Dangers of Law Firm Website Duplicate Content

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Remember back in school when your professors’ glass-rimmed eyes stared into your soul while explaining the plagiarism policy?

You graduated, moved into the “real world” and standards became loose, right? Wrong.

Although publishing companies probably are not reading every word on your website, search engines are.

Is Your Duplicate Content Spam?

Search engines place heavy emphasis on a website’s content when determining rankings. Because of content’s high value, when content is scraped straight off of another site, Google can see that plagiarism as spam and penalize the site using the duplicated content, which can cause lower rankings.

An example: you go to another lawyer’s website and really like their practice area page content. They might be in a completely different geographic area, so, since they are not a direct competitor, you decide to copy their content onto your site. The next thing you know, your site has disappeared from search results pages all together — your site was removed from the index for spamming tactics.

If you want to prominently show up in search engines, you have to play by the rules. Stealing substantially duplicated content from other sites is “spammy.” Keeping your content unique and of high value is critical.

Is Duplicate Content Ever Okay?

Just as your firm exists for your clients, search engines exist for their users. Because of this, search engines are dedicated to providing the highest value results possible to searchers. They want to display varied materials from different angles on each search query.

Keeping this foundational principle in mind, sometimes it is okay to copy content, but only if you have significant value to add to the conversation. News sites, for example, exist by giving different perspectives on the same story. It is not just about the facts; they have to give analysis to differentiate themselves from every other news service out there.

If you read a book that your potential clients could benefit from, it is appropriate to block quote a few bits of text and add commentary or discussion as to why you agree or disagree. It is not okay to copy an entire chapter onto your website and merely display it for people to read. If you are trying to appear as the expert by scraping another expert’s already-published content, you will likely end up penalized for spam.

What About Duplicate Content Within My Own Site?

Without getting technical (think 301s, boilerplate repetition and stubs), it is difficult to dive deeply into the different ways duplicate content can show up on your site. One quick example of duplicate content on one domain would be a print-friendly version of a webpage. Google obviously does not want to punish you for this value-added feature; it just needs to know which version of the page you want to show to searchers. As a result, there are several ways for your webmaster to tell search engines which version to show in search results. If your site does not tell Google which one to index, its bots have to guess. Usually they get it right, but it is always better to direct them, removing room for error.

For more in-depth information on duplicate content, Google has released many articles and videos on the subject. If you need assistance with getting rid of your duplicate content, creating new content or determining whether you have content-duplication issues, contact us at (800) 872-6590 or marketing@consultwebs.com.

Tanner Jones

Tanner Jones serves as the Marketing Director for Consultwebs.com, which means that he often is one of the first contacts our clients have with our firm. Follow Tanner on Google+.

Comments Comments

Jeff Howard

Hi There,

I read a lot of articles like this, and I agree with the message as a best practice. The troubling aspect is that I haven’t seen many case studies on the issue of duplicate content. Do you know of any?

– Jeff


LeAnna Easterday

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your comment! Here are two general case studies on duplicate content that I’ve found useful:

Hope those help!


LeAnna, thank you for your article. Without getting too complicated, I have a blog and separate Web site. I frequently use my blog posts as articles in a client e-mail newsletter. These newsletters are placed on my Web site. Is this a problem for Google? I’m not copying anyone else’s content, but I’m using it on two different sites. Thanks!


LeAnna Easterday

Hi Bob, that’s a great question. Unfortunately, re-posting entire articles is not ideal. One better option would be to excerpt your articles and give an introductory paragraph about the article with a link to the original. You did a good job of prefacing the content in your November newsletter. We would suggest implementing a similar practice even if you are re-using your own content.

For more on your question, I suggest you watch Google’s video on this type of duplicate content: http://youtu.be/hy3_Rjc0Tso.

Also http://www.copyscape.com is a great tool to use on your content to make sure that it is all original and that it hasn’t been taken and used elsewhere on the internet. Google likes to return the copy that is on the strongest site so it is possible that another site could get credit for your great content.

If you have additional questions please drop us a note and we will take a deeper look!


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