The truth about duplicate content

There are many myths and rumours surrounding duplicate content. In this post we’ll separate the fact from the fiction in terms of its potential impact on your website.

What is ‘duplicate content’?

Where better to start than with Google’s definition?

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content could include:

• Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
• Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
• Printer-only versions of web pages”

There is a common misconception that any amount of duplication on a web page is a bad thing – this is not the case. Generally, some duplicate content is OK if the source is credited, adds value and it doesn’t make up a disproportionate amount of your content.

The quoted copy above is a good example of this, we are not passing this off as our own opinion, we are very clearly referencing and linking to the original source.

So what’s wrong with duplicate content?

Problems with duplicate content arise if its intent is seen as malicious. Once upon a time, black hat SEO practitioners could copy content across sites to manipulate search engine rankings. But algorithms are much smarter now, so having a large amount of duplicate content on your site will do more hard than good.

Also, if your site has a significant amount of duplicate content, search engines will have the following problems:

– They won’t know which version(s) to show in search results – and what order to rank them in.
– They won’t know which version of the content to include/exclude from their results.
– With internal duplication in particular, search engines won’t know if they should direct the link metrics to one page, or keep it separated between multiple versions – essentially diluting the ‘link juice’. But if the content is on only one URL, each link will point to that single page, enhancing its authority.

Can you be penalised by Google for using duplicate content?

There’s a common myth floating around that you can receive a formal penalty for duplicate content. However, in a recent video, Lipattsev was adamant that if Google discovers your site’s content isn’t unique and doesn’t rank your page above a competing page, it isn’t a penalty – it’s simply Google trying to give the end user the best experience. Depending on the search terms and the quality of your content, your page containing duplicate content could appear higher in another relevant search.

In the following video, Cutts makes it clear that duplicate content won’t raise a red flag with the search engine giant, unless it is spammy or involves keyword stuffing.

Although you may not be penalised by Google for duplicate content specifically, there are issues surrounding duplication which can hurt your rankings – namely the three points mentioned earlier.

Google and the other search engines love uniqueness, added value and high quality content, so sites providing this will be rewarded, while sites providing a high amount of copied content won’t be.

What about plagiarism?

Content scraping is not protected by copyright law if the person who’s using the content on their site gives credit to the original source. However, if an acknowledgement of the source is not included, this is classed as plagiarism; if you’re the victim, you could file a Digital Millennium Copyright complaint against the person who has stolen your content. Take a look at this real-life story of website plagiarism, including steps you might want to take if you’re in a similar situation.

How can you avoid duplicate content issues?

Although duplicate content may not be as deadly as many people believe, it’s still important to take steps to minimise its negative effects on your site. As a first step, tools such as Siteliner and Copyscape can help you to discover any obvious issues. You’ll find lots of helpful, up-to-date tips from the folks at Hobo Web and if you have an ecommerce site, US agency Inflow have also produced a handy guide.

If your website contains a lot of internal duplication, which is particularly common on ecommerce sites, you should indicate preferred URLs to Google via Canonicalisation.

Image courtesy of Andrew Mager.

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How to become a freelance web content writer

Google’s insatiable appetite for quality, informative content means that web content writers are more in-demand than ever before. The cream of the crop can, with the right determination, contacts and skills, make a decent living and enjoy a great work/life balance, but it’s a tough gig to begin with. If you want to get into this industry, whether you’re changing profession, or graduating from university, how do you get started?

Ensure your basic writing skills are up to scratch

Contrary to popular belief, freelance web content writers don’t necessarily need to have a degree; however, as the Study.com career guide points out, they “often have a bachelor’s degree in English, journalism or communications.” These study paths will inevitably give you an excellent grounding in the skills seen as indispensable for any budding freelancer to hold.

Being able to spell correctly and write in a comprehensible and engaging manner is obviously a pre-requisite, although, as highlighted by Victoria Delano these are basic traits desired in any writer. To really set yourself apart as a freelance web copywriter, you should also be able to “critically analyse content… and find inconsistencies in your writing” and “conduct thorough research and analyse the facts you learn”, determining which are most salient to the piece you’re writing. If you’re confident in your ability to do all of this, you’re ready to move on to the next step.

