It may be tempting to wholesale copy content from other websites if you are desperate for content. This is one of the biggeast SEO mistakes you can make. If you intend to create a website that properly leverages SEO so it ranks well for a topic, attracts traffic, and converts those visitors to leads & sales… you need fresh & unique content. Otherwise, if you fill a site with duplicate content, you’ll likely face a stiff Google penalty.
But let’s say you find a piece of content from an authority site you trust. You believe strongly that this content would benefit your readers. In that case, there’s a legitimate way to include that duplicate content without incurring an SEO penalty from the Google duplicate content checking engine.
As you may have guessed, the key is in how this duplicate content is managed.
Leveraging “The Brief”
One method for adding duplicate content to a site while avoiding a penalty is to simply write a summary brief. Write briefly on the topic and then link to the source material. The summary becomes a unique piece of content unto itself. This completely avoids duplicate content concerns. It gives you a chance to call out the content by reference. From a pure SEO perspective, this is the best option.
Our AutoBlog tool makes this easy. It scans the internet for content that you may want to share with your target market including prospects and clients. You can set it to post only a snippet of the content with a link back to the source. Edit the snippet to put it into your own words and publish the post. It’s a pretty handy way to add information to your site. Plus it won’t appear as duplicate content from an SEO perspective.
OK, it’s a big word. Sort of like Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious. Don’t you love our industry for coming up with these terms?
But Canonicalization is actually powerful. It’s a great method for adding duplicate content to a site while avoiding a negative SEO penalty. So what is canonicalization? It allows you to specify what the originating source of content is. This way you publicly declare to the search engines that you aren’t the originator of the content. If you are candid that you are using someone else’s content, they’ll let you publish it without triggering duplicate content penalties.
So when you add the duplicate content to WordPress, you simply state what the source URL (website page) of the content was. Our AutoBlog tool can handle this optimization automatically (imagine that). But if you are manually adding content, our SEO tool gives you a field where you supply the source website page. (We cover these elements in Step 7 of our process as we train and coach you on content creation strategy and SEO copywriting for your business.)
And I’ll let you in on another little optimization secret… it is possible that your duplicate material COULD STILL RANK quite well in spite of Canonicalization.
The reason for this is that Google and Bing both compare your website to others in your local market. Remember that search engines are on a mission to ensure that search results are locally relevant. So when it is thinking about your duplicate content it is keeping this in mind. By using Canonicalization, I’ve seen two sites in separate parts of the country rank equally well with syndicated content. It may be duplicate content, but Google perceives the content as unique for that locality and ranks accordingly.
As I mentioned at the outset, don’t load up your site with duplicate content as your primary content creation strategy. Such a strategy will not help you rank in your local market for highly competitive terms. But if you choose to leverage duplicate content, treat it as “seasoning” for your content strategy process. Then it is possible to incorporate duplicate content into your website without having a negative impact on your SEO rankings.
Remember that the duplicate content should be beneficial for YOUR clients and prospects. That must always be at the center of why you might want to incorporate some duplicate content into your content publication strategy.
Still have your doubts? Here’s Google’s official stance on Canonicalization.
A More Common Problem Concerning The Duplicate Content Issue
Most business owners get themselves in trouble with duplicate content because of how their websites are set. For example, if the website is managed by the WordPress platform, it will typically have content split into pages and posts. (Pages contain static information. Posts are normally leveraged to share articles like the one you are reading presently.)
The issue is that WordPress likes to display Posts via several different paths simultaneously. The most common include via the “BlogRoll”, “Categories”, and “Tags”. But depending on how the site is configured, there might be other paths to the content as well. These different paths to the content create different linking addresses yet they point to the same piece of information. This setup will trigger the Google duplicate content detection system as it can’t tell which URL is authoritative. Unintentionally, you’ve set your site up with duplicate content. You’ll depress your site’s SEO ranking ability as a result.
This can be easily fixed and if you are a client of LiftDemand we offer detailed training & coaching on how to deal with this issue. (Check out our cost effective marketing strategies for more details.) But generally these quick steps should fix the issue:
- Disable your “blogroll” so you don’t have a single page showing all your posts.
- Let your Categories display the list of relevant posts. Then, be sure they are set to either leverage a content excerpt or a summary containing the first couple of sentences from the content. (Most WordPress themes have settings to manage this.)
TIP: Excerpts are the preferred method to avoid potential duplicate content issues. For folks that need a more automated solution, an auto-generated summary should be OK.
Your Domain Can Cause Issues Too
It’s common for webmasters & designers to forget setting which domain should be primary when they first setup websites. This can create two totally different internal paths to the same pages right from the domains. This will lead to duplicate content issues as well.
For example, if you type in liftdemand.com (without the www) you’ll route to the site. You’ll see the final URL will be www.liftdemand.com. Why? Because we’ve configured our domain so that www.liftdemand.com is primary. If we didn’t do this, Google would see content both at www.liftdemand.com and liftdemand.com. It would perceive this as duplicate content.
To test how your site is configured simply try entering your website address with and without www in front of your domain. If it is configured properly your domain will automatically correct to whichever domain is set to be primary. If your site isn’t properly configured this “auto-correct” won’t take place. If that’s the case, you can be assured that you’re ranking ability for content is being held back as a result of duplicate content.
This is easy to fix if you are technical. Otherwise, get some help.
- You’ll need to have someone edit your .htaccess file in your website to properly redirect to the primary domain.
- Or someone will need to handle this for you at the DNS level.
And if it sounds complicated, it’s because this is a little more technical and if handled improperly could break your website. (The change itself is easy but if you don’t understand how .htaccess works or how DNS functions, you could create a huge mess.)
A Word on Leveraging a Duplicate Content Checker
When working to develop original content for your site, always remember to run a scan to ensure your content registers as unique. There are many tools to help you find duplicate content on websites. We love CopyScape which is probably the best, easiest to leverage free duplicate content checker on the market. CopyScape’s checker offers a zero cost content duplication check. It gives a basic summary of potential plagiarism. Meanwhile, their paid duplicate content tool is quick, easy, & affordable. It offers more information about the detected duplicate content. We are deeply involved in website content development for many clients. We run all unique content through a plagiarism checker like CopyScape to make certain content is always 100% fresh.
Leveraging a duplicate content checker is important to avoid plagiarism from a content development perspective. But, a checker isn’t capable of seeing Canonicalization. So if you are intentionally duplicating content with correct Canonicalization, they can’t see this.