How Does Duplicate Content Hurt Your SEO Strategy?


One of the biggest ‘Shalt Nots’ of SEO strategy work is to use duplicate content over and over again, especially on your website. While we have mentioned this in passing before, we haven’t dug into why duplicating content is so dangerous. How can this poison a site – and when is it acceptable? Let’s look at the details.

How Does This Hurt SEO Strategy?

Duplicating content was very popular back when – when cheap sites would churn out one piece of content and then plaster it all over every directory and shareable platform possible. It got so bad that content was automatically duplicated everywhere, even within websites themselves, as people tried to improve their SEO without any real effort.

Then Google stepped in and enforced a “quality, not quantity” rule with a heavy hand. Spamming keywords with the same content is one of the warning signs that Google looks for. If it finds that a piece of content on your site is also used in dozens of other places (or even if a suspiciously similar piece is used), it will probably dock your page rankings.

This has led to an atmosphere of fear when it comes to duplicating content. However, we will point out that there’s a big difference between ‘copy & paste’ content to trick SEO numbers and naturally duplicating it to share or engage. Time to dig down further.

The Big Three: Volume, Type, Timing

When thinking about duplicating content, here are the three important factors to consider:

  • Volume: Just how much is the content being duplicated? If we’re talking about a handful of reposts within your community or a few random blog posts that decide to steal your article, it probably won’t matter much. But if the same content is appearing in dozens of different places, that stirs the slumbering Google beast.
  • Type: General blog posts are considered safer to duplicate and share around, because that’s one of their intended purposes. Website page copy, on the other hand, is more dangerous to duplicate. This can get businesses in trouble when it comes to easily pasted product pages and URL organization: Moz has a great piece pointing out some of the more common errors that lead to unintentional duplication.
  • Timing: Copying content here and there over time is less likely to be noticed by Google and others. Many copies within a short timeframe will sound warning bells and – to a mix a sense metaphor – stinks of lazy SEO scamming.

Reposting for Fun and Profit

So, when is it okay to repost? Cheating at SEO and poor domain management aside, you probably don’t need to worry.  Even if random blogs around the world steal and paste your content (it’s amazing who will do this), you can just ignore them unless duplicates start climbing into high numbers. On the legal side, duplication that results from syndication or amicable sharing of blog posts is nothing to worry about and is often good for your social community.

Remember to include a link back to your original post when encouraging reposting – this appeases more uptight Google gremlins, and keeps content well organized. It’s also a good idea to conduct occasional searches for more popular syndications: If your website content is not appearing first before any syndications, you have a problem and need to work on better sharing/backlinking practices.

If, because of product pages, website goods, or major architecture changes, you are looking at a lot of duplicate content within your web site, there’s still hope. Google has a number of suggestions to manage duplicate content and prevent ranking debacles with proper URL identification, domain structure, and more.

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