Businesses that subscribe to industry-related blog or social media update services can get regular “news” on their website with the hope that fresh content will set them apart and improve their Google rankings. (Viewers and search engines hate stale pages!) But buyer beware – it’s not hard to spot duplicate content. And it’s even easier to check it out with the latest browsers. Just highlight a couple sentences, copy & paste into the search box, and let Google do the rest. The resulting SERP (search engine results page) will tell you how many other sites share the same content.
So what’s the big deal about duplicate content? Does it hurt my search engine rankings? How can I minimize it’s impact? We’re going to answer all these questions in this post. But first, let’s walk through a quick example. A recent blog post on a realtor’s website caught our attention:
So we highlighted and copied the first couple of sentences and asked Google how many others had the exact same text (use quotation marks around your phrase to limit the search to that exact string):
Voila! We have 21,900 other websites that contain same verbiage!
So, how can this hurt? Assuming you’re like these 21,900 websites and don’t include proper attribution with a link to the owner (and all the ones we checked don’t), then this won’t necessarily hurt your Google rankings, but it can subject your page to being excluded from the search results. That’s because the search engine (e.g. Google) doesn’t know who authored the content. And without a clear authoritative source, the search engines will tend to simply ignore it.
Next, what does it tell your readers? Answers will vary by person, but overall, we think there’s more potential downside than there is benefit. Especially if your supposedly original article gets noticed by a reader who saw the same thing on another website, or talked with a friend who read the same thing elsewhere. Perhaps on a competitor’s website. You run the risk of being tagged as disingenuous at best, and of plagiarism at worst. Take it a step further and try one of the social media sharing buttons – on the social site, the resulting post usually begins, “By (website owners name)…” This makes it look like the blog post was authored by you.
Why take a chance? Sure, there are industry blog subscriptions for everything from real estate to car repairs, from acupuncture to landscaping. If you’re determined to use them to fill an otherwise sparse webpage, at least adhere to best practices (see Google’s own recommendations) and give credit where credit’s due. Better yet, put the time, thought, and effort into truly original content and you may be surprised at your visitors’ reactions!