Duplicate and Copied Content

The rules for using copied or duplicate content. Understanding the difference between the two is the first step. Bet you didn't know that 25%-35% of all internet content is 'duplicate'. Learn how that holds water.

Are You Using Duplicate or Copied Content on Your Site?

Advice from Google

As a business owner you may be wondering what you should write about on your blog, or how to add content to your website.  Have you ever heard the phrase that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’?  If you have, you may be thinking that copying someone else’s content and noting the source is a good thing as you build your site.  However, and according to Google as of 2019, duplicate content is commonplace, but copied content is not a good idea for your online presence.

What’s the Difference Between Duplicate and Copied Content?

Understanding the difference between duplicate and copied content is important as you build your web presence.  This is especially true if you are hoping to improve your site’s rankings in search engines like Google.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is information that has the same meaning and can be found on multiple websites.  For instance, here at Studio Barn Creative, we are website designers and digital marketers.  When we talk about the services we provide, we are probably duplicating some of the content, and the meaning of the content, from that of competitors.  And vice versa.  With this example in mind, and according to Matt Cutts of Google, an average of 25%-35% of all internet content is ‘duplicate’.   That statistic is from 2013 and the average may be higher now in 2022.

Another example is that you may quote a paragraph of a Blog to support your own main idea and then link out to that blog article on another site.  That is duplicate content because you are referencing a portion of (not copying in its entirety) content that already exists elsewhere.

Copied Content

Copied content is just what it sounds like.  It is Main Content (MC) that is not written by you, is copied in its entirety from someone else’s writing, and pasted into your website with little or no changes made to that content. It is either passed off as your own writing, or notes an original source.

How Google Addresses Copied Content

While duplicate content is commonplace and understood by Google, copied content is quite different as it relates to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and your site’s rankings in Google.  Copied content also, from a customer’s perspective, tells a story about your credibility.  More on that later below.

Google created a document titled “Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines” and updated it as recently as 2019.  You can view the full Google document here.  Below is a snippet from this document outlining how Google views and ranks copied content. The last paragraph is of the most importance to you as you try to build your online presence.

duplicate or copied content
A screenshot from Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines document

Many new business owners, or new writers, believe that if they simply assign credit for who wrote the article that it will be ok.  This simply isn’t true (and also applies to imagery or music etc.).  This approach to content creation will not help your rankings in search engines and may even hurt them.  It may also hurt your credibility as an authority in your industry (which is what you’re trying to establish). 

Your Credibility as an Authority in Your Area of Expertise

Providing new content for your website is important. No doubt.  It gives you, as a business owner, the opportunity to share information with your existing and potential customers to support that you are a credible authority in your area of expertise.  If you are copying content, you side step that opportunity.

For instance, if you are a pet sitter, your customers need to be able to trust that you understand animals, and are a trustworthy authority when it comes to all things relating to pet sitting and dog walking.  If, let’s say, your website content is full of information that was copied from other pet sitters, your credibility would be pretty low.  So low in fact, that you would probably loose business as customers leave your site searching for a more credible and trustworthy authority in this area of service.

The same affect is true for any business.  If you truly want to earn business, and improve your rankings in search engines, while you build your content, that content needs to add value for the reader and to you as an expert authority.  

What story are you telling as an expert if you are copying other’s content?

Too Many Different Voices

When copied content is the main content of your blog or website, it creates a mix-match of tones of voice and perspectives to the overall style of your site.  Therefore, as a business owner, you will have little control over the approach to the writing style if you continue to copy content.  What it results in is a patchwork quilt of content that will be confusing to your readers.  

Think back to high school.  Remember what your teachers would say when you or your classmates turned in work with someone else’s writing in it?  

When you are able to share and write about your own understanding of a topic, it helps to establish you as a credible and trustworthy authority in your area of expertise.  Google agrees.

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