Duplicate content, duplicate content: what to do, what to do?

In the world of SEO, nothing remains the same for long. Algorithms, best practices and penalties seem to change on a continuum, making it increasingly difficult for individuals and organizations to maintain their online reputation and keep their SEO scores clear from infractions and slaps on the wrist.

For organizations lacking the resources to continuously churn out high quality content for their website and social channels, the quick and easy copy and paste methodology is a last ditch effort to stay relevant and maintain an online presence.

This begs the questions: what’s the deal with duplicate content?

First, a look at its definition. Google identifies duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.” Why does that matter? Because, Google explains, seeing “the same content repeated within a set of search results” is not a good user experience.

writingThe notion, however, that any use of duplicate content is inherently bad or will land you in Google jail is simply untrue. There are plenty of instances where Google won’t take action against a site unless the duplicate content is being used specifically to manipulate search results – or to blatantly lessen the credibility of a source. It’s a Google judgment call, in other words. Posting one blog post — verbatim — across multiple sites is technically okay, provided it’s not being done in attempt to game Google’s system.

Once Google makes the determination that your content is free and clear of any nasty Internet intentions the question can be raised: what happens to the “good” duplicate content? Let’s use this scenario:

Let’s say you post the same blog post to five different websites. Because Google doesn’t like showing multiple pieces of the same content, it’s forced to choose which version is most likely to be the original—or best (based on things like social sharing). As a result, one version of the blog post that’s linked to one domain may rank very highly, while the others linked to the remaining four domains may not rank at all.

The good news is that there is a solution to this. If it’s important that a content entry is linked with a particular domain (even if that same content is published on several other domains), you can use a Canonical tag to tell Google which content entry is the original, and thus, the best entry to include in results.

This method is the best means of housing content across multiple domains, though it’s certainly more advantageous to create original content whenever possible. Each online platform (website, blog, social media channel) has its nuances and user preferences, thus content posted uniquely for those target audiences will likely generate more meaningful engagement and interaction. Utilizing original content will also broaden your reach in search results for a given topic.

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