Just this past week, Google introduced the new 2017 Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines. Big deal right? We already know about SEO and organic search and using keywords, so what else is there to know? I thought the same thing. However, I discovered a key piece of info in these guidelines to pay attention to. We finally can see the difference in what Google considers duplicate content vs copied content. The new guidelines actually fail to even mention the term “duplicate content” and with a little research, we can finally bust the myth that duplicate content will hurt your site ranking.
What is Duplicate Content?
Prior to these recent guidelines, many SEOs believed that duplicate content was a major red flag when Google was crawling your site. The belief was that pages with similar or identical paragraphs were grounds for penalization. Because of this, many SEO experts urged users to stay away from duplicate content. However, this put many websites in a strange situation. In some cases, it makes sense to have multiple pages of similar or exact content. For example, many of the websites that Track5Media operates, such as TravelNurseSource or AllPhysicianJobs, have multiple pages with similar content. The difference is that each page is targeting a different healthcare specialty or geographical location. Tweaking a few words just for the sake of avoiding a penalty is a very time-consuming task. To add more confusion, Google released a variety of buzzwords like “thin content” and “boilerplate content” that made it even more difficult to pin down a clear definition and guideline.
But Then There’s Copied Content…
Similar to duplicate content, Google sees copied content as a reason to penalize sites. Copied content is any content that someone copied from another domain. The guidelines consider the following points as copied content:
- Content copied exactly from an identifiable source. Sometimes an entire page is copied, and sometimes just parts of the page are copied. Sometimes multiple pages are copied and then pasted together into a single page. Copied text that exactly matches another website is usually the easiest type of copied content to identify.
- Content which is copied, but changed slightly from the original. This type of copying makes it difficult to find the exact matching original source. Some people change a few words. Other times, people will change their whole sentences. For example, someone makes a “find and replace” modification, where they replace one word with another throughout the text. People deliberately make these types of changes so that it is more difficult to find the original source of the content. We call this kind of content “copied with minimal alteration.”
- Content copied from a changing source, such as a search results page or news feed. You often will not be able to find an exact matching original source if it is a copy of “dynamic” content (content which changes frequently). However, we will still consider this to be copied content. Important: The Lowest rating is appropriate if all or almost all of the MC on the page is copied with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users. Google rates such pages as Lowest, even if the page assigns credit for the content to another source. (Search Guidelines)
What Do the New Guidelines Say?
Under the new guidelines, as long as your site is the original source of the content, you can have the same content on multiple pages without being penalized. While you still don’t want to have the same content across your entire site, this busts the myths that duplicate content can lead to heavy penalties. For SEO experts, this might finally settle a long-time debate and provide more clarity for all who are engaging in online marketing.
What do you think about duplicate vs copied content? Share with us in the comments below!