Don’t duplicate content across different websites

Where it finds duplicate content in multiple websites, Google tries to give more search prominence to the place where it first found it.
3 Sep, 2009

When you use Google (other search engines are available*) to search for, say, ‘business event directory’, you don’t want to see an entire results page showing the same content from a number of different websites.

What you want to see is a range of web pages offering different content on that subject. Right?

Google knows this and omits content that it thinks is similar to those that it is already displaying. In the example below, you will see that there is a link named ‘Similar’ next to the domain name for each search result. You can click this link if you are interested in seeing all of the ‘duplicate’ results that it has suppressed.

Google SERPS showing similar results

If you are a content publisher/marketer, this has important consequences for your SEO.

If you write an article and then publish that article on 10 different websites, then there is a chance that only 1 of them will be found in SERPs for any given search term. At the very least, search engines will assign a more favourable ranking position to the content they think is the ‘original’ version. So make sure that the first place search engines see content is on your own website! That way, it will be links to your website that searchers click when your content is found.

Spidering doesn’t always happen in the order you expect

Bear in mind – search engines tend to favour the web page on which they first found the content, NOT necessarily where it was first published.

Search engines don’t always spider and index content in the strict order that it was published. Let’s assume that you publish an article on your website. Then, a day later, you publish it on an online directory owned by someone else. If the other website is getting spidered more frequently and more deeply than your website, there is a chance that the search engine will take that content as being the original one. Then, when they spider your own website content a few days later, they may well consider it as a copy of the one they found on the directory site. For this reason, it’s always better to publish content on your main site first, then leave it until you know that the main search engines have indexed it before you publish it elsewhere.

How to find out if Google has indexed your new content

To find out if your new content has been indexed, try googling for… site:yourdomainname yoursearchterm and see if your new article comes up. If it does, you should be safe spreading your content around a bit (e.g. try Googling ‘ canonical’).

To make sure search engines spider your content as quickly as possible, do make sure you have an XML sitemap so that you’re pushing new content to the search engines as soon as possible. Some WordPress plugins will facilitate automated pinging of new content as soon as it is published.

Canonical Links

There are ways to use canonical linking to be more sure that search engines choose the right content as the original source, although even that can be ignored by some search engines. You may not always have control over setting canonical links on websites that you don’t control, so it’s only likely to be an option on your own.

Repurpose your content for use on other websites

Now, if you write 10 different versions of that same article and then publish each to a different website, there is a higher chance that you might fill more of those valuable first-page search engine results positions – which increases your chance of being found!

Why not repurpose your content to suit the audience of the site you are publishing on? It wouldn’t take too much work to build in specific references and change content around. This might make all the difference, enabling essentially the same content to gain search prominence from multiple sources.


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