Netcraft reports that as of September 2011, there are 485, 173, 671 websites on the Internet. With so much content out there, you might think it would go unnoticed if someone copied information from another site onto their own. However, plagiarism does not go unnoticed by Google and its counterparts, who will drop the rank of one, both or all of the sites if duplicate content is found.
This practice can also affect the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of sites that have perfectly legitimate reasons to contain duplicate content, and so it is important to be aware of this if you do not want to see your site (and others) get penalised in the search engine rankings. For example, you may take product information directly from your supplier’s website, or copy a news article into your site. Google advises that with all product descriptions, efforts should be made to rewrite the descriptions, therefore creating unique content. Where you wish to show your site visitors something about your business that is elsewhere on the web, add in a link to it (also a good way to optimise your site for the search engines). This will reduce the competition your site faces from others with the same content, and your risk of penalty, while providing your customers with fresh and original content.
Did you know that you could also be placing your website in direct competition with itself? This is another thing best avoided if you don’t want to harm your site’s search ranking. For example, you may have two different sites for two different business locations. These sites may contain exactly the same content, with location names changed. The duplication of content can be picked up by the search engines; essentially, you have plagiarised yourself and produced unoriginal content. The result could be that both of your sites are penalised. You might also have pages of the same site which contain the same text and images: a shopping site may have the same product and description under more than one category, or a trade site could list exactly the same services under ‘domestic’ and ‘commercial’ headings. Again, rewording the content will get you around this, and will also provide you with a great opportunity to add some relevant keywords into your content.
Google aims to provide its users with sites relevant to their search terms, but also sites which contain quality content. In making sure your site is original and that it isn’t fighting with other sites or itself over content, you should start to see your reward as your site rises in the rankings.