The words ‘duplicate content’ can cause nightmares for marketers. Those dreaded words often precede ‘penalty’ after all. But how accurate is this? Is Google really going to send your company’s website into ranking purgatory over duplicate content?
The short answer is no. Google won’t blacklist your website with a full penalty simply for two pages being similar or duplicated.
But duplicate content is far from harmless. While it might not invite a full-on penalty from search engines, duplicate content can damage your company’s search engine rankings and outreach efforts in a variety of ways.
Here, we’re going to outline the real damage of duplicate content.
Duplicate content: what it is and what it actually does
According to Google’s general guidelines surrounding duplicate content, duplicate content is classed as:
‘…substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.’
Google does note that this is usually not done to be deceptive. There are several reasons why duplicate content may exist on your website. You may have a copyright notice at the bottom of every page on your site, for instance. This is one of the reasons why a penalty is a bit extreme for duplicate content.
However, just because your duplicate content is unlikely to land you on Google’s dreaded blacklist, your website rankings will suffer for duplicate content.
Strike #1: Duplicate content onsite harms your ranking
Your ranking is based on a number of things. One of the factors Google’s bots are looking for on your website is whether or not the information you’re presenting constitutes the ‘best result’. If you have multiple pages displaying the same or similar information on your website, search engines won’t know which version to pick. Rather than all links pointing to one page, that traffic gets divided up between each page with duplicate content.
This means all the pages displaying this information suffer in terms of ranking — and this means your website, no matter how good the information is, will drop away from that valuable page one placement in front of your customers.
It might not be a penalty, but a drop in rankings can be as damaging to your business. This is why on-site optimisation is so important for your business’ website. Optimisation ensures each of your target pages is showing the best content for your customers, as well as avoiding duplicated content.
Strike #2: Duplicate content offsite doesn’t stand out
So, your website content is unique and optimised. But what about your off-site content? Think press releases and outreach content. These assets aren’t aiming to rank on a search engine, per se. They’re looking to cast links out far and wide that lead back to your website. So, is duplicate content still a problem off-site?
In terms of ranking, it’s less of a problem. But in terms of successfully pitching an outreach article to an editor, duplicate content is huge problem. After all, who wants to publish content that’s already been posted over and over again? Duplicate content will struggle to stand out in outreach. Therefore, it’s vital that your outreach content has new data and first-hand quotes to stand out and increase its chances of being placed.
Strike #3: Duplicate content makes your competitors look like the experts
Similar to the above, if you’re just echoing other voices, who looks like the expert? Without original content, your company looks like the parrot to your competitor’s expertise. Don’t let them get ahead of the game. By creating marketing content with original data and case studies from your own company, your brand will stand out as the expert in both Google’s ranking system and in editors looking to link back to your website.