There was a long period during my initial journey through SEO where one of the biggest fears I had was rewriting stuff I had up on my site and getting flagged by Google for duplicate content.
This paranoia, which is the best way I can describe it really held me back from writing up good quality information, quickly. And I also discovered this was a popular problem many bloggers had, at least those who understood what duplicate content was and were trying to avoid it, but I managed to overcome this problem and for anyone who is dealing with it, I absolutely know that this article will help you get past this issue.
But I need to first explain the main idea of duplicate content and give you different examples of it before I tell you how to prevent it and find it.
Alright, so what is duplicate content?
It’s typically a block of text that is repeated on either one or multiple websites. Now this raises 2 common scenarios where it can happen:
It can happen when someone either knowingly or not copies chunks of text off another site, and when I say copies, I mean copies a lot (again, chunks), not just a few words, but something to the tune of a paragraph/s.
On a side note, the good news is that if you are a new website owner and new to SEO and fear someone may steal what you write, don’t worry about it. If you’re aiming to rank on Google, and are the original creator of whatever it is you write and rank for, ANY site that copies your stuff and tries to get ranked for it will not be able to as Google will view you as the original creator.
This means if person A writes a bunch of stuff and person B copies that stuff, person A’s site will rank, while person B’s copied version of it will not. Person B will also likely either suffer a penalty from Google and get ranked very low or just de-indexed.
Now you will find some exceptions to this rule which I will explain in a moment that MAY actually quell your fears of duplicate content happening.
Now there’s the second scenario in which this can happen and that’s on YOUR page.
In this scenario, let us assume you write a bunch of articles on a particular topic, but as you keep writing new things, some information about the topic “repeats itself” and you end up worrying that you rewrote something.
This, at least to me personally, would in the past raise paranoid thoughts that I was re-writing my own content and that it would sink my rankings.
If this is also where you are right now, don’t worry, we’ll cover it!
2 situations in which you’d have to worry about this topic being a problem (and how to prevent it):
Situation 1: You literally go around 1 or more pages, take chunks of text and copy it over to your site. This scenario would apply to case 1, but it would ultimately lead to your own website’s demise as this is clear cut example of duplicate content abuse at it’s worse. Google would eviscerate your site.
So how do you avoid this? Don’t do it, it’s a simple solution.
If nothing else, use the info you find from other websites, to get ideas on how to structure your own.
Suppose I am doing research on a product and find a bunch of great pages reviewing it. Rather than taking what they wrote on their own (which would be wrong), I can get more in-depth info on the product, make my own conclusions on it, then write my own, unique review and if anything, quote those pages or just mention how other pages said the product was good or not.
The result is that what you will produce will be unique.
Situation 2: This covers case 2 more often. As long as you do not engage in clear cut, copy and pasting of your own written work, you will be fine, just make sure you re-write your points if they are the same.
I encounter a lot of situations where when I write information on for example, SEO related topics, and when I do, I find myself re-writing the same points, but rather than copying and pasting previously written work I wrote, I simply re-write the point in a different way. This gives me peace in knowing the stuff I write is completely unique.
More specifically, let’s take a topic I’ve written about SO many times just so you can see a good example of this. There is one topic I have found to be so popular that I must have written 10 articles on it so far and it is: Keyword research.
I have a main article on it here.
But there have been times where I found many new keywords that had the same idea in mind and decided to write a whole new article about it. Instead of taking a chunk of text from the original piece I wrote, I just wrote about it from a different point of view that helped the article be easier to understand. Here is a perfect article which you should compare to the other one I just linked above it.
The topics are essentially the same, yet the writing is different and therefore, I need not worry about anything.
And for what it’s worth, you absolutely SHOULD write new things for similar topics, otherwise your audience will view what you write as repeat information and lose interest in visiting your pages.
So for situation 2, the tips are simple:
Do not copy and paste chunks of text from previous articles. If anything, take a screenshot of a block of text and use it as an image if you need to.
Write new words/information about a similar topic. Use different analogies, different stories, but essentially make the same point if it needs to be made.
For reference, use the 2 articles I linked above to see how this works.
