One of the oldest SEO myths that many experts still believe to this day is that Google will penalize a website for having duplicate copy.
This is not the case. However, that’s not to say that you should avoid duplicating copy as it can hurt your website in other ways. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know.
What Does Duplicate Copy Mean?
As the name suggests, ‘duplicate copy’ refers to multiple sets of content that are either exactly the same (i.e., copy & pasted from one website to another), or very similar (e.g., existing copy that has been rewritten poorly).
That said, duplicate content can also refer to duplicated content within a single website (e.g., product / service pages that use the same content over and over again).
Note: duplicate content does not apply to footers, CTAs, and other bits of content that make sense to appear on multiple pages.
For many years, people have believed that Google would penalise any website who actively cuts corners by taking another website’s copy and trying to pass it off as their own. There are several reasons why this myth may have started:
- Because it makes it easier to justify selling copywriting services (after all, why should a client pay for / write new content of their own when they can just steal their competitors, right?)
- As Google has so many different ranking factors, one would assume that plagiarism would of course be on that list.
- Because duplicate copy can hurt a website in other ways, so it’s more convenient to stick a big red flag in it and avoid it altogether.
In any case, just because Google will not penalize your website for pinching copy from your competitor websites, it doesn’t mean that you should treat this discovery as a green light for going ahead and doing it.
Below we’ll look into why you should continue pretending it’s still a big no-no!
Why Should You Avoid Duplicate Copy?
First of all, it’s important to remember that Google can’t rank the same content twice.
As such, when it encounters duplicate copy it has to decide which copy to rank at #1 – and in the majority of cases it gets this wrong.
Another reason to avoid it is simply because it’s bad practice. Why would you want to emulate another business when you can create a unique brand of your own? Stealing another’s brand voice is not sustainable.
Instead, invest in high-quality content creation from a reputable SEO firm and you’ll be far more likely to experience long-term success.
How Unique Should Your Content Be And How Can You Correct Any Existing Duplicate Content?
You should aim for your copy to be at least 30% different from other content. You can easily check this using ‘keyword density’ or ‘duplicate content’ checkers via Google.
As for fixing duplicate copy, it can be quite complicated (and often come out ‘stiff’). In most cases, it’s almost always worth ‘starting from scratch’.
You can emulate a piece of content or website copy that you love, but hire a gifted writer who can take the fundamentals and build on it – thus making it your own.
Of course, regarding duplicate copy on multiple pages within your own website (e.g., service area pages), it can be difficult to keep everything fresh and unique—particularly as a small business with a limited marketing budget.
In this case, with duplicate content on multiple service area pages, you should focus on including as much ‘area-specific’ info as possible so that Google can differentiate between each page.
Naturally, if you have thousands of pieces of old duplicate content that you want to fix, it can feel like a towering impossibility.
Understand that there’s no major rush and you certainly shouldn’t cut corners using automated tools.
Instead, hire a competent writer and have them breathe new life into your website, fixing pages every month, until your website is as fresh as a daisy.
Ultimately, one of the main reasons to avoid using duplicate copy is to avoid sounding like everyone else.
Most businesses have very weak sales copy indeed, relying on the same clichés and boring old language that most of us encounter every single day.
If you truly want to stand out online as a leader in your industry, then you’ve got to invest in premium quality writing that makes your brand unique – rather than just another number.
Find your voice and leave the impersonations to Jimmy Fallon.