Avoiding plagiarism is something most of us learn in middle school or high school. And by college, the lesson is further cemented. However, that has not stopped a large percentage of websites from fully ripping content from each other. In the SEO world, copied content is referred to as duplicate content. There are two types of duplicate content; internal and external. The former refers to when a website has multiple pages with identical content and the latter to stealing from other sites. Generally, Google & Bing do not like duplicate content. Duplicate content is unlikely to benefit your site and is much more likely to cause problems.
Black Hat SEO & Duplicate Content
The combination of tactics and techniques that are prohibited by Google is often called black hat SEO. This phrase refers to really anything that attempts to cheat the system. There are a few reasons duplicating content would be considered “black hat”. First, if you are directly ripping content off someone else’s website, it is pretty clear why that is wrong. Aside from the fact that the actual writer could get you in trouble for plagiarism, Google/Bing can often see the age of the content and figure out where it originated. But many business owners are confused about why internal duplicate content is considered a black hat strategy. This is because website content is so important to ranking. Taking a short cut to generate hundreds of pages without providing users anything unique, valuable, or new used to be a successful strategy. But Google wants business’ websites to have value for its users. 100 identical pages aren’t actually any more valuable than 1 page. Even if you are not penalized, it is likely that the duplicate content won’t rank and all of the pages will be weakened.
Acceptable Duplicate Content Strategies
That being said, sometimes there are valid reasons to have duplicate content on your website. In cases when you need to have duplicate content on a site, you should make sure to signal to Google and Bing why you are doing it. For instance, some medical sites will copy content from a larger medical organization for their users to read. The best practice here is to no index and no follow this page. This means instructing search engines to ignore the entire page because of the duplicate content. Other businesses might have multiple variations of similar pages. For instance, e-Commerce sites might have multiple pages for the same product but in different sizes, styles, or colors. A canonical tag can tell Google that you want a specific page in the group to rank and for the others to be ignored.