As the Internet continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and more and more online marketers enter the picture in every industry, competition for the top search engines spots has gotten more intense. Believe it or not, that isn't just an issue for business owners, marketing managers, and their search engine specialists, however; it also creates some difficulties from the major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing themselves.
In fact, one of those tough spots – for online marketers and search engines alike – has to do with duplicate content.
Chances are, you have already heard a little bit about duplicate content. But if you haven't, here's what you need to know: Since the major search engines work by sending out automated robots that scan different sites to help searchers find what they're looking for, a problem arises when they have two different websites or pages with the exact same content, or content that is very similar. Which one should be ranked higher? And do searchers really want to find two different results that are almost exactly the same to one another?
Since the goal is to help the end-user find what he or she is looking for in the most efficient way possible, the search engine has to make a choice. In most cases, that means "filtering" one or more of the websites with duplicated content. In other words, the searcher sees the page that Google, Yahoo, or Bing thinks is most relevant, and then excludes all the others.
That's great for searchers, but it can be bad for your search engine rankings. With that in mind, here are five ways to stop your website from being filtered out because of duplicate content penalties:
Know that duplicate content filtering doesn't necessarily suggest that something bad is going on. There are lots of completely legitimate reasons that you could have the same, or very similar, content on your site as another. For one thing, you could have gotten a product description from the manufacturer, or a bio from a vendor, that's being used elsewhere. It could also be the case that your company could have multiple websites in different regions or countries. These are just two examples, but the point is to recognize that duplicate content can hurt your search engine rankings, whether it was copied intentionally or not.
Never steal content. That being said, if you have copied or "scraped" content from another site, you should take it down immediately. Not only will the affected pages be ignored by search engines, but it's entirely possible that you could face legal penalties and liabilities from borrowing text or images without permission.
In our experience, the majority of businesses with scraped and copied content weren't aware they were doing anything wrong; often they worked with a low-end web designer who copied things from other sites on their behalf, and without their knowledge. Even so, it’s your company that will pay the penalty, so make sure the content on your site is original.
Protect your own content. In the same way, you want to be sure that other sites aren't borrowing your content without permission. There are a number of tools online to help you check that your own site is original, and that it hasn't been copied elsewhere (Copyscape is the most popular). Given the time, energy, and money that goes into creating strong content for your business website, it's worth it to spend a little protecting it.
Rewrite product descriptions and other widely distributed content. Remember how we said you could be penalized for using reissued product descriptions and bios? The best way to prevent your site from being filtered for this type of content is to come up with your own original versions. It takes more time and effort than simply pasting existing material into your site, but the result is a lot more valuable.
What do each of these steps have in common? They all make your site more original, and more trustworthy to search engines. And really, that's what this whole issue comes down to: giving reasons for your business website to rank more highly than someone else's.
Remember that, and use these tips to avoid having duplicate content on your site. Online or off, being "one of a kind" is still the best way to stand out in a crowd.