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November 24, 2016

What You Don’t Know About Duplicate Content Could Be Killing Your Site

“Oh, I don’t have time to write a new meta description. I’ll just copy this one.”

“Yeah, it’s got a Copyscape hit, but that doesn’t matter!”

“Dang, another site copied my content! Oh, well.”

If you’re like most content creators, you’ve uttered or thought these words to yourself in the past. And, hey, we get it. Content is a lot of work, and sometimes it seems like a little bit of duplicate isn’t going to kill anyone.

Unfortunately, duplicate content can do way more harm than most publishers realize and, over time, can lead to a loss of rankings, a drop in organic traffic, damaging Google penalties, and even the potential of legal complications.

To avoid all of these things, here’s what you need to know.

What is Duplicate Content?

While most people understand that copying and pasting someone else’s entire site or page would fall into the “duplicate content” category, duplicate content can also be much more insidious than that. For starters, there are two separate types of duplicate content: malicious and non-malicious.

Non-malicious duplicate content is what most site owners struggle with. For example, an eCommerce store that sells several very similar products may repeat the same product description on each page, regardless of the fact that the products are slightly but definitely different. Alternately, a content marketer may use the same meta description to describe each of his various pages or duplicate a headline on each distinct segment of his site.

While this is non-malicious duplicated content, meaning the site owner didn’t “steal” it from anyone else, it can still have disastrous effects on Google rankings.

The other type of duplicate content is malicious content, meaning it has been stolen from another site, or intentionally manipulated to alter traffic rates. Examples include scraped content and plagiarized content.

How to Avoid Duplicate Content

Now that you know what duplicate content is, and why it’s so critical to avoid it in your content, let’s talk about how, exactly, you can do that.

1. Never, ever scrape content

Scraped content is one of the most offensive types of malicious duplicate content out there. And this goes for a few different reasons. On one hand, scraped content offends Google because it’s not very useful. Because scraped content is a mechanical process, it is often not grammatically correct, doesn’t take reader questions into account, doesn’t seek to provide unique value, and often doesn’t even make sense.

What’s more, scraped content doesn’t add anything to the Web. It just clogs up the search results with stuff that isn’t relevant, useful, or interesting to readers.

With this in mind, avoid scraped content at all costs. If you need content but you don’t have the time to create it yourself, hire a content agency you can count on to do it for you. This will save you from Google penalties and allow you to create stellar content without risking duplication.

2. Cite all of your sources properly

Most writers have accidentally ripped off someone else’s writing, even if they didn’t know it. This happens when you’re in a rush, when you’re so enamored with someone else’s content, you want to base your own on it, or when you simply don’t understand the components of proper attribution. No matter why it happens, though, it can have massive and devastating effects on your content’s ranking.

With this in mind, cite all of your sources correctly. This involves mentioning a person who made a quote, hyperlinking his or her site, and giving credit where credit is due to sources and individuals who break statistics, report on news, etc. While it takes some time to learn to cite sources correctly, it’s critical to ensure that you’re not accidentally duplicating someone else’s content.

3. Check for duplicated parts of your page

One aspect of duplicate content people seldom consider is what happens when someone duplicates your site. Unfortunately, this happens all the time! Luckily, it’s also easy to check for. A few times a year, run the various pages of your site through Copyscape’s batch search feature, which is part of the platform’s paid plan.

A simple, fast way to check all of your pages for plagiarism and duplication at one time, this little test delivers an e-mail containing the results and allows you to remedy duplicated content if you do find it. If someone has copied your site, you have a few options.

First, you can contact the site owner to ask him or her to change it, you can pursue legal options (which is often more time, money, and trouble than it’s worth), or you can simply re-write your own content so that it’s no longer duplicate. While the latter isn’t a fun process, it’s one of the realities of doing business on today’s Web.

Duplicate Content 101

Today, duplicate content is a major issue on the Web. Fortunately, people who understand what it is and how it happens are better equipped to avoid it, both now and in the future.


Julia McCoy is the founder of Express Writers, a serial content marketer, and bestselling author. A dedicated self-starter since an early age, by age 13, she'd written a 200-page book and taught herself Internet marketing. At 19, Julia dropped out of college and a nursing degree to follow her passion, teach herself online writing, and start her agency. Within two years, Express Writers grew by 400 percent, and today, Julia’s agency serves more than 5,000 clients. Julia is a bestselling author, the creator of The Practical Content Strategy Certification Course, host of the Write Podcast and Twitter Chat #ContentWritingChat. She just published her second bestseller, Practical Content Strategy & Marketing, November 2017.

9 Responses to “What You Don’t Know About Duplicate Content Could Be Killing Your Site

    avatar KarenHeinz says:

    That was a good piece of information. Most of the people always choose an easy method and it leads to simple copycat. They might not be aware of this information that that can kill their sites.

    Thanks for your help.. Actually, I have a site and try to create some new article which is not ever being matched with others website article.

    avatar Jasa SEO says:

    thanks yulia, indeed duplicate content is the most serious problem in the current website

    Thanks for sharing a great information about the duplicate content. Everybody knows that content is king. Always use fresh and unique content otherwise Google will harm your website.

    We can use mention exact source, but It will be better we can always use unique and fresh information on our website rather than old updated content.

    avatar magdi says:

    Thank you for this helpful post and information Julia 🙂

    avatar PLR Updates says:

    Can you please share your opinion on “What if another site stole your content?” what would you do?

    avatar Anto Navis says:

    Thanks for your great helpful post and wonderful information Julia. Everyone knows content is the king for blogging if you duplicate or copy paste from others website, its really harmful to your website, as well as Google will penalize your site.

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