Why is Duplicate Content Bad?

NOTE — If you’re publishing a specific piece of writing publicly on the internet for the first time, regardless of whether you’ve submitted it privately to multiple publications or contests online or offline prior, there is no concern needed that you might be creating duplicate content with it. Duplicate content is solely an issue of public (meaning discoverable from search engines) content online.

If you search online for “duplicate content” you’re likely to only find articles describing the technical and SEO reasons for why it’s not a good thing, but this is only a minor side of the problem. There are much more important ethical issues present here.

Value

In terms of promoting, digital content is directly inverse to the way print content works. In print content, the more copies of books you can spread around, the better. In this regard, this is actually a good kind of duplicate content. This may be why more traditional writers that are less tech-savvy might be confused as to why this doesn’t work the same online.

When online, there should only be one distinct and exclusive place that an article is published. This site would be considered the authority site for the content. This is where the canonical link and permalink should exist (and nowhere else), where people can find the writing when searching via search engines, when sharing over social media, etc. Similar to how if you were to get an article published in the NY Times, you wouldn’t then try and get the same article published in the LA Times. This adds no value for anyone and is redundant.

Instead of copying and pasting the same article to other sites, which only degrades the value of the content, one should promote the original article on the original site where the content was first published (or remove the content from all sites and re-publish it on the site you intend your content to find a new official home). This will better increase the value and rank of the content over time and you’ll ultimately reach more readers in a positive way than simply spamming your content to as many places as you can.

Fairness

Consider this hypothetical in terms of writing contests in the modern era of internet-based publishers where your work isn’t just considered for publishing if you win, it is published publicly to contribute to building content automatically, in addition to prizes being awarded:

Person A. Writes a poem in 2010 and enters it into a contest. Then, every subsequent contest they come across for years after, they simply copy and paste that same poem over and over paying no concern to the guidelines.

Person B. Following the guidelines, puts in the time and effort to write a brand new poem just for the contest they’re entering.

The manager of the contest is too lazy or careless to check for such issues and awards Person A the prize. Is that fair? Is that ethical? We don’t think so.

And in terms of writing and publishing the same content in multiple places online regardless of whether a contest is being held or not:

The Omniverse — This isn’t fair to us because you’re creating low-quality, spammy content on our website.

Other Writers — This isn’t fair to other writers because it degrades the value of all their effort in creating unique and original content for the purpose of publishing on The Omniverse when you’re not respecting the same values.

Other Websites — This isn’t fair to all the other websites that you’re now impacting and creating low-quality, duplicate content on.

Readers — This isn’t fair to readers as they might be confused as to where the official, most complete, and up-to-date version of a specific piece is. They could be lead to a poorly duplicated and dated version and also miss out on where the real discussion is happening. Some people are loyal readers that simply stick to their favorite publishers and let the content come to them. But, many others prefer to find their content à la carte and while possibly only subconsciously, they do want the original and most official publishing for the best reading experience.

Yourself — This isn’t fair to yourself most of all to regurgitate the same writings over and over instead of challenging yourself to come up with something new and fresh. In terms of practicality, if you were to create the same article on 3 different websites, if you were to even remember everywhere you published it or even care (a lot of people that create duplicate content just set and forget), every time you wanted to make updates, corrections, or other improvements, you’ve now created a lot more work for yourself.

Plagiarism

To be clear, we do not conflate the creation of duplicate content (which is often done ignorantly) with the deliberate plagiarization of other people’s works. However, duplicate content can often appear as plagiarism if it’s not clear who the original author is or where it was originally published.

There are also scammers, who while technically plagiarizing, don’t actually care about claiming credit. What they’re doing is creating a fake account and then going around and copying others’ poems, short stories, etc. and publishing them in bulk to enter into contests as a way to cheat and try and take the money and run. Allowing duplicate content also invites these types of cheaters to take advantage and game the system.

Bottom Line

If you’re in the habit of creating duplicate content, perhaps it’s something you’ve never thought about before, or perhaps you’ve never thought about it in this way before. Hopefully we’ve made a valid case to why we consider it best practice to avoid creating duplicate content.

If you disagree, we respect your opinion and you are always welcome to open further discussion and debate about such issues in the forum. However, at this time, it’s the official opinion of The Omniverse that duplicate content is wrong and will not be allowed.

Oops. I created duplicate content on The Omniverse, but still want to publish here.

We understand that most people don’t read the fine print when signing up for and agreeing to something. Also, sometimes you simply forgot you already published the work or possibly the duplicate content we found is someone else ripping off your work. If you made an honest mistake, that’s okay. Here are a few ways to resolve the matter:

1. If you’d like The Omniverse to be the new official home for this content online, great. You can leave your content live on The Omniverse as long as you’re actively working to remove it from other places it’s been published online.

2. We never want you to compromise your values just to appease us. If you’d rather your content remain on your own website or another place you’ve published it, good, we want you to do what’s best for you. Just make sure to delete the content from The Omniverse and publish something new or that you’ve never published online before instead.

Thank you.