What Is “Duplicate” or “Shared” Web Content?

I get this question A LOT from my attorney and professional web clients, so I thought I would explain what exactly duplicate or shared content is and how Google and other search engines treat shared/duplicate (S/D) content. Ultimately, the point is to help you avoid having your pages banned from the search results. And, by the way, Google does not send you a nice little notice that this has happened. You will not likely have any idea that it has!! You just need to make sure YOU DON'T DO IT.

First things first—You Need to Understand What S/D Content Is

Shared/Duplicate content can be thought of as any content on a web page that's identical to content found on another web page!

Simple, right?

The 3 Most Widely-Known Types of Duplicate Content

  1. Duplicate Web Pages: These are web pages that are identical in content to another web page. These may include affiliate web sites that use one particular page design and content for all affiliates as well as e-commerce sites using identical product descriptions supplied by the manufacturer. Landing pages are also at risk if they are similar to other landing pages found across the Internet. I am not going to mention any "competitor" names; that's not my thing, but I KNOW of other lawyer web design companies that use the same exact content for all of their clients. Consequently, only a few of these sites will come up in the search engines. Deadly...
  2. Content That is "Scraped": This is when content from another website is repackaged in such a way that it appears new and unique, but really is just a combination of content originally published on other sites. As blogging continues to grow and popular posts are widely syndicated across multiple blogs - this will be a growing problem for search engines to tackle. However, this isn't typically an issue for lawyer websites that I have seen only because most attorneys don't even understand how to do it! But I am at a loss to understand what Google will do as this is such a part of blogging. 
  3. Duplicate Article Publishing: There are some publishing or news organizations that pitch "news feeds" or "content feeds" to their lawyer clients. They have clients pay a monthly subscription to receive the content and then the organization provides them with some code to put on their web site. What attorneys might not know is the content is not unique and is more than likely being displayed in the same way on hundreds of other attorney websites. 

How to Avoid S/D Content Issues

There are many things that attorneys can do to minimize the risk of duplicate content problems. As a general rule, use common sense and stay away from shady SEO methods. If something sounds too good to be true—as you know it probably is—and it could get you in hot water with Google. There are some other precautions lawyers should take with their website. Here are some specific and simple strategies to consider for content on your attorney website:

  1. Article Mining: If you use another attorney's or news articles as the content for your lawyer web site, think about whether the article is of any real relevance to your practice areas. Always mine for articles that complement or bolster the content of your practice areas. Make sure that whatever you add to your site is contextual to what your website is about. There is nothing wrong with finding a good article topic that gives you a good idea and then rewriting it to fit your needs. Always try to rewrite an article and change it by at least 60 percent from its original form. As an example, this article I am writing is based on another one that I read, which was much longer, full of grammar errors, and super boring! Rewriting by more than 60 percent will allow you to avoid duplicate content issues. Don't just use a thesaurus to change certain words. You may find an article about seat belt laws in another state, rewrite that for your own state and change it A LOT! The bottom line is to use other articles to generate ideas of your own.
  2. Develop Unique Content: Writing unique and useful content specific to cases you want is still the safest way to protect your site, the fastest way to get indexed, and quickest way to grow your web audience organically. You must continually come up with new content. Implement a schedule either weekly or at the very least, monthly to ensure a steady flow of new content. You don't need to write a novel, just 400-600 word articles are perfect and that is all most web readers have the patience for. Most visitors will come to your site, read a few paragraphs of this page and a few from another page and decide whether or not they want to talk to you or have you help them. No one, except you, will read every page of your website. Foster Web Marketing's Pro and Platinum level of CMP provides a variety of article updates to your website. All of the content we do on behalf of our clients is unique and specific to that attorney's practice areas. Our writers get RSS Feeds from local sources close to the client they are assigned and then write articles. They are like newspaper reporters for our CMP Clients website. 
  3. Link to Other Contextual Content: Link out to other sites that provide the same kind of information you are providing. Link from specific and meaningful keywords to get the most benefit from this! Do not be scared of linking out from your website. Sure, some visitors might click on a link on your site and leave forever, but most will not click on these links. The benefit that your site receives from Google for these links is far more important than losing 1 or 2 visitors!! Besides, this is the game you NEED to play.

In conclusion, you need to write unique content, rewrite other content you find that complements your site contextually by 60 percent, and link to other websites that offer information that bolsters your site. 

#1 very important rule: DO NOT BE LAZY, write some articles. You do not need to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel!

#2 very important rule: DO NOT simply copy and paste other website content word for word to your site. You will get snagged and no one will tell you.

Please feel free to contact Foster Web Marketing at 888-886-0939 to discuss attorney and professional web content, web design, or search engine optimization with us. This is what we do and we take it very seriously. Your success is our success.

Nia Al-Kilany
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