Today I’d like to stay on the topic from Joe’s Wildcard Friday post from last week and continue to discuss duplicate content. However, today’s article won’t be discussing other sites that steal your content but instead about duplicate content within your own site and on your social media profiles.
So why is duplicate content an issue? Well, in case you haven’t seen any of our previous blog entries on this topic, I will quickly recap. For a long time here at Exclusive Concepts, we have been stressing the importance of having unique content on all of your pages. It had been long rumored that search engines, in particularly Google, placed a heavy emphasis on having unique content in order to provide a valuable search experience to their users. This theory was confirmed when many sites with duplicate content saw a drop in traffic during the May Day algorithmic update in the spring of 2010 and it was also further confirmed last week by Matt Cutts of Google in his blog.
As an SEO Analyst, I cannot count the number of times I have seen a drop in rankings for a particular page be correlated with having duplicate content. About 95% of the time I’ve come across duplicate content, it has always been another site stealing content. However, this can also be an issue when content is duplicated within a single site or on social media networks.
I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Why is it a problem as long as I am the one duplicating the content and no one else is benefitting from it?” Well, even though it is a much better scenario than having an outside site duplicate your content, the truth is you are still hurting yourself. Let’s take a look at 2 common scenarios where this can hurt your site:
The first is when you use the same content across multiple pages on your site or on your blog. For an ecommerce site, it is not too uncommon to see the same product descriptions for product pages that are very similar in features. For example, if you are selling clothing and there are 5 products that all share the same style, size, brand and so on, but only differ in 1-2 small features like color or size, you may be tempted to keep the same descriptions for all 5 and only change the 1-2 keywords that are necessary to update for the product. However, when the search engines come across this duplicate content, you will run several risks: one is that the spiders will stop crawling the page since they’ve seen the content before and will leave the site. The major problem is that when Google comes across this duplicate content, it will be up to them to decide which page or pages to place in their primary index, and which ones to keep out of the index or to rank lower. By having unique content across all 5 pages you can help ensure that you are doing as much as possible to get all of your pages into Google’s primary index, making them as visible as possible in search engines.
Another very common example is when you take the time to write unique content for a page and then duplicate it on a blog post. Let’s say that you’ve just created unique content for a new category page on your site, Brand X. To help promote this new brand that you will be carrying, you also create a blog post talking about the brand and its products, and within this post you copy a lot of the content from the category page. Doing this, you will run a similar risk as mentioned above of only one of these pages being places in the primary index and it can severely impact your rankings for either page. By writing separate content, you can make sure that both pages have the chance to be indexed and placed high in Google rankings.
The other common example I see of site owner’s duplicating their own content is on social networks, most commonly Facebook. Just as in the blog example just mentioned, I’ve seen cases when a site is promoting a brand on their Facebook wall that they will just duplicate what is already on their site and link back to it. Doing so causes the same problem as any other site that duplicates content and can cause confusion in the search engines as to which site has the original content. On top of that, think of how much more popular Facebook is than your site, meaning it will be indexed much faster and more frequently, which just adds to this issue.