Learn to market yourself

As a content writer, you’re going to be “creating… valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action [for the client]”, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s official definition of content marketing. It is vital then, that to attract business, you practise what you preach.

Establish a web presence, so potential clients can find you. Your site should list the writing services you offer (clients will be looking for varying forms of content, so be sure you know the difference between blog posts and articles, for example, and communicate this effectively) but, most importantly, it should also include a blog. For Mariah Coz of Femtrepeneur, “Having a blog is like having a collection of writing samples (a portfolio) that can attract potential gigs and clients.” Try to find a niche subject to write about, rather than covering as much ground as possible; it is easier for you to come across as knowledgeable and informative on one or two smaller topics, and gain work through this, than it is to blag your way through an issue you don’t fully understand.

Finally, adopt the tried and tested tactics of content marketers by guest-posting for bigger blogs in your niche. As Coz points out, this is “mutually beneficial” for you and the site: they get good quality content, for free, or for a small fee, while “you (potentially) get paid to write… get lots more exposure for your own blog and experience working with others and sticking to a schedule.”

Develop a wider understanding and skillset

While you may be confident in your abilities as a writer, and have a strong website and blog to back your skills up, there are thousands upon thousands of people out there who feel the same. In order to differentiate yourself in a competitive market, you need what Sherry Gray of Entrepreneuer refers to as “a full toolkit of marketable skills.”

This could include:

Technical knowledge – including the ability to design and code your own website, or simply being able to upload and optimise posts in a client’s Content Management System.

Familiarity with a range of social media platforms – on which you could build both your own and your clients’ following.

A wider insight into the marketing industry and the broad goals of the business you’re writing for – Gray suggests showing evidence of your ability to research keywords and buyer personas, for example.

The best content writers are polymaths: they’re marketers, SEO specialists, accomplished coders and social media masters all rolled into one package, so ensure that you can offer potential clients more than just the clichéd “carefully crafted copy” hawked by everyone else.

Keep yourself busy – and don’t give up!

By its very nature, copywriting is an inconsistent line of work, especially when you’re first starting out, seeking regular clients. Carol Tice underlines how important it is not to give up, saying “you can’t be a writer unless you are willing to put it out there and face rejection. You have to be willing to hear “no” and not crumple up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep.” Literature is littered with examples of writers, including J.K Rowling and Booker Prize winner Marlon James, who only became famous after years of persistence.

Fortunately, the internet is full of freelancing websites, which allow freelance web content writers to pick up work as and when they need it and build relationships with clients. Contently allows writers to easily assemble a portfolio and then use this to pitch for work.

When you work for yourself, time is money, so spend it wisely. Bear in mind the following advice of Laura Kay, writing for the Guardian’s Careers section: “If you don’t go looking for work, spending your days shooting off emails and writing pitches, then it is very unlikely the work will come to you.”


Becoming a successful web content writer is about much more than being able to write. You need to be able to communicate to a range of audiences in a succinct and effective manner and, of course, you have to find a unique way to market your own services and skills in order to attract business in the first place. You also need a number of personal qualities, including self-motivation, initiative and the ability to interpret clients’ instructions. If you can nail all of the above, congratulations: you’ll benefit from being your own boss, working your own hours and never having to negotiate the rush hour traffic again!

Image courtesy of Fiona Palmer

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How does web content influence the buying process?

We all know that content is a vital part of any website’s conversion path, but exactly what effect does this content have on each stage of the buying process? And how can you, as a business owner or manager, take advantage of these effects to drive sales in your company?

First, it’s important to understand each step the buyer takes towards making a purchase. The buyer’s journey can be divided into several stages, which are widely considered to be awareness, consideration and decision. Let’s take a look at these in more detail.


In the first stage of the buying process, consumers have just realised that they have a problem or need so they are undertaking some preliminary research. They want to be better informed about the general issue they’re researching before moving on to more specific solutions.

Content at this stage should ideally come in the form of a wide range of informational pieces, such as general blog posts, introductory ebooks, industry white papers, how-to lists and videos, infographics, slideshows, resource round-ups and glossaries. This kind of content will introduce people to your brand and demonstrate your industry knowledge and authority. It should also make up the majority of your content, as most visitors to your site will be in this initial stage of the buyer’s journey.

