Duplicate content is the technical term for it – content that appears on the internet in more than one place.
When there are multiple pieces of the same (or very similar) content in more than one location on the internet, it can be difficult for search engines to decide which version is more relevant – and it is a topic that our clients frequently ask about.
More and more, our journalist and copywriting friends are telling us of their frustration over the blatant plagiarism of their work. These connections are increasingly finding their content copied and pasted onto real estate agency and agent websites without permission. So much so that they’ve begun seeking damages from the companies and real estate agents responsible… and they’re succeeding.
Yes, you can be ordered to pay compensation for copying content from somewhere/someone else and pasting it onto your website and putting “Originally published at…” at the bottom won’t save you. Furthermore, the compensation you may be ordered to pay may be calculated based on how long the article has existed on your website.
To a degree, we can sympathise with real estate agencies and agents who do this. Consistently coming up with ideas that add value to your database and then finding the time to actually create the article or video is hard work. When you want to be seen as the ‘trusted authority’ on real estate in your local market or you want to rank higher on Google but you don’t have enough content to get the job done, you may be tempted to do whatever it takes and cut corners where you can.
Spoiler alert: There are no shortcuts when it comes to optimising your real estate website for higher rankings on Google. You need to dedicate time and effort to learning the nuances of real estate SEO — or hire a real estate digital marketing partner to do the heavy lifting.
Simply taking content from other top-ranking websites and pasting it to your own won’t get the job done. Why? Because duplicate content downgrades your website’s authority with Google. Simply put, it can impact your Google rankings.
What is duplicate content in real estate SEO?
Duplicate content involves copying the exact text from one source and pasting it to another page with zero (or very minimal) changes made. This includes using the same content from one page of your own website on another page of your website.
Many will go back and forth — as far as third parties go — on whether posting a blog to your website and somewhere like LinkedIn is bad for your real estate SEO. But duplicate content as a whole does make it more difficult for search engines to decide which piece of content is more relevant to any given search query on Google.
Can I copy website content from other sites for my own real estate website?
The short answer here is: no.
If you want to reuse your own content across multiple pages on your website, that’s one thing (one thing we still don’t recommend). But copying and pasting content from somewhere on the internet that doesn’t belong to you is simply not acceptable.
Simply adding “Article originally published at….”, even if the author has given you consent, is not going to save you from potential SEO (or legal) issues.
Not only that, it goes against established copyright laws for digital products to duplicate content from somewhere else and display it as your own.
Here’s a basic rule of thumb when it comes to using creative (e.g., images, copy, video) across your owned digital channels: if you don’t have permission from the creator to post it, don’t. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if you’re hit with legal repercussions. And even if you DO have permission, it can eat away at your search rankings if your website is not set up properly.
The same goes for ‘content marketplaces’ or company intranets. It might seem easy to just copy and paste from a pre-written library of articles on any given topic but you’ve been warned – it has the potential to hurt your website and SEO and website traffic rather than help.
For the advanced marketers: Will canonical linking help my real estate SEO?
While we’re on the topic of “easy real estate SEO shortcuts,” let’s talk about canonical linking.
Remember how we mentioned that one of the issues with duplicate content is that search engines have a hard time deciding what to rank on top when comparing different instances of duplicate content? Canonical links work to solve for that.
The rel=canonical element is an HTML link tag your website team/developers can apply to pages that display similar content. This helps Google identify which pages should act as the preferred, most original source.
Canonical links aren’t going to help your real estate SEO when it comes to duplicate content you’ve copied and pasted from other websites, though. They’re meant to help the source website.
Say, for example, that you’ve syndicated content across other websites in order to reach more potential readers. In this case, using a canonical link would make sense, since you’re telling Google to prioritise the original piece that lives on your website as opposed to republished versions elsewhere.
We use this approach on all of our multi-office franchise websites whereby the corporate team are creating tonnes of great content that gets syndicated to each office website. This gives the offices loads of great content to use in their EDM’s and social posts but provides them with zero SEO benefit because the ‘canonical link’ in the article is telling Google that the original exists on the corporate site – which helps the corporate website SEO.
What you’re looking at above is the source code of a web page – the stuff that Google’s robots look at. Google’s robots can see quickly that, although the article appears on 45 office websites, the original exists on the corporate site.
As a multi-office franchise group, if you’re website network for all of your offices is not leveraging canonical linking, you’re missing a big opportunity.
The Consequences of Duplicate Content for Your Real Estate Website
At the end of the day, Google is on a mission to provide its users with the best possible search experience. This means they’re not going to surface multiple versions of the same content for a given search query: they’re going to make a choice.
And the more duplicated versions that exist for Google to choose from, the more diluted the chances of that original content appearing high in search rankings becomes. When there’s only one unique source driving traffic, it’s a no brainer.
Your real estate website won’t face any penalties per se in duplicating content across your website (and elsewhere), but you’re also not improving your SEO by doing so. In saving time from having to create unique content, you’re further delaying the time that could be spent ranking higher in search results.
Creating a Content Strategy that Works for You
One of the biggest factors behind why real estate agents copy and paste content to their websites is a lack of time. They don’t believe there’s enough to go around — certainly not enough to spend writing blogs and creating Facebook Page posts.
If this is the mindset you have when it comes to marketing, then it’s time for a refresh. You can’t compete in the digital space without making some sort of investment in your own original content. Sharing articles on your social channels or emails from other sources and actually linking them back to the originating website is fine. But copying those articles to your own website, as you’ve now learnt, is a bad idea.
Should you choose to take on the task of creating your own content, make it easier on yourself by repurposing. We’re not saying you should simply duplicate everything you’ve already created across every single channel. Instead, use a cornerstone piece as your foundation — modifying and transforming it into something new as different needs arise.
Alternatively, if your personal time is non-negotiable, you can always go the route of outsourcing your content marketing to a dedicated team. This is a great solution for those looking to provide a unique perspective on trends within the real estate industry and/or their communities from the pen of a ghostwriter.
Should you decide to go this route, it’s important to do your due diligence upfront. Spend time outlining your requirements before vetting content creation candidates of interest.
Final Thoughts: Why Copy/Pasting Articles Is (Really) Bad For Business
In the world of SEO for real estate, one thing is for certain — copying the work of someone else and claiming it as your own is not the way for your website to get ahead. Or be found.
Don’t be tempted to duplicate content from other sources in an effort to build your presence and reach that first page of Google. Instead, focus on developing a voice that’s all your own — one that can translate across multiple sources and connect with audiences that’ll result in both eyeballs on a page and future customers.
What other issues have you run up against when building out your real estate SEO strategy? Any questions you’d like us to answer? Share them with us in the comments below.