Alright! So today, I want to touch on duplicate content, and why it’s such a big no-no in the SEO community.
To start with, what is duplicate content? Is it when the same Copy is purposefully used on different pages? Or a duplication of pages, perhaps?
Both of these can actually be a cause of duplicate content.
Think of duplicate content as the same information that’s used on more than one page, with the information making up the bulk of the page.
In order to simplify what I just said, let’s look at it from a different angle – using search engines, specifically, Google.
Their objective is to serve users with the information they seek.
In order to do this, they must crawl the web and discover, organise and present information.
The crawling of the web is done through URLs.
URLs are what identifies pages. Pages are where information, i.e. content, sit.
To avoid having to rank content that has already been discovered, Google encourages websites to have unique content.
Unique content essentially says to Google, this content is on this page, and only this page, and the location of this page is this URL, and only this URL.
This is simple. This makes discovering, organising and presenting content a lot easier.
And, frankly, sites that make it easy for Google (or any other search engine) to crawl, tend to be ranked higher than sites that make it less easy.
So you see, when creating pages, you’re far better off to consider the content, the page, and the URL as one entity.
This way, you end up having unique content across the site.
The alternative to unique content is duplicate content.
Now, imagine you’re a search engine.
You crawl a site and come across 4 different URLs that all have the same information – that’s 4 different pages, with the same information.
Your job in this scenario is to determine the ‘real’ page to rank.
How will you go-about making this decision?
You’ll have to look at other factors, right – which page was published first, which one has the most links (internally, and externally), and a number of other factors!
All the different ways you’ll aim to figure this out means it’s less easy to rank one of these pages for its content – certainly less easy than a site that has unique content – shown with one page, and one URL.
Now, this is just for one site. Imagine having to make such consideration for millions and billions of websites.
You would prefer sites that have unique content, wouldn’t you?
Why would you show the same content from two different URLs, especially if from the same site?
Now, you may be thinking ‘how much content is considered a duplicate?’ Is there a threshold of when a page is considered a duplicate of another if it contains some of the Copy as another page?
Whilst there are tools you can use to compare the Copy on different pages, this type of thinking can get into the realm of trying to ‘game’ search engines, which I’m not a fan of.
You’ll be better off considering the purpose of pages.
When two or more pages have the same purpose, it may be better to combine them as one page.
You’ll improve the relevancy of the consolidated page and have it as an asset that gains more authority over time.
This is much better than having several pages where there is a duplication of the Copy, and the only portion of the page that is unique has very little Copy. The value of the pages become lessened…
OK. Let me touch on something else…
We often refer to content as the Copy, i.e. the text on a page.
Let me explain why…
Historically, pre-multimedia days, ‘content’ was Copy – the text on a page.
Nowadays, content refers to more than Copy.
Content can be Copy, it can be Images, it can be Video, PDFs, Infographics (remember those?!), Audio, Podcasts – it can be all of these, a combination of these, or any one, individually.
But here’s the thing…
When we’re talking about duplicate content, fundamentally, the most important type of content is still Copy, i.e. text.
And here’s why…
The other content types I mentioned (Videos, Images, Infographics) these are…
…from a promotional point of view, these are assets.
Without getting too jargoney, assets (in this context) are content-types you can use to curate content.
For example, you can have a video on two different pages on your site without the pages being deemed to have duplicate content.
Why…? Because the context around the video could be completely different on the two pages.
The Copy on the two pages could be completely different, making the purpose of each page unique – despite having the same video.
This wouldn’t be the case with Copy.
If you had two pages with the same Copy but different videos, the page will be considered to have duplicate content.
This is why duplicate content refers to the text being the same, rather than other content-types, which may be on the page.
This, of course, is on websites. Social Media is a different thing. It’s a different thing because, for one, Copy (although still important) is not the main content-type on social platforms. Think of YouTube, for example, the more important content-type is video.
So, from an SEO point of view, when we come across duplicate content (text) on a site, it tells us a lot.
It tell us that when search engines crawl the site, they will determine the site’s expertise, authority and trustworthiness is questionable.
And with this determination, the site’s ability to compete in the SERPs will be compromised.
This will impact your site’s organic visibility.
This will impact your site’s organic rankings.
This will impact your site’s organic traffic.
And as you know, this has a noticeable connection to the revenue you can generate with the organic channel.
So you see, a duplicate content issue isn’t just an SEO issue.
It’s an issue for the entire business!
Let me say that again, a duplicate content issue is an issue for your entire business.
Oh, this is just a glimpse of how deep this SEO-thing goes!
There are levels to this-here SEO-thing!
If you regard SEO as website optimisation for search engines, you have no idea what SEO can do for your business!
When I say there’s no limit to the ROI of SEO, I mean there is literally no limit!
So when SEOs show you the duplicate content you have, how it affects your entire business, and what you can do about it on a website level, you’re far better off heeding advice and arranging to make the appropriate changes.