Welcome back to another show in the SEO Essentials series of the Content Champion podcast. A common issue with many of our new client websites is duplicate content. Duplicate content can play a significant role in your site’s ability to rank well on search engines such as Google.
Content Champion’s Head of SEO, Tom Peary, joins me again today to share his wisdom on the best SEO strategies to help you improve your website’s search ranking. Tom explains what duplicate content is - on your own website as well as across the web - and how this content can affect your ability to rank at the top of Google.
He also explains how to identify and fix these issues, how Google views duplicate content on ecommerce websites, and how soon you can expect to see an improvement for your site once you’ve made these corrections.
Listen To The Duplicate Content Show
What is duplicate content and why it’s important to identify it on your website
How to identify external duplicate content
How Google views duplicate content for ecommerce websites
Methods used to find duplicate content
How to handle duplicate content issues
How soon can you expect to see your site rebound after fixing these issues
Ways to protect your original content, when to contact site owners plagiarizing your content, and using DMCA
[Podcast] Duplicate Content (SEO Essentials) From Content Champion #contentmarketing #seo
Read the transcript
Loz James: I'm Loz James, and this is the Content Champion Podcast, the content marketing and SEO show where you can learn actionable techniques from real world examples. Hi, guys. Welcome to the show. This is the second SEO essentials podcast, talking about the foundational elements of SEO. I'm with Tom Peary, a head of SEO here at Content Champion, and related to the last show about canonicalization, we're now talking about duplicate content. Tom, could you explain to us what duplicate content is, on both our own sites and on the web?
Tom Peary: Yeah, sure. Let's start with our own sites to begin with, because it ties in nicely with the last podcast. Looking at your site for duplicate content is really important, as we said before, just because it can really hold you back in terms of your organic rankings. Too much duplicate content ... A little bit's okay, the odd fodder thing, menu items, Google understands that, but duplicate content across your site is going to impact poorly on your organic rankings, because Google sees you haven't taken much effort, that it's just filled with the same stuff. How relevant to that is a user? It can't differentiate different pages, because it has the same content. So that's the first thing.
The other one, which can be ... usually, it's out of your control, initially anyway, is external content that's been lifted, effectively. So if a site has been lazy, and they've just taken all your site content, or huge chunks of it, which we see all the time, it's really common, especially in the black hat world, which is not as abundant as it was, but certainly where somebody sees what your site has done to rank and just copies huge chunks of content, especially if it's very detailed content on something specific like health or a service that's a bit more complex. Rather than paying a copywriter to do a really good job and produce good content, they'll just lift it. You're not always aware of this either, unless you use a tool that can monitor your content and your site for plagiarism and notify you, which I'll go into. You're generally not going to know it's happened.
One of the ways that you're going to see that you've probably got a duplicate content issue from an external source is that your site rankings have started to drop. You were on position one. Things were good. It was the golden age. You were happy. Traffic was abundant. Sales were good. And then you start to see your position slowly go down. You could just think it's a Google change, a shift in the algorithm, or if somebody's outranking you. But it's something we check all the time. For clients, we're checking weekly, generally. And what you want to do is look at these tools that we're going to in a bit on finding this duplicate content and removing it, because as soon as you get that changed, you're going to see your site bounce back.
Loz James: And there's a different way Google looks at duplicate content on e-commerce sites, as we know from running our own successful e-commerce store. Google gives you a bit more leeway, because obviously there are product pages on e-commerce sites that are going to contain a lot of the same information. So how does Google deal with duplicate content in that context?
Tom Peary: For an e-commerce site, Google does understand much better than it once did that if you've got a product that's widely available, you're not going to rewrite that content over and over again. There's really no need, and no one really could. You couldn't rewrite thousands of products to have unique content. It would just be unaffordable. It wouldn't be cost-effective. So Google does understand that, and we tell clients this all the time, that sell a product, it's widely abundant, don't worry about that, we'll make your category pages and your landing pages pre- the product page. We'll make them relevant and have unique content.
Loz James: Just so long as you've also controlled those pages, like we talked about in the last show, with your canonical tags, you should be able to stream, control the flow of duplicate content around your site, whether it's an e-commerce store or a normal content site.
Tom Peary: Definitely.
Loz James: You mentioned tools. How do we find duplicate content? What are the methods and tools that we can use?
Tom Peary: There are some great ways. I really like Copyscape. Again, it's a free tool. Anyone can go and access this right now, copyscape.com for a little bit of a plug for them, because it is really a fantastic tool. Copyscape will check duplicate content on other sources, so not within your own site for duplicate content, but where site content on your site has been lifted or has been reused on another. You just put in your domain and it will scan the pages, and it will tell you if it's found duplicate content or not. That's one of the best ways.
The other way, which is really much simpler, and you don't even have to go to a website, you just go to Google, take a paragraph of your content on a specific page, and put it into Google search and press "search". It will show you what there is. That's one of the best ways. I generally tie in with a heading, so the H2 heading, for example, just before that paragraph, and take that paragraph of content, and it will generally bring it up. Because sometimes Copyscape doesn't find it immediately. We've noticed that. It may be a slightly delayed result, but using Google Live Search, you're going to find it. So that's a really easy way that we can all do it.
