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The problem with duplicate content (and how to avoid it)

Digital Marketing + SEO + Content and copywriting
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The problem with duplicate content (and how to avoid it)

We have heard many times over the past few years that ‘content is king’. Being a creator of content, I won’t lie… that term can stick around for as long as it likes. If Google keeps its top tier search position and retains master of SERP algorithm preferences, there’s very little indication that the importance of content will slow down. However, for business owners who want a thriving website, this can feel like a really overwhelming prospect: how do you populate so many pages? Of course, I have some ideas on what you could do and most of them centre around great UX design and UX copywriting. Unfortunately, and also understandably, this is often not the go-to answer for anyone whose life’s work is a different industry. What we see a lot of, instead, is duplicate content, and it’s creating a big hurdle to how you rank in search, and also how users experience your website.

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What is duplicate copy?

As the name suggests, it’s copy that has been repurposed verbatim (or even close to exact words) over multiple areas and pages of the website. Or, it’s plagiarised from another site (which comes with a whole new set of problems, but we might save that for another day…). Sometimes it has been duplicated purposefully to fill up pages with content, not realising it’s detrimental to their site’s authority and trust, and sometimes (more often) it’s an accidental or incidental habit. By this, I mean in instances where you have several of the same or very similar product, and the descriptions are identical. Or, you have one product or service that you offer multiple locations, and so are only changing location names and retaining the rest of the wording. 

Why is duplicate copy a problem?

The main issues with duplicate copy on your website:

Search engines (read: Google) will be confused

With the same content across multiple sections of your site, Google can’t differentiate the trust, authority and anchor text from one page to the next. This difficulty in identifying the original source can make it dismiss your content all together from being valuable to search users. Even if it does recognise one page or section as being valuable, it will render all other duplicate pages redundant, wasting the opportunity to use them instead to rank for other search terms, SEO and user value. 

User experience is greatly diminished, and you lose opportunities to give them value

A user enters your website via a number of avenues (ads, search engine result, directly or through social media). However, despite the way they got there, they’re typically after the same thing: an answer or solution to an issue or hurdle they’re facing. So, there is an expectation, or hope at the very least, that your website (so, business) will produce this. When they arrive on your pages and are presented with multiple pages of the exact same information, they are not going to stick around for long. Offer them a lot of different, rich and valuable content, and you’ve found yourself a highly engaged customer. 

It’s just bad practice

There really is no value to duplicate content at all. The practice of it verges on a moral issue when it has been duplicated from someone else’s website or content source, and is just a bit disrespectful to your current and future customers when you’re duplicating your own content. When you put any content out into the world as a business, you are asking that people take precious time out of their valuable day to engage with what you have to say. Always prioritise making it worth it. 

How to avoid duplicate content

There’s an easy answer: don’t duplicate content. But the practice of this answer isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of strategising, thinking, implementing and coordinating valuable, highly engaging content that is not on repeat. 

However, while omitting duplicate content is easy to do, knowing what to put in its place is a trickier activity. Really, no content is better than duplicate content… but that doesn’t mean I’d suggest zero copy (ever!). To get you started, there are a few things you can do to get those content ideas humming…

  • FAQs: this is a great way to answer the questions of your users, while also appealing to Google’s search for snippet content (when you get a paragraph or so in your result page after a search). If you don’t know how to find the common questions search users ask, just think about what you are actually asked by customers and potential customers, as well as the questions you want them to ask. 

  • Competitor check: You don’t want to be copying your competitors, but it’s worth taking a look at other websites within your industry to see what you like, and don’t like, from a user perspective as it pertains to content. What can you take away from what you find? What can you use on your own?

  • Populate what you can, when you can: Even if this is talking more about your business, or you, in your About section, or to expand on your services or product descriptions, do it in smaller steps to help manage down overwhelm. 

Content not your thing? Talk to Zimple today about opportunities to outsource your content production and strategy. 

Photo by Paul Engel on Unsplash

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