How Important Is Unique Content for Google?
We all hear the term “content is King”.
And that term is most true for Search Engine Optimisation.
Good, descriptive and lengthy content is continually proving its weight in gold when it comes to how Google decides to rank websites for relevant search queries.
People often ask how important is it to create unique content, but the real question is "how harmful is copied or duplicate content?".
Copied content from other websites
Copying content from another website is a big no-no and it and your content will struggle to rank if you’ve ripped it off someone else’s website.
Website content is copied for two reasons:
1. Innocently: For example, a bunch of e-Commerce stores all copying their suppliers’ product descriptions, ending up with multiple websites having the exact same descriptions.
2. Laziness: For a lot of people, coming up with good content is hard. So, why not just copy a competitor? Or better yet, take content from someone in the same industry but in another State/Country. They’ll never know. Right?
Avoid using word spinning programmes, too. Google’s algorithm is getting a lot smarter at detecting spun content. Plus, it rarely ends up making any sense.
Copied content from your own website
This is where the lines get a bit blurred.
According to Google, you’re not supposed to have duplicate internal content.
I mean, just read their guide on duplicate content. It sounds like Google would ping you for some really basic mistakes: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/duplicate-content
Yet, the reality is different.
I see it getting rewarded all the time and unique content not getting the preferential treatment that it should.
For example, I’ve created completely unique content for over 60 suburbs around Perth for PWA Electrical Services. Whilst a lot of those suburbs ranks well, they are often outranked by websites that are using the same content for every single suburb (with the suburb name changed out).
For a test, when I launched the Cleanetic website, I also decided to run duplicate suburb content with the intention of creating unique content if that strategy backfired. And what would you know? It didn’t. This duplicate internal content is actually ranking really well for some very competitive search terms.
This may not be the case in the future, but for the time being internal duplicate content certainly doesn’t seem to cause much of an issue at all.
What if another website copies my content?
Typically, if Google has seen and crawled your content first - it knows who the original author is.
To be safe, and for best practice, it's always good to have a canonical tag in your source code referencing itself.
For example, there will be a canonical tag in this page that reads:
<link rel="canonical" href="https://doyledigital.com.au/blog/how-important-is-unique-content-for-google"/>
This is basically declaring that this page is the original source of the content that exists on this page.
Use canonical tags to avoid technical issues
The above advice is applicable to most basic brochure websites where site owners are trying to find ways to easily populate their website with content.
However, there are some instances where duplicate content can cause issues, particularly with e-Commerce websites or websites with large portfolios where the URL changes based on filters/pages but the content remains the same.
This guide from Moz gives a good rundown of how the canonical tag works and what instances to use it in.