Miscellaneous situations in which duplicate content is not really a problem:
Situation 1: You write quotes on your pages. Quotes are technically seen on tons of other websites right? So wouldn’t this count as duplicate content?
Theoretically yes, but you shouldn’t worry about it. As long as it’s 1 sentence or less and the overwhelming amount of other information on the article is unique, you’re fine. So if 1 sentence out of say 1,000 words or more has wording that is seen on other sites, don’t worry.
I used to panic about this stuff and think twice about writing what I wanted to. But if it is written naturally, you’re good. In fact, check out Matt Cutts, an existing (or former) Google webmaster and what he said about this whole topic, which I will paraphrase in the following quote:
Think about that. What are some examples of this? Here’s 1:
Musical lyrics. Look up lyrics to a song and you’ll find a huge number of pages all writing about them. That’s actually duplicate content, yet it’s not being penalized.
To be honest, this is a contrary scenario to the first situation I wrote about above, but in this case, it makes sense that Google distinguishes this type of copied information vs one that is unique and stolen from another source. Here it’s OK, though I would not advise experimenting with this!
Situation 2: You’re writing a new article, but as you write, you realize you may have written the exact same thing previously in another article.
This is actually the main problem I had when I was stuck in this paranoia period and one thing one of my mentors from Wealthy Affiliate said really helped me forget about it and move forward.
Here is the screenshot to the right (read from the bottom up, especially his last 2 messages at the top):
Once he said this stuff to me, I was so relieved that I immedietly became a better writer because I then felt less pressured to continually regulate myself.
The message was simple: Write freely!
If you think about it, the point he makes is absolutely perfect. If Google was really that crazy about looking for duplicated work, it would be incredibly difficult for any page to rank because it would ALWAYS have some sort of copied information, be it a quote, saying or phrase and this would actually inhibit Google’s growth.
Situation 3: Comments.
Another thing that used to have me worried was if someone was going around trying to post the same comments on multiple sites. If it was approved, then at least 2 or more pages would have the same stuff written on them and could possibly damage it.
So what I would end up doing is actually pasting the entire quote into Google to check for copies of it. In the 100’s of times I did this, I only found 1 situation in which the comment was actually written on another page. When I did find this, I erased the comment immediately.
As far as I know, these aren’t a big deal, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Also have a plugin installed on your site (if you use WordPress) that checks for spam comments. I use WP-Spamshield. Typically spam comments are the ones you should worry about.
The bottom line is a lot of this is self regulating, BUT…
If you are in a spot where you have a big site and perhaps in the past may have had stuff that was re-written on new articles, here are 4 pieces of advice I can give that will help you:
1) Use Copyscape.com. It’s a good program that searches Google for duplicated versions of whatever URL you use. You may possibly find several of your own pages with the same information. In that case, go into the pages and correct the error by re-writing it.
2) Use WordPress as your website platform. WordPress is great at spotting duplicate content, especially when it comes to comments. I’ve had several times when a comment would be submitted to my page that WordPress would spot it as already existing somewhere on my other pages. This warning prevented me from publishing the same comment twice!
3) Recheck old articles that you think may have the same info written. This is one of the hardest and most annoying ways of dealing with this problem, but it can still be a solution…
Let’s say we have the same scenario in which I’m writing something and I start to think I already wrote it before. What I would do is head into the “archives” of my whole website and look at any pages or posts that I think may have that same information.
Note: This is actually a good case (again) for using WordPress as it has a cool finding feature that helps you find previous articles you wrote by simply typing up either the title or keyword that you used in the title or body of the article.
Since I use WordPress, I would open all of them up (any pages I think may have the same information) and skim through it and if I’d find it, I would just not repeat the same information on the existing article I was writing or at the very least, I’d write it differently.
Of course this isn’t going to be a problem if you just write freely all the time (again, look at my boss’s advice above).
My final thoughts:
The SEO world of today is very different and much more advanced than before. Duplicate content used to be a major issue in the past but Google has done a lot to improve upon this.
The main point is what I mentioned several times already: Write freely and I guarantee you just as my boss did that you will not have to worry about this stuff.