Most people know plagiarism is morally wrong. But did you know it can also harm your SEO efforts?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital part of your ecommerce marketing strategy. In fact, over two-thirds of marketers invested in SEO in 2021. SEO makes your website more visible to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. The more visible your website is, the greater your chances are of getting customers.
Plagiarism negates the benefits SEO brings to your business. For one, plagiarism results in penalties that make your website harder to find. It also damages your reputation with customers. In other words, plagiarism can harm your bottom line. So, in this article, we’ll look at what plagiarism is, how it affects SEO performance, and best practices to avoid it.
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Table of Contents
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s content as your own without crediting them. For instance, if you copied someone’s article on how does VoIP work without citing them, that’s plagiarism. Some plagiarism is more subtle than copying and pasting large chunks of text, but it’s still unacceptable.
Luckily, today’s search engines are much better at detecting plagiarism. It’s no longer a viable way for unethical websites to boost their SEO.
Plagiarism vs duplicate content
Duplicate content is similar or identical content that’s published in more than one place. It’s different from plagiarism since duplicate content credits the original source. Duplicate content may appear on the same website一for instance, separate versions for different devices. Or, duplicate content may appear on more than one website with the author’s permission.
How can you stop duplicate content from affecting your SEO ranking? Use canonicalization. Adding a canonical tag (Rel=”canonical”) tells search engines which is the original content. That way, it appears on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Types of Plagiarism
Plagiarism takes many forms, but there are four main categories:
1. Intentional or copy-paste plagiarism
This is the most well-known type of plagiarism. It involves copying and pasting someone else’s content without giving them credit. Nowadays, plagiarists rarely copy and paste entire articles. Rather, they copy and paste parts of an article (or articles) into their work. This is mosaic plagiarism.
Copy-paste plagiarism is the easiest form of plagiarism for search engines to detect, so it’s the quickest way to sabotage your ranking.
Patchwriting is when you disguise plagiarism by making minor changes. For instance, rewriting or paraphrasing certain sentences and paragraphs or changing a few words. The piece ends up very like the original, but it’s harder for search engines to detect. Of course, this doesn’t mean patchwriting is okay! It’s still an unethical and fireable offense.
3. Accidental plagiarism
Plagiarism can also be unintentional. For example, if you read a phrase or keyword that you later use without realizing where it came from. You may also write the same content by coincidence, which is easy to do now the content market is so saturated. Not to mention one of the ways to improve SEO value is to use common keywords and phrases.
To avoid accidental plagiarism, you should use an online plagiarism checker (more on those later).
It’s also possible to plagiarize yourself. For instance, say you wrote an article five years ago answering the question, ‘what is IVR?’. If you use parts of this article in another article about IVR, it’s self-plagiarism. This may not be a copyright problem, but search engines will still penalize you. So, try to avoid reusing old material.
10 Ways Plagiarism Affects Your SEO Performance
The goal of search engines is to give readers high-quality, informative content. Plagiarized content doesn’t provide value, so it harms SEO performance in a number of ways:
1. You’ll get a penalty from the search engine
In January 2022, Google accounted for around 85.6% of the global search market. So, let’s use Google as an example.
Google penalizes websites it finds with content that’s over 10% plagiarized. Getting a penalty for plagiarism harms your SERP ranking, and in extreme cases, Google may remove your website from the list. There are four degrees of penalties:
- Keyword-level penalties: Keyword penalties only affect your ranking for a specific keyword.
- URL-level penalties: These penalties affect the URL rank, so they’re more serious than keyword penalties.
- Domain-level penalties: These penalties lower the SERP rank of your entire domain.
- Site removal: This is the most serious penalty that involves removing your site from SERPs altogether.
2. You will get less organic traffic
On average, organic searches account for over 50% of all website traffic. Organic traffic builds consumer trust in your website and increases your conversion rate. This in turn increases your revenue. In fact, B2B companies make twice as much revenue from organic search than any other channel.
To get organic traffic, you need to rank highly in SERPs. But search engine penalties due to plagiarism lower your ranking. So, to drive organic traffic to your website, you need to publish high-quality, original content with high SEO value.
3. It gives readers a poor experience
As we discussed, you need high-quality content to increase your search engine rank and drive visitors to your website. For instance, 55% of successful content marketing strategies focus on producing quality content. High-quality content can make you a thought leader in your field and bring readers back to your site.
Low-quality, plagiarized content gives readers a poor experience, so they won’t stay on your website. This harms your SEO performance since “time on site” influences your SERP rank. For example, increasing time on site by 3 seconds correlates with ranking one position higher in SERPs. To improve your rank and convert readers into loyal customers, you need original content.
4. It damages your reputation
How would a reader recognize plagiarized content? Say a reader wanted to know the CPaaS meaning, so they looked at several high-ranking websites before yours. If your website stole content from one of those websites, the reader will know一and that’s bad for your reputation.
