Is Copying Content Bad for SEO?

Remember back in school, when it was drilled into you that copying (or plagiarising) from your friends or from books was bad? So why have so many website managers and small business owners slipped back into the habit? We see it often, you’ll be reading a couple of blogs or news items from a small business, and then all of a sudden the tone of voice changes, the structure of the blog takes a totally different format, the vocabulary stands out like a sore thumb. A quick Google and you can usually find the original blog post, and see how much has been copied word for word.

It’s incredibly lazy marketing. The thing is with the internet is that almost no content is going to be original – that’s just a fact. The majority of blogs we write will come as a results of research online, but coupled with our own opinions and experiences. But copying content word for word to your own website is going to have repercussions.

Aside from the fact that it is lazy marketing, it can also have a negative effect on your search engine optimisation, and as a small business, this is an aspect of being online that you are probably relying on.

Duplicate Content vs Copied Content

Back in 2016, Semrush did research based on 100,000 websites to see what were the most common things causing SEO issues. Duplicate content was top of the list, with 50% of those websites facing duplicate content problems. According to Google and the Semrush article, duplicate content is where a significant block of content within or across websites either completely match other content, or are *very* similar. Fastforward to 2019 and there’s a key difference we need to mention. Duplicate content is not the same as copied content.

Duplicate content is where on your own website you might see the same content in different locations. The easiest way to explain this is to think of an online shop. When you browse the products on the shop, there will be a unique URL for that and the products all showing. If you decide to filter those products (for example, under £20, or lowest price to highest), the URL will change to reflect that search functionality – but the content remains the same.

Now, Google according to Hobo, do not mention “duplicate content” in their Search Quality Raters Guidelines, but they do mention “copied content”. Moz have an excellent article about duplicate content online and what you can do to reduce it on your own website.

How does copied content affect SEO?

If you’ve read our posts about quality content, then it makes sense that by copying content you aren’t showing the search engines that you’re creating quality, unique content for them to rank. The search engines already know that content has been published elsewhere, and before too.

If you think you can compete with your competition and still rank, think again – search engines will only display one of the pages that has duplicate content, because they want to provide their users with the highest search quality possible. Imagine if you did a search on Google and the top 5 results were all duplicate content – would you be annoyed at those websites for doing that in the first place, or miffed at Google for not providing you with quality search results?

Another SEO issue that will crop up is the lack of authority for your website as a whole – once you start copying (and duplicating) content, those particular pages or posts will suffer, which will effectively cause your whole website to see a decrease in organic traffic.

Oh, and other reason:

Did you know that all content on the web is covered by copyright law? Well, we didn’t. But the penalties are the same if you’re caught copying content from one website to your own – so make sure you ask permission, credit accordingly and play fair.

 

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