Duplicate Content? Many attorneys like to blog or even write their own website content. While this might seem a good way to avoid expense, it usually ends up harming a firm's search rankings more than it helps. Why? Because when attorneys write website content, they often create duplicate content. Usually this is done completely by mistake, but sometimes it is intentional. In either event, it is likely harming the site's visibility on search engines.
What Is Duplicate Content And Why Is It A Problem?
Duplicate content is, quite literally, having the same material appear on more than one web page. With the search engines' newer algorithms ranking sites by page rather than by the site taken as a whole, duplicate content is becoming more of a problem. Virtually every site has some content duplicated from page to page. The issue is that Google and other search engines see the two pages with the same content and have a hard time determining which of the two identical pieces of content is more relevant to a particular query. This can lead to a page being dropped off of search engine results or ranked much lower than other sites.
What makes duplicate content so difficult to prevent is the fact that most of it is created by mistake. One of the most common ways this happens is through a site's internal linking structures. Session IDs, sorting options, affiliate codes, meta-titles and descriptions, and domains with both simple and "www" based URL's can all show up as duplicate content to search engines. The only way to avoid this is by following better practices, using the latest techniques, and staying abreast of changes to search engine algorithms. Of course, attorneys have better things to do with their time (like practice law), which is why it is critical to have the assistance of someone knowledgeable in web design and SEO best practices to help you avoid these issues.
Of course, not all duplication is accidental. In many instances, attorneys create duplicate content believing it to be a correct and appropriate practice. For example, when writing about case law or statutory changes, many lawyers will recite relevant portions of the source material with an appropriate citation to authority. While this is absolutely correct in most legal writing, for purposes of search engine optimization, this is not always a good idea.
In other cases, particularly when hiring some legal blogging services, one receives a "spun article." Article spinning is the practice of writing one article then rephrasing it slightly and re-posting it, or simply cutting and pasting articles (possibly with appropriate citations to the original source). In either case, search engine algorithms have become sophisticated enough to detect this type of duplication and will penalize the page for unoriginal content.