How Badly Can Plagiarism Hurt SEO?

When it comes to writing content, the one thing you want to avoid above all else is plagiarism. In some countries, plagiarism is considered a serious crime that can even result in jail time. While that’s not the case in most of the world, it can still hurt your website to the point where you’re hardly getting any web traffic.

Search engine optimization is the biggest driver of web traffic. Is there a direct link between plagiarism on a website and a decline in search engine results appearing for web browsers? There are a lot of varying factors, and we’re going to take a look at some of those, as well as how your website can be impacted.

Not All Plagiarism is Equal

When we think of plagiarism, we tend to think about copying and pasting someone’s work. That, of course, is the most blatant form of plagiarism and will have your website to lose credibility and its place in search engine results almost instantly. Then, there are those that want to be as careful as possible and never use someone’s quotations. However, quotations can be a very useful tool, and it’s not plagiarism if you’re giving credit to the person who said the quote.

Naturally, there is going to be some overlap in content, especially when it comes to keywords. If you’re operating a website that sells lawnmowers in, say, Kansas City, Missouri, you’re going to have the same keywords pop up as someone that does the same. Having “best Kansas City lawnmower business” while another website has the same is not plagiarism, it’s simply two businesses using SEO keywords.

Call to Action

When you’re performing search engine optimization on your website, one thing that should always be present is a call to action. This is where you have a hyperlink toward the top or bottom of a post, leading to a page where potential customers can contact you or find out more information. 

These are great SEO tools to have at your disposal, but you have to be careful. Ones that are simply copied and pasted from your other posts could potentially hurt your SEO, but in a way that you might not think. If you use the exact same paragraph every time, there’s likely no penalty, but tweaking it just a little bit a few times can be a negative. Try to come up with a call to action that’s natural every single time and try to use it in a sentence that doesn’t look out of place.

Paraphrasing is Your Friend

As we mentioned earlier, having overlapping content is going to happen no matter how much you try to avoid it. Your website can only talk about so many things, and there are likely several other web pages at the very least talking about the same things. Because of this, it’s important to paraphrase when posting instead of plagiarising completely. While there are tools that can do this for you automatically, you’ll feel much better when coming up with your own words on your website.

You Could Lose Money

In most cases, plagiarising someone’s content will simply get you knocked down the search engine results rankings. However, there are some situations in which you could actually be sued, especially if the work was copyrighted. That’s another big reason to avoid plagiarism, but there’s another way that plagiarism could cost you money that’s even worse.

If your work isn’t copyrighted, someone could just as easily take it as their own. Because of this, there have been a lot of larger websites that have ripped off content from smaller web pages and passed it along as their own. Knowing that there’s very limited legal action that you can take and seeing your web page drop down the rankings even though you didn’t do anything wrong can be demoralizing. 

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