Duplicate content is a big no-no when it comes to SEO.  It is far too easy and tempting for new web designers to copy content from other sites in an effort to fluff out their own.  Google’s algorithm timestamps new material, so any attempts to duplicate content will make the copying site’s search engine rankings suffer.

Some duplicate content is unavoidable, as certain expressions are common.  What ends up hurting a site is when a large percentage of the site contains copied material.  If a site duplicates material too often without attempt at remediation, it is altogether possible that Google will flag and penalize the domain itself – this can be a death sentence to what could have been a successful business.

Google wants searchers to find fresh, unique and informative content when using their service.  To meet this need, Google is adept at finding sites that supply quality information and boosting their search rankings.  It behooves developers with a long-term outlook to make sure to add quality content to their sites now as to avoid inevitable plagiarism penalties from Google later.

There is a difference, however, between copying and “spinning.”  One must understand that  there is “nothing new under the sun,” and that all creators get their inspiration from those that came before them.  If one wants to use a site as inspiration, this is acceptable, but the material must be artfully paraphrased and rewritten.  Great musicians and artists of history were all inspired by those of yesteryear; they did, however, give a fresh take on inspired material to enable them to maintain a unique identity in spite of it.

There are several tools developers can use to find out if their site or someone else’s contains duplicate content:

Copyscape.com and Siteliner.com are solid choices, although there are many more that can be found from simple web searches.

Those who do not have expertise in the material they hope to include on their site can hire outside agencies to compete this task.  While they may be investing some money up front, they will get it back once Google starts to pick up on the fresh content; the reward is new visitors, new clients and new sales.

SEO is a slow process.  If webmasters want immediate results, they will have to pay for Google ads which is its own beast.  Organic traffic that comes from quality content is always free.  Those who are paying for unique content with their time and money can look at this as a way of building equity in their sites.

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