Example: if you were the owner of an independent computer store, you could create blog posts such as “Five things to consider when buying a laptop” and “The top 10 laptops for the everyday user”. This would attract web users who are interested in purchasing a new laptop, inform them of the general options available to them and make them aware of your business.


The consideration stage is where buyers evaluate the different options available to them. At this point, they’re probably aware that your business offers a potential solution to their problem, but they also know that other vendors do too. They will start to look at individual products or services and companies in-depth and this stage is arguably the most important in the entire sales process.

Recommended content for the second stage includes expert guides and ebooks, webinars, podcasts and reviews. Through these, potential buyers should start moving towards the realisation that your business is the best choice and that you have the specific solution to their problem.

Example: again, let’s look at the example of an independent computer store and a consumer looking for a new laptop. The consumer would now be ready to look at individual laptops in more depth, so a video review of the latest Microsoft Surface Pro or an in-depth guide to the latest Asus ZenBook could keep them on your site, show your extensive knowledge, and help move them towards making a decision.

Laptop buying guide - Best Buy
Laptop buying guide – Best Buy


At the third stage, buyers decide exactly what they want to purchase. They know basically everything they need to about the product or service and your company, but they need a little reassurance or something extra before they finally make the purchase. Testimonials, case studies, special offers, demos and comparisons work well at this stage, helping to alleviate any worries the consumer may have and show that you’re the business to go with. In order to close to stage, you should focus on tangible deliverables.

Example: the consumer looking for a new laptop would by now have narrowed down the laptop they want, or the store they want to go to, to a couple of options. You could have a vendor comparison page on your site that shows why you’re a better choice than the big chain stores, offer the option to try out the laptop in-store and provide a special coupon code in an email for a discount.

Repeat custom

Once you’ve gained a customer, you need to do your best to ensure you don’t lose them. After all, gaining a new customer can cost anywhere from five to 25 times the amount of retaining a one, so this additional stage is extremely important. To promote repeat custom, you need to have excellent support, listen to all feedback and offer continued value. Surveys, promotions, competitions, newsletters, giveaways, feedback forms and email marketing are the types of content you should be utilising at this stage.

Brand advocates are one of the things you want to be aiming for, as they will shout your company’s praises from the rooftops, generating custom and goodwill in the process. You can nurture advocates by giving existing customers a motive to share your content and your business’s information through the aforementioned kinds of content and outstanding customer service.

Example: in the case of the independent computer store, they could send customers follow-up emails after their purchase, asking them to review the product or offering discounts on laptop accessories.


When utilising content marketing throughout each of these stages, you should monitor how effective each campaign and piece of content is. Use tools like Google Analytics, Buffer and Marketo to keep track of all your marketing activities and the results they bring. Use the data you gather to make changes to your content marketing plan as you go along. Make sure you’ve identified some key metrics that will clearly show how successful your activities are; for example, the number of leads generated from a particular post, and the number of Facebook likes accumulated from a campaign.

As a business owner or manager, you want to attract and retain as many customers as possible and, as you can see, content is invaluable for this at all stages of the buying process. You need to ensure you have a clear content strategy that helps buyers come to the decision to choose you, so make sure you’re investing your time and money in content marketing – it has the power to transform your business!

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6 awesome content writing tools you should be using

When it comes down to it, writing content can be painstaking. Even the most accomplished writers and those buzzing with fresh and exciting ideas struggle. They’ll find themselves staring at that poster on the wall, twiddling their thumbs and wondering where their next 400 words are coming from. The good news is this: there are lots of helpful and creative people out there, and they’ve come up with many handy content writing tools.

Here are 6 tools that we found particularly useful for all stages of the content writing process.


Use this tool for: Research, generating ideas and adding bulk to content

Get inspiration for content by visiting Quora, a social networking site that operates on a question and answer discussion basis. Sign up, pose your question and have it answered by experts in your industry, or identify trends from grouped topics. The likes of Stephen Fry, Rand Fishkin and Ashton Kutcher are all present and active on the site.