Once readers realize you plagiarized content, they will lose trust in your brand. No matter how much original content you produce later, your readers will always wonder if you plagiarized that, too. To build your reputation as a trusted source of information, you should invest in original content.
5. It’s not cost-effective
Excellent SEO content writers come at a premium. You might have to pay over $12,000 per month to an SEO agency that provides custom reporting, keyword research, CRO, and original content. So it can be tempting to look for cheaper alternatives. Cheap SEO writers may save you money in the short term, but if they plagiarize content, it can cost money in the long run.
If search engines penalize your website, your ranking goes down, so it’s harder for customers to find you. If customers can’t find you, you’ll end up with fewer sales and a diminished ROI. There’s also the cost of legal action if the original author sues you for copyright infringement.
6. It’s harder to build your brand
To build your brand, you need great content that attracts and retains customers. Original content has a unique style that makes your brand recognizable to consumers. If you copy someone else’s content, you won’t have the unique voice that makes your brand stand out.
Also, plagiarized content won’t harmonize with the rest of your content, so readers will know it’s not original. This makes it harder to build your brand as you will lose consumer confidence. Although original content takes time and money, it’s essential if you want your brand to succeed.
7. It increases your website’s bounce rate
A high bounce rate means people are clicking on your site and then immediately leaving again. Search engines like Google don’t use bounce rates per se to calculate search ranking. But, a high bounce rate does suggest your website may not have the kind of high-quality content they’re looking for.
Unoriginal content is one of the reasons a website may have a high bounce rate. If your content doesn’t have anything new to say about a subject, like what is an electronic signature, readers will quickly leave your site. This then harms your SEO efforts.
8. Your content gets fewer backlinks
Backlinks direct readers to your website from other websites, so they’re an important part of SEO. For example, the number one Google result has an average of 3.8 times more backlinks than positions two to ten. It’s not only about how many backlinks you have, though. For the best results, you need many trusted websites to link to your site.
Guest posting is a great way to get more backlinks and elevate your website’s SERP position. But if you plagiarize content, websites won’t publish it, so you won’t get those all-important backlinks.
9. People won’t share your content on social media
Top-ranking websites tend to have strong social media content with lots of customers sharing their posts. If more people share your content, your brand will have a larger social signal. Google uses these social signals to determine a website’s credibility. This means social media can indirectly influence your SERP rank.
Why is this significant? If you use unoriginal content on your website and social channels, people are less likely to share it. This not only reduces brand awareness but also makes your brand appear less credible to search engines. You will then rank lower than if you had used original content users want to share.
10. It can expose you to legal trouble
This is one of the more serious consequences of plagiarism. If you plagiarize someone’s work, chances are they will find out. They may sue you for copyright infringement, which damages your reputation and costs money. Or, they could report you to Google under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). If that happens, Google will penalize your website.
To avoid legal trouble, you must ensure neither you nor your writers plagiarize content.
Best Practices to Avoid Plagiarism
Most people don’t intend to plagiarize, but accidental plagiarism is easy to do. To reduce the chances of it happening, you should follow these best practices:
Cite and keep track of sources
While you conduct your research, you should keep a list of the sources you use. Once you finish writing, you should credit any sources you’ve borrowed from. For instance, say you were writing an article about autoML platforms. If you want to include a relevant statistic, you should add a link to the source of that statistic. Ideally, this should be the original study rather than a third-party website.
Use quotes and paraphrasing appropriately
Sometimes, you might want to use an exact phrase, like a definition or a famous quote. In this case, you should use quotation marks to show you wrote the text as it originally appeared. For a pullout-style quote, you should put the original author underneath with a link to their site. Otherwise, you should include the name and link in the surrounding text.
Also, some writers use paraphrasing to summarize or rework content in a new way. If you want to paraphrase another writer’s idea, you should credit them as you would a direct quote. Paraphrasing is done both manually and by using a reliable paraphrase tool.
Use a plagiarism checker
As we said earlier, a free plagiarism checker is a great way to ensure your content is plagiarism-free. There are many plagiarism checkers online, both free and paid. In general, paid software like Grammarly, Scribbr, and Quetext is more accurate than free software. Also, while most free software has a 1,000-word limit, paid software lets you enter as much text as you like.
When using a plagiarism checker, aim for no more than 2-5% plagiarism in your text (although 0% is even better!)
Unfortunately, plagiarism is still a common problem on the internet. It may seem like a quick and easy way to boost your SEO ranking, but in reality, plagiarism harms your SEO performance. Plagiarism incurs penalties from search engines that demote or remove your content from SERPs. This reduces organic traffic to your website. It’s also very hard to recover your reputation once readers know you plagiarized content.
Plagiarism has no place on any SEO content checklist. To bring in more customers and increase your revenue, you need to invest in high-quality, original content that gives value to your readers.