Duplicate content – illegal, immoral and ill advised

duplicate content and seo

We first wrote about duplicate content in 2017, and we’ve since updated this article with guidance around how Google in particular treats duplicate content.

A pair of words that copywriters will know well is “duplicate content”. Sadly it’s a bit of web jargon, but if we said the word “plagiarism” you might start to recall the risks of copying other people’s work from school or university days.

It’s interesting in our modern age that students’ assignments at university are now compared by their lecturers to Google’s search results to see if they have stolen people’s work from the web. And if you’re creating a website then be warned. Google will be doing the same to your site.

There’s a secondary issue you should also consider – which is duplicating content on your own website. After all, if you have a great piece of content it may appear in different sections of the website.

How to avoid duplicate content

Google calls it “duplicate content” and since Google aims to provide quality, relevant results. It frowns on sites that share the same content. At the risk of putting duplicate content in this blog, let me tell you what Google says on this:

“Something like 25-30% of all the web’s content is duplicate,” said Matt Cutts, who was Google’s head of web spam back in 2017. He went on to say that Google accepts that it’s something that happens, “for example if you were to quote a paragraph from another blog on your website”. He adds that Google does not automatically assume that your website is spam unless your website is composed mainly or entirely from content found elsewhere. But if your website is not the first to publish content, Google will ‘group’ duplicated content together and will only show the original version in its search results.

So, by copying other people’s copy and content you risk not being displayed in search results. At worst Google will delist your site altogether.

Of course stealing another writer’s content is not morally right. Worse still, there’s copyright in the words someone uses, and you may be breaching the law by copying.

That’s where Copywriter UK comes in. We can help you write fresh, appealing content. This not only reflects well on your business, but will appeal to Google.

Duplicate content of your own copyright

Where you have a great piece of content, it can often be useful in various contexts. For example, we have ISO certification for copywriting. But we’re also certified for PR services. The benefits of the ISO are slightly different, but much of the ISO content is the same. We may want to have two virtually identical ISO pages – one under our copywriting menu, and one under PR.

We haven’t done this to manipulate Google, but only to communicate effectively to our potential customers. Google may not penalise us for this – although it may make a mistake and assume you’re acting unfairly. It could then delist you. Similarly, it may make its own decisions on which pages to index – and these may not be the pages you want listed. The best thing to do is to use the “canonical” tag to tell Google exactly what you’re doing, and which it should consider to be the content that should be indexed.

Google provides some guidance on this. Again, if you are confused our Oxygen web developers will be able to help.


8 grammar rules that all good copywriters break

copywriter uk guide to copy rules

Unfortunately, good grammar simply doesn’t reflect the way people speak. That’s a real problem – even for good copywriters – who need to stimulate a primal urge to buy in the reader. Writing copy that grabs the reader’s attention and compels them to keep reading is an art. And like all artists, the copywriter knows the rules and ignores them when necessary. Here’s the Copywriter UK guide to the grammar rules you should be ready to break.

copywriter uk rules

Grammar rule #1 −Contractions

Contractions are the essence of informal speech. We use them all the time in conversation. While it’s true that they may not be correct for formal writing, they can and absolutely should be used in most B2C sales and marketing copy. Customers do not want to be talked down to. Or rather they don’t want to be talked down to.

Grammar rule #2 − Fragments

Headline and strapline writing would often be impossible without sentence fragments. They convey an intimate form of shorthand between the brand and the reader, because the reader has enough familiarity or context to know what the fragment means. Fragments within articles and blogs allow readers to skim short sentences and pick up snippets of information without having to read all the body copy. And they create excitement and rhythm. So long as each fragment is a complete thought, they won’t disturb the flow. In fact they’ll just enhance it. Calls to action can also seem less intrusive and friendlier when presented in this way e.g. “Call today.”

Grammar rule #3 – Prepositions

The rule about not ending sentences with prepositions such as ‘with’ or ‘on’ is another which just doesn’t represent everyday speech. This comes from a desire to make English to conform to Latin standards. It simply doesn’t and is all the richer for it. Many famous writers have rejected this one. As Churchill, who wrote all his own wartime speeches, said: “This is the kind of impertinence up with which I will not put.”

