Why Copying Content Is A Bad Idea
Let’s face it: we all love hacks, especially ones that make our life easier. So why shouldn’t we copy content that we like in any way?
Let’s face it: we all love hacks.
Whether it’s on a video game or trying to creatively open a jammed bottle cap, anything that can help us save time and work smarter is what we look for.
With an audience that has an eight-second attention span (i.e. us), we tend to consume a lot of content — blog posts, podcasts, books, studies, videos, and anything that we find interesting, relevant, or entertaining. But because good content takes time and resources to create, a lot of marketers and writers fall back on copying competitors’ content.
After all, if it helped your competitor rank, it should help you too, right?
Copying content can have a negative impact on your SEO (search engine optimisation) and rankings on search engines.
But what’s the difference between duplicated and copied content?
It’s all in the semantics of the intent behind the duplicated text.
Copied content can be penalised by algorithms or manually (flagging, reporting, etc.), but duplicated content isn’t deceptive in origin or penalised, but also not the optimal website set-up to have.
The Internet is a massive place, but we shouldn’t assume that it means your chances of being caught copying content are non-existent. Search engines use powerful bots to crawl and index websites, and detecting copied content means:
- Duplicate Penalties
Any search engine worth its salt won’t show you the same results. This snippet: “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the one already displayed. If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included” might sound familiar.
Engines like Google are great at determining original versus copied websites and content. While it won’t harm your website’s credibility, it will negatively affect individual page rankings, and even result in your page (or site) getting flagged as spam.
- Dilution Of Search Engine Results
This means not copying content from your own website either. It’s convenient to re-purpose content, but it can dilute the amount of inbound traffic to your site. Google takes into account the amount of inbound links, and low-ranking pages have links spread across two, three, four pages instead of just one — this is multiple pages that say very similar things.
The takeaway? Diversity is important.
- Legal Issues
If you scroll to the bottom of most pages, this is what you’ll see:
© 2020 XX Company. All Rights Reserved.
This disclaimer means all the website content is the property of the site owner and unauthorised usage of it is essentially stealing. If you find out someone has been using your content without your knowledge, you can appeal to Google to have their page removed from search results.
There is a certain level of repetition that you can have on your website. Things like specifications of product descriptions, using another site’s content openly (for example, press releases), or content that appears in two places on your site are okay.
But what if someone is copying your content?
- You can get in touch with them. A lot of plagiarists do apologise and remove content when caught or pressurised.
- Get a lawyer. Cease-and-desist letters and the threat of legal action shows that you are serious about protecting your content and makes a plagiarist think twice.
- Talk to the host. Free tools online like this one can help you figure out who the website host is, and file a complaint with them.
So how can you make sure your content is original?
The easiest way to cut down on copied content is simply not to copy it. But sometimes, we don’t even realise something is duplicated — it can be things like extremely similar product/service descriptions that causes Google to register it as duplicated content.
- When adding product/service descriptions, try and include more information than just bullet specifications about it. For example, talk about why a customer should buy this from you.
- Index your site by Google itself. From Google Webmaster Tools (now Search Console), submit your URL to “fetch as Google” for immediate indexing. This tells Google a website belongs to you and is unique.
- Need to copy content (but legitimately)? Use the canonical tag. This way you tell Google that you’ve duplicated information and place the canonical tag on your page after asking permission from the original content webmaster.
Search engines aren’t out to penalise us without reason. High quality, credible and frequently updated content is essential to organic marketing strategies, and to great writing in general.
Originally written for and published on Digital Odyssey.