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The importance of sharing content as a marketing strategy has proved to be one of the most effective ways to grow a business. It not only educates and informs, but it also provides businesses with an opportunity to position themselves as thought leaders in their industry. Many companies, however, are not fully realizing the potential harm that can come from using content incorrectly. They become unknowing victims of duplicate content.

In the SEO world, duplicate content is content that can be found in multiple places online. Moz estimates that up to 29% of websites contain duplicate content. The challenge this creates for search engines is not knowing the original source of the content, to rank for query results. The bottom line is that if Google is confused, your content is not going to be as visible in searches.

Most people do not create duplicate content intentionally. Outside of URL variations, duplicate content can primarily happen three ways. The first is the business enlists the help of a marketing company for content development. The marketing company, however, does not provide unique content. They have a stock content library for which they offer their clients access.. They may fill in information here and there that is unique to the client, but by and large, competitors can use the same content.

It can be very frustrating as a business, to spend money on marketing and see the same blog article on your website as a local competitor. If you hire a marketing company to help with content development for your site, ensure the content they create is unique. Even better, ask them to offer you a market exclusivity agreement. This will ensure they are entirely focused on your business and not your competitors too.

Today, many businesses sell the same products and services. The second culprit for duplicate content occurs when companies use the content provided by the manufacturers for the items they sell or the services they offer.

For example, you purchase a laser for skin rejuvenation procedures, and the laser manufacturer provides you with a digital folder full of marketing materials to use for promotional purposes. In this folder is content about the laser. You take the content and add it to your website. Know what? Other businesses are doing the same thing. That means when someone searches online for that laser, your site (and the others that are using duplicate content too) do not show up in the top results. The sites that have UNIQUE content about the laser show up on top. The best solution to this situation is to modify the information the manufacturer provides in such a way that it becomes yours uniquely. Use their information as a source, but don’t copy.

The third situation we often see is when random online “businesses” copy content from other websites and post it on their own, often without citing their source. Protect your hard work by locking down your content whenever possible. Free widgets are available to make this process painless.

One of the best ways to increase brand awareness and educate consumers is through the sharing of information. Content marketing is here to stay. Don’t let the fear of duplicate content mistakes keep you from enlightening your online community. Be aware of the risks and make strategic decisions to prevent them from happening.