Is Content Duplication Killing Your Search Performance?
Posted on June 8, 2012 by Danny Sehr
The short answer is: It Depends. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Duplicate content has come to be a dirty word in content marketing because of its perceived impact on search ranking. But if used correctly, original content from other sources will not affect your search performance and can actually build traffic by increasing your social media visibility.
So what does it take to smartly utilize “duplicate content” to build your social media profile, and find new customers? What will spike your results while sending you tumbling down the Google ranks?
First (and last, and everything in between, actually), of course, is quality content. Search engines prioritize fresh, original content. And guess what? So do the people you need to engage via an active social media presence: the prospects who will then visit your site and see what you have to offer. Generating original quality content will always improve your search performance.
But creating a constant stream of fresh, high-quality content takes time and skill. And there are limits on how much you can produce, especially if you’re a business owner looking to build sales. It just makes sense to supplement your original content with amazing syndicated content. But will Google punish you if you use duplicate content? It’s sometimes hard to separate fact from rumor when it comes to how search engines treat duplicate content. The truth is, if you do it right, using original content from reputable sources will save you time and money without affecting your search ranking.
What Is “Duplicate Content” Really?
Before we get too far we should describe what search engines mean by duplicate content. I’ll focus on Google, but Bing has similar guidelines. Google looks for two types of content duplication:
- Similar content on different pages of your site
- Content on your site that is similar to content on other domains (“syndicated” content)
Much of Google’s public commentary on duplicate content has focused on the first of these because they are in a constant battle to keep sites from using tricks like putting the same content under multiple URLs to pump up search ranking. Preventing getting dinged due to what looks to Google like duplicate content within your site is mostly a matter of good site hygiene (check out this great SEOmoz blog post for the full story).
Collecting Content: Curate, Don’t Just Grab and Go
Using content generated by others isn’t just an easy way to fill space on your site, and it doesn’t have to be considered search spam. If the content is legally acquired and properly curated, it can be a tremendous service to your social media followers. You’ll have entertained, informed, and raised your profile in one move. That’s a win all the way around.
The key word here is curated. Meaning, if you use duplicate content from outside sources, it must be:
- Useful, entertaining, or informative
- Properly tagged/credited
The content should be relevant to your audience and related to your homegrown content. Also, it always helps to bookend borrowed content with some original comments to keep it fresh and specific to your site. Add your perspective to the discussion whenever possible.
Also don’t bias yourself about when a piece of content was released. Content doesn’t have to be sparkly new to have value. If you choose content based on age alone, you might miss some real gems. We’ll address whether recency always equals relevancy in a future post.
When you do use outside material, make sure it’s legally obtained from credible sources. With the amount of content that is available on the web, you don’t want your visitors to be asking themselves if they should trust what they are reading on your site. And you don’t want to get yourself in trouble with a content owner by reusing its content without permission. Keep the lawyers out of it.
Syndicate Properly Yourself or Use a Qualified Service
One way to manage the nonstop need for fresh content is through syndication. If you have acquired the rights on your own to syndicate content into your site, you’ll need to follow some basic guidelines to let Google know that you’re using content from another source:
- Prevent search engines from indexing the page using the noindex meta tag
- Or, attribute the content owner by using the cross-domain rel=”canonical” link element
Obtaining and publishing syndicated content, however, is time-consuming and can distract you from your primarily responsibility–running your business. The right syndication service can do most of the work for you by:
- Providing curated content aimed at your market
- Securing all the necessary usage rights
- Protecting it so that you won’t affect search ranking for either you or the content provider
Some syndication services give you access only to partial, “fair use” content; others offer complete content. (At Scribit we believe full content is the way to go.) And syndication offers ease of use by delivering content to you, even automatically routing content to your social media networks.
The bottom line is that if you’re a busy business owner looking for efficient ways to increase visibility, content duplication can save time and help you build your brand, and if you do it right, you won’t be penalized. Just make sure you’re focused on quality content, no matter where it comes from. Find the right partners to help you navigate the constantly changing marketplace, play fair, and always keep your brand in mind.