Is Duplicate Content a Bad Thing?

by Avatar in Blog October 2, 2018

A membership organization recently asked, whether content that was originally posted in a popular social media channel (LinkedIn), would harm the SEO of their own site, if re-posted with some slight modification. In this case, and in most cases, the answer is no.

First, it’s a bit of a myth that Google will actually “penalize” your site, in terms of online relevance and visibility for its unique qualities and characteristics, if duplicate (or nearly duplicate) content is legitimately used on the site. Google’s endless algorithm updates are now quite good at understanding the relationship and provenance of different kinds of content, as well as the relationship of the content to its context (i.e. how it supports the website it’s on). Chances are, the duplicated content (copies, not the original) will simply not show up in search results, it will be filtered out – and, as such, the value of internal links pointing to a tertiary site may be diminished.

Second, the practice of “amplification”, i.e. pointing out and sharing great content, is as much the currency of online marketing as link-building. A good piece of content, re-purposed with some explanation and attribution to the original author, for use by a new and relevant audience – is an excellent information curation practice. Particularly if the link context of the content and its distribution (i.e. copies) all live within similar contextual universes of industry, semantics, author relationships and other realistic linkages. Localization is a powerful link (in this case, the content, the author, the post context – both stated and via corollary linkages – were all around the DC area). Google understands, therefore, the original piece is that more valuable, and the amplified placement benefits as well – from its linkage now to an authoritative, verified source.

This is particularly helpful for sites (such as this particular client example) and pages that are essentially invisible to Google, with “0” page ranking, no inbound links and little internal traffic at all. Amplification of trusted content is a better boost, than entirely original content with no third-party trust factor. This is why many newer member groups encourage their members to share and amplify content they’ve authored or find valuable, within their new group, to “seed” the new group’s contextual relevance and trust linkages with the rest of its industry.

Established groups do this too, such as LinkedIn.

Note that amplification of trusted content into an otherwise non-used page, may actually drive readership and additional sharing, resulting in actual SEO and business value that far exceeds any potential negatives of repurposing nearly duplicate content.

However, if a pattern does become discernable, where non-attributed content is shared and posted with little attempt to explain why, with no valid contextual relationship, or purely for “clickbait” purposes (which is pretty easy now for both search engines and people to understand) – this kind of practice will indeed get caught in Google’s filters, and associated page rankings may suffer. That is in fact a “penalty”, but it’s both easy to see why, and easy to avoid.

Therefore, if you own a membership site or group, such as a Chamber of Commerce, encourage the members to repurpose and share their expertise with the group (with appropriate attribution and even enhanced with additional context), online, so that others may benefit and the group may prosper. And it need not be entirely unique – repurposing of great content for new audiences to benefit is a very good thing.