It's a myth that Google applies penalties for duplicate content. But it can hurt you anyway. Find out when and where you need to be concerned!
Duplicate content can be anything from cloned product listings to material imported word-for-word from outside sources. The extent of the duplication makes a big difference in how strongly it will affect your visibility in Google search. For example, although Google prefers unique, rich content, you don't need to worry about small blocks of repeated text—such as a little bit of shipping information—in otherwise standout pages.
Why does Google care about duplicate content? Google's main concern is that a website owner could manipulate results by repeating high-ranking, highly relevant content on multiple pages. (It would be like having 100 entries in a lottery instead of just one.) Google has become smart enough to recognize this. To compensate, it picks one identical page, and ignores the repeats.
Which means that, although Google doesn't apply penalties for duplicate content, copied pages and text can reduce the number of opportunities to be seen in search results.
As mentioned above, "A block of duplicate text on a page is perfectly fine." (Google Webmasters, February 2017) Google helps users find the unique content on the page and simply avoids all the duplicate language.
Google forum experts do recommend that if you have hundreds of pages with the same block of text—especially if you don't have truly exceptional content on the rest of the page—use a summary sentence instead, with a link to a separate location containing all the previously repeated information.
They also recommend consolidating pages for product variations. For example, the same sweater in 10 different colors. Use one listing instead of ten, especially if the descriptions are very similar.
Most of the above refers to content duplicated within your own site. But there's also the issue of using information on your site that appears exactly the same elsewhere. In that case, Google generally selects what it considers to be the highest ranking site to show in results. So it's critical that pages containing imported information also contain new, fresh, unique material that will help those pages become more competitive.
Is this an issue for your website or marketplace shop? Feel free to comment or ask a question. Also, browse the blog for other quick tips on SEO, copywriting and social media.
Barbara Clavan provides copywriting, coaching and consulting services to high-growth businesses, high-profile individuals and creative entrepreneurs.
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