You may have read that the Google core update has caused some sites to lose traffic, and that duplicate content is possibly responsible, so here at Grow Traffic, we thought we would do some detective work and answer the question: Does Duplicate Content Still Matter To Seo?
What is duplicate content?
Basically, if the same content is on the internet on more than one URL, then it is called duplicate content.
It is important to note that duplicate content is different than copied content the main difference being that search engine algorithms consider copied content to be deliberately copied, so the intent is different. Another one to throw into the mix is Boilerplate Content, this is large sections of text on websites copied to other pages. (are you confused yet?).
What does duplicate content do to website rankings?
While not technically a penalty, duplicate content can still sometimes impact search engine rankings. You’ll not be entirely surprised to find the rules are not completely crystal clear (for example, Google calls it “appreciably similar” content) but the logic used is that there is more than a piece of the same content on the net then it isn’t easy for a search engine to choose which is the best result to bring back.
But some sites will always have duplicate content, won’t they?
Correct! One prime example is news websites, which by their very nature will always have duplicate content. Which is why, when several news websites saw their rankings plummet after the last core update. All roads seemed to lead to the issue being related to duplicate content, heads were scratched, and fingers pointed in the general direction of Google…
The affected sites questioned the guidance from google as it seemed to be too general with not enough specific information on what they need to do to get their rankings moving up again.
By the way, If you are interested, or have a spare week, here is the full search quality guidance from Google.
What did Google say?
In a recent Google Q&A on Duplicate Content, John Mueller a Senior Webmaster answered questions on duplicate content and SEO. By the way, we highly recommend you watch the whole Q&A, it covers so much more than we can in one blog post.
He explained that as a core update covers such a wide range of issues, that there isn’t anything especially related to content, or duplicate content, that websites can change to improve their rankings as a result of the update.
When asked about the quick and often used techniques used to prevent duplicate content such as slightly tweaking words, he said they might actually be “more counterproductive than actually helping your website”.
Well, that clears that up then?!
Quite. So, if the biggest search engine in the world doesn’t technically penalise sites for duplicate content and the core update didn’t have anything specifically related to content or relevance then Does Duplicate Content Still Matter To SEO?
Let us go back to what Google has previously said and see if we can machete our way through this jungle of confusion.
In an earlier Google hangout here, John Mueller said that Google didn’t specifically penalise web sites for duplicate content, at one point actually saying “We don’t have a duplicate content penalty”
On the other hand, though, sites with duplicate content seem to been the hardest hit in the last google update.
Ok, so if both of these statements are true, is it possible there is another answer to whether duplicate content matters to SEO?
Maybe, just maybe, Google doesn’t even pay it any attention at all?
It’s possible, right? The logic being that it sees this type of content and just shrugs and says meh and moves on.
So, while it doesn’t directly affect a website and its rankings, it probably doesn’t help either.
The more duplicate content on a website, the more it just kind of shoved out the way and gives its attention to sites with more original content?
Original content has always been and always will be the best way to get a website ranked highly. The more original (and quality, always quality) content there is on your website the better.
It’s not always going to be possible of course, but Seo is an ever-evolving creature. Quite often Seo companies find a formula of work that is effective, and it works well but doesn’t check to see if what they are doing is outdated and having the opposite effect. A tried and trusted method of increasing traffic may become obsolete. Making a website that technically ticks all the right boxes is fine, but if the content is as dull as a train announcement, then who is going to see it?
That’s why if you work in SEO you need, you must keep up to date with all the developments as, and sometimes before they happen. Subscribe to all the websites, follow the twitter accounts, find out as much as you can as often as you can.
In conclusion, we think that duplicate content does still matter to SEO, but possibly not in the way you think. It doesn’t cause negative reactions like, say, Mrs Browns Boys, it gets ignored like Channel 5.