How to avoid duplicate content

UK-based SEO agency dotSearch has written a very useful guide to duplicate content. If you’re pushed for time, I’ve read the guide so that you don’t have to. Here’s a summary of the main points.

The guide outlines what to do if you find duplicate content on your site or if someone else uses (plagiarises) your content, as well as common pitfalls and how to resolve them.

Why duplicate content is a problem

Duplicate content affects how search engines rank your website in results if it thinks you’re using copy that also appears elsewhere. The best way to avoid this is to employ an experienced web copywriter to create “original, relevant and compelling copy”.

If a search engine thinks your website has duplicate content, it might:

  • reduce your ranking for a certain keyword
  • group your site under ‘similar results omitted’
  • remove it from search results completely (if it thinks your site is trying to manipulate results).

There are lots of tools available for checking your site’s content and that of other websites too, such as: Google Webmaster Tools, Copyscape.com, Google Web Search and SEOMoz Pro Dashboard.

Duplicate content on your website

You can tackle duplicate content on your own site in one of several ways, depending on where the content is from.

1) If your site has the same (or very similar) content on two or more pages, use canonical tags to tell search engines which page to send visitors to.

2) If your site uses text copied from somewhere else and it hasn’t been indexed yet, rewrite it to make it original and unique.

3) If your site uses copied text and it has been indexed, try publishing a rewritten version and getting the content re-indexed (but you run the risk of getting penalised in the meantime).

4) If you don’t want to risk the search engines penalising you (or they already have done), then remove the offending page(s) from the index, rewrite the content and publish it again.

Someone else has used your content

1) If a higher authority site has copied text originally written and published by you, you could ask them to credit you and link back to your site. Rewrite the original copy and benefit from the inbound link.

2) If an equal or lower authority site does this, you could either:

  • ignore it (depending on a few conditions)
  • make changes to your own page to make the content unique again
  • ask the website owner to change their page(s)
  • raise a complaint with Google
  • get guidance from DMCA.com, which gets stolen content removed
  • seek legal advice if your copyright has been infringed.

Common problem areas

Many websites get (sometimes unwittingly) caught out by:

  • product descriptions
  • creating links with extensions (lots of web addresses go to the same page)
  • copying and pasting text (use a web copywriter for original content!)
  • repeated corporate information, e.g. press release boiler plates
  • ‘spun’ or paraphrased content (also likely to be low quality)
  • distributing content (e.g. articles) from your website
  • content copied/moved from old to new websites, company sites or development versions.

The guide summarises that “businesses producing original, fresh content” keep ahead of the competition by “having better quality content, written with [their] audience in mind, in the right context”. This in turn encourages visitors to buy products and share the website.

Download the complete guide (PDF) with full details and tips from the dotSearch website.

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