Grammar rule #4 – Conjunctions

Starting a complete sentence with a conjunction like ‘and’, ‘or’ or ‘but’ is a useful way to draw attention to it. Or to remind the reader of a separate benefit. (See what I did there…?) Another reason sentences starting with conjunctions are so popular with copywriters is that they’re a useful way to break up overly long sentences. Most readers skim rather than read these days, especially online. We need to have a way to make long or complicated arguments without losing them.

Grammar rule #5 – One-sentence paragraphs

These are something print journalists have always relied on, especially in narrow columns. Often they’re the only way to break up large blocks of text. Besides, paragraphs should be used to make a single point or argument. Sometimes, one sentence is all that’s needed to do that, particularly if it’s a long one. They’re also a useful way to transition between sections, make a point, or give the reader a mental rest.

Grammar rule #6 – Slang

Copywriters have to be very careful when using slang. Get it even slightly wrong and your copy will fall completely flat. However, using slang or jargon can be very useful if you’re writing for a niche audience that you know well. It establishes the writer as an expert, or as being part of the right ‘tribe’ e.g. blogging for sci-fi fans.

Grammar rule #7 – Split infinitives

The trouble with never using an adverb before the verb is that it puts the emphasis on the verb. Sometimes what you want the reader to notice is the way someone did something rather than what they actually did. So with the now infamous ‘to boldly go…’ The point is not that the crew of the Enterprise went where no man had gone before. The point is that they did it ‘boldly’. And by putting the adverb ‘boldly’ before the verb ‘go’ that’s just the message the audience gets. This is a particularly important tool for copywriters, where they may be trying to generate new emotional connotations with mundane actions associated with the product we’re selling.

Grammar rule #8 – Passive voice

Breaking this rule may surprise you as all copywriters are told that the active voice is best. However, there are times when the passive voice is very useful. Using an active voice produces attractive, crisp, dynamic copy, but it’s only one tool in the smart copywriter’s tool-kit. The passive voice is just as useful if you know when and where to employ it. They put the recipient or receiver of an action first, and the performer of the action second. Passive voice can be used when you are trying to sound objective, when you are putting the benefit first, to enhance SEO and to slow the reader down so they actually read your copy.

By now you should be breaking the rules of grammar with confidence. But if not, our expert team of copywriters know just how to craft copy that speaks to your target audience. Give Copywriter UK a call today on 0845 2606 255.

Tips on using apostrophes

Catastrophie – apostrophe tips

The apostrophe is one of the most clever devices to signal meaning in the written English language. Yet for many it is seen as too complex to learn or, at worst, completely unnecessary. To that extent some local authorities banned the use of apostrophes on road signs, and caused something of an uproar from grammarians.

So, why are apostrophes seen as so difficult? Here’s a quick fire guide to getting them right.

Possession is 9/10s of the law

This is also true when it comes to apostrophes. When it comes to defining possession – that is, when an object belongs to a subject – most of the time there’s an apostrophe involved.

So we may have something like this:

The cat’s paws.

The paws belong to the cat – so we need an apostrophe.

When there is more than one cat, then we have this:

The cats’ paws.

The paws belong to the cats.

The most common mistake is confusing a plural with possession. If the cats are chasing birds… and take a pause… we do not need an apostrophe. It’s a simple plural. So…

The cats pause.

There are several other examples of simple plurals when apostrophes are not required. The common ones:

1970s.  So… funk music started to become popular in the 1970s. It can help to spell out the word and see why it doesn’t need an apostrophe: seventies. If something happened in a specific year, then we may need an apostrophe. For example:

1976’s seminal disco funk classic Good Times was released. (So Good Times belongs to 1976).

Similarly if you learn your ABCs or enjoy BBQs, you do not need apostrophes.

The 1/10th that can be a bit confusing is the use of its.

If you have the cat’s paws, you have its paws. No apostrophe, even though it feels like we need one.

We’d only see an apostrophe in its when we contract ‘it is’ – so we may see:

It’s Paul’s cat. (It is Paul’s cat).

Other common contractions can include he’s and she’s; he is or she is.

So, remember our cat if you want to use apostrophes correctly – and avoid a grammar catastrophe.