I’m working with a client that publishes a number of magazines, they’ve been working in the offline sphere for a good number of years, they are expect at what they do in that sector however they are moving further and further into the online space and there are some issues arising with processes, knowledge and staff resistance. As a freelance seo consultant, I’ve seen this type of thing many times, change is always hard and it’s important to take the staff with you and empower them. I recently sent through an email to explain why duplicate content is a bad idea, this is an adapted version.

Can I copy text from another website and use it on my own?

Replication of content online is frowned upon. This is because it is so easy to do, a few years ago Google became much tougher on the way it handled duplicate content because so much content was being copied and pasted from one site to another (scraping content) that they struggled to work out what the original was. To combat this Google started to discount duplicate content or at least removed the weight it placed on the duplicates.

In some instances, there are occasions that sections of content should be duplicated – such as speech, Google understands this and gives leeway for it – however on the whole it should be avoided where possible. Too much duplicate content on a site can result in a sitewide penalty, in this situation Google would reduce the rankings of a website.

What’s Google’s problem with duplicate content?

One of the best ways to think about why Google became so tough on this was because it was increasing their costs exponentially, the more content there is, the more servers they need to query the internet and the more development they have to put into their algorithm to work it out what’s going on – it’s much more cost effective to penalise websites that regularly duplicate content.

Please see Google’s Guidelines on the subject: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66359

Google uses several services to determine which content is original. One such service you can look at is Copyscape – you can see if the content on your website is lifted from another source or if you are considered to have copied another source: http://www.copyscape.com/

What should I do with the press releases I’m sent?

I generally find rewriting 800 words for word (resulting in the same article only rewritten so the content is no longer duplicated) takes around 20 minutes – which isn’t bad going to create something that’s weighty and unique and in the process of doing this you are bound to add your own thoughts and pointers in that makes the content unique and valuable.

Fundementally though, having worked as a, and with journalists at various points in my career I consider copying verbatim to be sloppy journalism and not something that I would have been able to get away with, with my old editor – the web should be no different!!

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