Loz James: We also talked about Siteliner in the last podcast. Siteliner helps you to sort of monitor duplicate content on your site, and also, if you've got a large, particularly e-commerce store ... and we use this quite a lot ... another mention for Sitebulb. That can identify duplicate content now across tens of thousands of pages on sites, and that gives you a really quick heads-up when it's crunched all the data and the stats of which pages you perhaps need to deal with.
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The next bit, this is kind of going to turn a lot of people off, because there's no way round this, and it's what you do about duplicate content. This is when it can get quite laborious. We need to make a spreadsheet up by hand, don't we?
Tom Peary: Yeah. That's how you and I work daily, is when we're looking at a site and we audit it and we look at these content problems, we'll have all the URLs, we'll know which has duplicate content or very little content, and then it's been rewritten. Like you say, it's a laborious task, but it's really important. This is the foundation. Google still loves content more than links. Content will always be number one, because that's what a search engine does, is finds content. If your content's better than someone else's, you're probably going to rank a little bit better than they do. So getting this right is going to start you off into much better results in the future.
Loz James: So what are we doing? Let's just give a delve-down into the details of this. We've just got an Excel spreadsheet. What are we actually doing to make that into a helpful resource?
Tom Peary: Within the spreadsheet, you'll have the URLs and then we'll have a column that says maybe "duplicate". You can call it whatever you want. Then once we've identified which is duplicate, we will mark it down, so that when we've got a report, and then we can feed that back to the copy writing team. And we'll put notes in another column as well, sometimes, saying, "We need 700 words of content. This is duplicated. Rewrite completely," or "It needs a 50% change." Once we go for all this, and then we can just schedule this in, because if you've got hundreds of pages, which you probably have, that are affected, it's rarely just a one- or two-page scenario. It's generally quite a lot of pages that you need to go through. You're not going to get it done straightaway, so you need to schedule this, and go through your key pages.
Look at the pages, and this is where tools like Ahrefs, which is my personal favourite, looking at this page, this URL used to rank. You can look at historical ranking data, even if you've never used this tool before, and see where it charted previously and then when it's dropped. So you can see the times that it was ranking and giving you more traffic to where it is currently. Then you prioritise these pages. Prioritise the pages where your money terms, that brought your traffic in, that brought you sales and leads, and work on these first. That's my recommendation, because you're going to see these jumping back first. You want to prioritise the URLs that need to be worked on. And this spreadsheet is great for that, because you can coordinate with your team or whoever you're working with to say, "These pages have been worked on. We've fixed these, re-indexed them in Google, and we move on to the next."
Loz James: And then when you move on to new pages, obviously, we're going to talk about keyword research in another show, inevitably, because it's the foundation of search, and related to the content you were talking about, but then we find new keywords for new pages, new opportunities to rank in search. And then we build out new pages based on that spreadsheet of first off dealing with the duplicate content issues and then building from there to create new keyword-optimized content. Then you've got your ducks in a row. Your foundations are solid, so you can carry on your future SEO in the full confidence that it's going to work, because you don't have these duplicate content issues.
But like when we work with clients, and this is related to how we charge for our SEO services, we break this down into chunks, based on the client's budget and what they want to achieve, and we will literally go through by hand all these technical issues that we're talking about, in this case duplicate content. We will go through a series of pages every month to make sure they're properly optimised and that things like duplicate content is no longer an issue.
So we've made our spreadsheet up, Tom. We've identified the duplicate content. We know what it is. We know how it can harm our site. How quickly are we going to see changes from doing this kind of work?
Tom Peary: Almost immediately. As soon as Google starts seeing these changes, this new content or the content that's been removed, because there's another alternative as well. If somebody's taking your content, then you shouldn't really have to rewrite it. You've spent money, you've spent time building this great content. Why should you have to rewrite it? So the one thing I would suggest is reaching out to these websites and saying, "You've plagiarised our content. You need to remove it." In most cases, they'll remove it and apologise and say they weren't aware of this. This is what happens eight times out of 10, I'd say.
The other option is using another service, something like DMCA, the official take-down service. It's very good, because it's a flat fee, and what they will do is contact the owner of the site. If they don't remove it within a scheduled time, normally a couple of days, they will just take down that page. They just contact the web hosting company, and that page or site gets removed. I can't remember what the fee is, I think it's about $250 or something, but it's really useful when you've got something that's affecting your site. You've seen that dip in traffic. You know your rankings are down. You've seen them. It can be only one thing, which is your home page, for example, is getting completely ripped, and all that content is now worth very little. So using something like DMCA can get it taken down if you can get in touch with the owner to take it down.
Loz James: In terms of duplicate content on your own site once you've made those changes, how long before you start to see a positive rebound in Google?
Tom Peary: It's usually quite quickly. A few weeks is what we normally see. Site traffic will start to ping back as soon as it starts to index the pages. It's generally about three weeks. That's what we've seen.
Loz James: Okay, fantastic. That is duplicate content. We've told you what it is. We've told you how to find it, some of the tools to use, how to go about remedying that situation, how quickly you will see the changes come through. In the next show, we're going to look at site speed. So for now, thanks for listening.
You've been listening to the Content Champion Podcast, actionable SEO and content marketing techniques based on real world examples. Until next time, thanks for being here.
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