if it were a copy of another webpage but tells the search engines the preferred page to index. This is similar to a 301 redirect however it does not redirect visitors to the new URL.
If you have been affected by duplicate content issues, have since corrected them, and feel your website no longer violates guidelines- you can submit your site to Google for reconsideration.
If you feel as if there is another website that is maliciously stealing your content you can file a claim and request removal of the other site from Google’s index.