How To Walk The Fine Line of Acceptable Duplicate Content

duplicate contentAlthough SEOs have long been aware of the dangers of duplicate content, the issue has become much more pressing in the wake of the Panda updates. We all know that Google penalizes duplicate content to some extent, but Matt Cutts actually told us just this summer that we shouldn’t be too worried about it. Of course this information comes with the caveat that the duplicate content isn’t spammy.

Besides eliminating spam, one of the key issues for Google in relation to duplicate content is that the search engine needs to know which page to rank so that they don’t present the searcher with the same content twice.

Why It’s Bad For You

Since SEO is really all about content, duplicate content can be hurtful to your site because it means that your outstanding content is less unique. You want your carefully crafted articles and blogs to stand out from the crowd. If that same blog or article comes up 3 times in the SERPs, it seems a lot less unique! What it comes down to is that duplicate content reduces the value of the original content.

One example of duplicate content comes from product descriptions. If you’re selling a book, you might be tempted to post the same description that can be found on any other site selling the same book. However, if you take the time to craft a punchy explanation from a new angle, your description will stand out in the SERPs!

Avoid Unnecessary Pitfalls

In Stoney G. deGeyter’s definitive guide on duplicate content, the author discusses many of the issues that arise with duplicate content and then offers suggestions on how to avoid these problems (if you’re struggling with duplicate content concerns, I highly recommend this guide!). Almost all duplicate content issues can be boiled down into two types – onsite and offsite. Both types can hurt your site, but you can only control onsite content.

One key issue that deGeyter discusses is the problem with including links on secure pages. This can create a whole new secure version of the original link that might look like a duplicate page to Google. In order to avoid this pitfall, make sure that you always use absolute links that force the visitor to return to a non-secure page.

The International Issue

For international companies that want to target different countries in the same language, duplicate content is a huge issue. You definitely have to practice international SEO and promote yourself to different countries, but it’s far too easy to produce lots of duplicate content! It is crucial to make it clear to search engines that the duplicate pages are based in different countries.

As Chris Simmance suggests, you can use Webmaster settings to set a target location and then adjust your on-page information to make it clear that this portion of your business is located in a different country. For instance, include a local telephone number, establish local listings on Google+, Yahoo, and Bing, and include product prices in the local currency. Once your different international sites are properly formatted, you can expect a huge ROI!

What kind of duplicate content is problematic for your business? How do you counteract duplicate content issues?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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