It is almost impossible to avoid duplicating content on the web. Matt Cutts, from Google, reckons 25 to 30 percent of all content is duplicated. Google does not recognize duplicated content as spam but it can result in content being filtered out and omitted from search results.
Plagiarism, on the other hand, can be detrimental to both the copied content and the original. Google may not be able to differentiate between the two and in some instances, the owner of the original work will be penalized.
Plagiarism vs Duplicate Content
Users and search engines look for quality content that adds value. But the lines of what constitutes plagiarism are blurred. Too often similar wording and paraphrasing (known as patchwriting) can wreak havoc with your SEO results and cause rankings to plummet to the doldrums of omitted results.
Duplicate content is often unavoidable. For instance, call-to-action paragraphs, terms and conditions, disclaimers and marketing information are seen as above board. Using information from news sites and blogs, and listing sources are also okay.
But when blatant copy/paste methods are used over multiple domains the guilty site can be removed. Fortunately, Google has streamlined their algorithms and this practice is not so easy to get away with anymore.
There are varying degrees of plagiarism. None are illegal but most are dishonest forms of content writing. Plagiarism can be intentional but often it is not. Some writers may even unknowingly plagiarize their own work, due to habit and the use of common phrases and wording.
How To Check For Copied Content
Many free plagiarism detection tools are available online. Copyscape is a well known one. It may be worthwhile to invest in more advanced plagiarism software. These come with extra features that can assist with writing. For businesses that rely on a sound reputation or work with a large number of writers, covering a vast range of topics, these may be better.
Verifying sources and diligent fact-checking must always be done.
Setting clear standards and boundaries for paid writers is crucial. Anything written on behalf of your company, even if written by a contractor, is your responsibility.
The best way to avoid copied content from making its way onto your site (and to avoid being penalized, removed or crowded out) is to only accept high-quality, original content that brings value and a unique perspective to the topic and your site.