When we work with a site owner one of the first questions we always make sure to ask them is if they’ve worked with any other SEO agency first. Ideally the answer is no, but as the industry becomes more and more populated with people trying to make a quick buck, the ratio of yes to no has slowly started to sway to the yes side of the scale. One of the biggest reasons we tend to worry is simple, we don’t know what we’re walking into when we take on someone elses problems which they either have created, or may have even inherited themselves. One of the most common issues that we happen to find when we dig into their online profile however, is one of duplicate content.
There are unfortunately private SEOs and even some agencies who tell you that as long as you change enough of the text, your content can be rehashed again and again without incurring any sort of penalty. But in truth, here’s the thing that they either don’t tell you, or don’t know for themselves: search engines don’t want to list several pages that all say the same thing, so they look for content that is unique from everyone else. If you’re just spinning the same 600 words over and over again into different pages and blog posts, they’ll recognize it and it isn’t the SEO that catches the force of the penalty stick, it’s you and your website. Almost every time we find this to be the issue, our response may come across as a daunting task, but it’s for the best, we highly advise a complete rewrite and revamp of your site wide content. Cleaning up your own content and navigation is a major milestone to helping you improve your online branding image.
There is another side of this coin, and there really isn’t any one on the web that is immune to the problem, automated content scrapers and straight up content thieves. There are a few protections which can be used to safeguard your content on your website, but even then it wouldn’t be too surprising to find that someone somewhere has nabbed your content for themselves. Using as simple a tag as the ‘rel=author’ and linking it to your Google+ social profile is a quick and simple way to let Google know that you are the original creator of this content, and all others from that point forward will, hopefully, be ranked below you for your own content. For the most part thankfully, you don’t need to worry about scraper sites as the search engines are aware of them and they aren’t going to carry much weight in the search results in the end anyhow. The websites which blatantly steal your content however is a different sort of animal, and since you already use the proper markup to show that you are the original creator of the content in question, you can go so far as to file a DMCA removal request to have your content removed from the offending website(s).
Unfortunately duplicate content issues are not an issue which will be going away any time soon, thankfully the search engines have gotten faster, smarter, and there are more and more tools being developed which can show who created what content first, and when.