If you know anything about search engine optimisation (SEO), you probably know that duplicate content is not a good thing. You may also be under the impression that Google and Co consider duplicate content as the ultimate SEO sin; routinely resulting in major penalties for those who fall foul of the rules.
To a degree, fearing duplicate content and doing your level best to avoid it is both sensible and advisable. That said, the whole Google penalty thing regarding duplicate content is actually a complete myth.
Google clearly states in its own Search Central guidelines; you will not receive a penalty for having duplicate content on two or more pages of your website.
Realistically, it should be relatively obvious that search engines aren’t going to punish you for repeating the same text on two or more web pages. When you consider how some of the world’s biggest online retailers do business, there’s no practical way they could make every one of their pages 100% unique.
In some instances, a shred of duplicate content is inevitable – perhaps even preferable for your digital marketing strategy.
But does this mean you should attempt to get away with pasting the same content across a whole bunch of you pages, simply to save time and effort?
In a word, no – but perhaps not for the reasons you might think.
Separating Fact from Fiction
As we’ve mentioned, publishing the same content across two or more pages of your website is not going to result in a Google penalty. However, this does not mean you should opt for a copy and paste job for ease and saving time or money.
Duplicate website content can still harm your website, the user experience you provide, and your SEO performance in general.
In order to understand the potential risks associated with duplicate content, you need to take a look at content from the perspective of a search engine:
- Search engines classify content duplicated within the same website (but not plagiarised from other sites) as ‘non-malicious duplicate content’. The most common examples of this include product and service descriptions, along with definitions and quotations that cannot be changed.
- Google’s crawlers avoid indexing the same content several times for the same query. This results in Google filtering your content to figure out the best (or most and relevant) of the bunch.
- Search engines will point users in the direction of one of these pages, but not all of them. The rest will not appear in the search rankings, because Google has deemed them less relevant or valuable than one of your other pages with the same content.
- Duplicating your content is effectively putting you in competition with yourself for those coveted heights in the SERP.
Google isn’t interested in ‘punishing’ you per-se, but they are interested in providing the best service to their customers; the users searching for answers. And they’re on a mission to ensure the same content doesn’t appear multiple times in their search results for any given query.
While there may be no direct punishment enforced for duplication, it can be detrimental, nonetheless.
For example; if 10 unique or semi-unique product pages are on an eCommerce site, all 10 can be indexed by Google and promoted accordingly. All 10 therefore could be used to target different keywords and search terms of relevance and value; that’s effectively increasing the site’s likelihood of being recommended by 10X. Now isn’t that much better than using the same content across 10 pages?
Understandably, creating unique content for all pages such as these is not always practical or possible. Sometimes you don’t have the time for a massive content overhaul yourself. Sometimes you don’t have the funds to hire a content creator to do the work for you. But where there is the opportunity to create and publish unique content, the rewards for doing so will more than justify the initial outlay.