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The Truth About Duplicate Content

     -     Nov 29th, 2016   -     Search Engine Optimization   -     0 Comments

In my work with accounting marketers one of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about duplicate content. There is the assumption in the industry that duplicate content on a website is the equivalent of the black plague. Once a site has been spotted with it by Google they may as well admit defeat and shut the site down. Okay that is an overstatement, but you get the point. The truth is that duplicate content is not damaging to a website’s rankings as many believe. In fact, Google has published a fair amount of information about how they handle duplicate content and the impact. To help industry professionals understand the impact, I have provided some eye opening information below.

What is duplicate content?

According to Google, duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or is appreciably similar. Mostly, content that is not meant to be deceptive or manipulate search rankings.

So is Duplicate Content the Plague Many Think It is?

Over the course of several years, there have been quite a few informative blog posts published by Googlers. Below is a summary of the highlights:

  • First and foremost, duplicate content is not grounds for your site to be penalized.
  • Googlers know that users want diversity in search results and not the same article over and over, so behind the scenes like Oz behind the curtain, they choose to consolidate and show only one version.
  • To protect webmasters, Google actually designed algorithms to prevent duplicate content indexing. These algorithms were created to group the various versions into a cluster, the “best” URL in the cluster is what is displayed in search results. The algorithm is so smart it actually knows to consolidate various signals (such as links) from pages within that cluster to the one being shown. Google has even stated, “If you don’t want to worry about sorting through duplication on your site, you can let us worry about it instead.”
  • The only grounds for action and penalization pertaining to duplicate content are if its intent is to manipulate search results.
  • If you have duplicate content, the worst case scenario is that a less favorable version of the page will be shown in search results.
  • Google tries to determine the original source of the content and display just that one.
  • You have rights. If you discover that someone is duplicating your firm’s content without permission, you can request to have it removed by filing a request under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
  • Google needs to crawl all versions of duplicate content, so don’t attempt to block access to it. If Google can’t crawl all versions, they can’t consolidate the signals.

In Perspective

It’s clear that duplicate content does not result in a site penalty. However, it would be a wise idea for accounting marketing professionals to take the time to vary content or at least couch it so that it is designed to speak to their firm’s specific audience. If your firm uses “canned” content this is an important point because otherwise you may not be offering unique and engaging content. What is your experience with duplicate content? Let us know!

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