Quora is particularly useful for gathering quotes to add colour to your content, although of course you should always be aware of provenance. This article by SEMRush outlines the benefits of Quora for marketers.


Use this tool for: Informing your content creation plan

How often have you and your team sat down to discuss content formulation, only to find yourselves doodling on scraps of paper and making outlandish suggestions that you know are never going to work?

Available as a web app or a WordPress plug-in, InboundWriter is invaluable when you’re forming your content creation plan. It provides marketers with an idea of how well content will perform prior to it even being written, using research data from across the web to analyse how that topic or area of interest is resonating with web users.

The tool can also recommend keywords for you to use; the only downside is that, unlike the other resources detailed in this article, it isn’t free.

We entered “6 awesome content writing tools you should be using” into the Emotional Marketing Headline Analyser. This received an EMV of 66.7%. According to the site, professional headlines have an EMV of between 30% and 40%, while gifted writers rank around 60 or 70%. In other words, it appears that ours is a great title!


Use this tool for: Cutting initial drafts and fine-tuning copy

Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and he almost never wasted a word. His unique and tight writing style substituted lengthy, flowery prose for short, minimalist sentences. He also used plenty of repetition and relied on punctuation to convey meaning to the reader.

Nobody expects you to write like a Nobel Prize-winning novelist. Yet this handy little editing tool can give you suggestions on where to improve. Hemingway highlights sentences and words for clarity and readability and flags up use of the passive voice.

Don’t get caught up in trying to impress your readership. As content marketing whiz kid Neil Patel suggests: “you want to write as simply as possible to reach the biggest audience.” Paste your copy into the editor when finished and tweak where necessary.

Yes, we did check this paragraph in Hemingway. Here’s the original copy for an idea of how it works.


Use this tool for: Tailoring the voice of your content to your target audience

When you’re marketing a business or topic that you know like the back of your hand, it can be hard to look at it ‘from the outside’, as your readers would.

This brilliant tool, created by Toronto-based Atomic Reach and available as a WordPress plugin, is designed to help you stay on track with your blogging. It syncs with Google Analytics and your social media accounts, using this data to accurately inform how you can tailor your blog content to your target audience.

AtomicWriter is simple to use; just enter your copy into WordPress as usual and the plug-in will give you suggestions on how you can alter your post to make it clearer for the readership you had in mind. Articles are scored with a numerical Atomic Score (the higher the better) and you’ll be given an indication of Audience Match, which determines whether or not you should tweak further.

Quora - one of the best content writing tools
Quora – great for content research


Use this tool for: The final proofreading and editing stage

Not everyone is a naturally talented writer and most of us don’t have the time to be combing through finished drafts looking for errors. However, content rife with errors screams of a business that is unprofessional, so what do you do?

Grammarly is a plug-in that checks and corrects any spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes it finds in your text. Grammarly works with all major browsers, as well as Microsoft Office, and will appear in any text editors or dialog boxes you open, in the form of a small, green, clickable circle. You have to sign up to Grammarly, but it isn’t intrusive, and doesn’t take much effort to use. The alternative could include simple mistakes such as this, so using this tool is a no brainer.

Emotional Marketing Headline Analyser

Use this tool for: Finding effective headlines

Choosing an effective headline is notoriously difficult. It can often be tempting just to summarise the basics of the article or adopt a lazy, clichéd pun and move on to the next item on your to-do list. However, as Jodi Harris highlights for Content Marketing Institute, there are a number of aspects you need to conform to, all of which seemingly contradict each other.

Advanced Marketing Institute’s free, web-based tool is handy as it gives you an idea of the emotional response your headline will garner with your audience.

We entered “6 awesome content writing tools you should be using” which received an EMV of 66.7%. According to the site, professional headlines have an EMV of between 30% and 40%, while gifted writers rank around 60 or 70%. In other words, it appears that ours is a great title!

The analyser isn’t perfect and it doesn’t really give you an idea of the keywords you need to use, but it’s useful for helping you understand what your readership looks out for.

These six content writing tools alone won’t provide a magic solution, but have a play with them and see what you think. You might learn something new!

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