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What Does Google Say About Duplicate Content?

     -     Aug 3rd, 2018   -     Search Engine Optimization   -     0 Comments

A key concern that many marketers are faced with is duplicate content. The reality is that it can be difficult to generate custom content for your company’s entire website. Even for those firms that have robust and time-testing content marketing plans there is often the need to use content from syndicated services to fill the gaps or address issues or topics that internal writers can’t react to fast enough to create the needed information for publication. Whatever the reason it’s sometimes necessary to use duplicate (or syndicated content) for your website. When this happens, marketers are concerned that Google will penalize them for doing so. After all, there’s a lot of information floating around the web that states Google will penalize the website or worse. While there are situations in which Google will penalize a company for using duplicate content, this is only under very specific circumstances. To help clients, prospects and others understand Google’s policies, FlashPoint Marketing has summarized important insights about Google’s treatment of duplicate content.

Why is Duplicate Content a Negative?

Many marketers may be wondering why duplicate content is a bad thing in the eyes of search engines like Google? After all, there are times when it makes sense for there to be duplicate content on a website. To discover the answer to this question it’s important to remember that search engines are in the business of providing users with the best search results possible. For this reason, they are going to take proactive steps to eliminate websites that have ten pages, with ten different URLs, containing content that is duplicative. It makes more sense to show one URL with the most relevant and useful content based on the search inquiry. In fact, this is exactly what Google does.

Will My Site Be Penalized for Using Duplicate Content?

It’s a common belief that publishing duplicate content will result in a penalty from Google. According to the Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, having duplicate content on a site is not in and of itself a reason for Google to penalize the website. In fact, the Guide clearly states that unless there is a deceptive reason for publishing duplicate content, no penalty will be issued. The following is a direct excerpt from the Guide: “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.” What makes this statement interesting is that Google doesn’t say it won’t impact site performance, it only confirms that a site will not be penalized.

Google Takes Control

As mentioned above when Google detects duplicate content on a single site or amongst several sites they take the initiative and provide the user with the most relevant search result available. According to the Guide, “When we detect duplicate content, such as variations caused by URL parameters, we group the duplicate ULR into one cluster. We select what we think is the “best” URL to represent the cluster in search results. We then consolidate properties of the URL’s in the cluster, such as link popularity, to the representative URL.” What this means is that Google will decide what is the most pertinent content to display based on the searcher. As a Search Engine Marketing professional, I find this very uncomfortable because I want to be able to tell Google how and when to display my content versus having them decide for me. Therefore it’s important when evaluating how and when to use duplicate content to consider the impact it will have on your search engine marketing. While it may not result in a penalty, it certainly changes how Google views and presents your content to searchers.

What About Landing Pages?

Many companies use landing pages that are optimized by geography to attract searchers looking for a service or product in a specific area. Using landing pages is a proven strategy that can help your business move the needle on new leads and opportunities. The reality is that some companies reuse content from one landing page to the next. I have even seen where businesses have 10 pages with almost identical content except for a few geographical terms. What should a responsible marketer do in this situation? According to the Guide, “If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.”

What’s key here is the last sentence. Consider adding unique information about the city or geographical area being targeted. I can think of three or four companies that have followed this rule and have been very successful in using landing pages. If your company does use landing pages you don’t need to worry about having a similar product or service content. However, take the time to add distinguishing information to ensure that the content you are offering is unique and related to potential search terms.

Did We Nail It?

The reality is that duplicate content is part of managing a website. The trick is in how you present it and the time you take to vary it from page to page and/or from syndicated sources. What have your experiences been with duplicate content?


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