How much does content need to be rewritten to become unique?

Posted on August 19, 2009


It’s ‘fairly’ common knowledge now that by adding regular, unique and well written content to your website you’ll help boost your Google rankings. We say fairly common knowledge because there are still some people, even some SEOs, who haven’t yet bought into the concept of content.

We’ll ignore them though.

When writing content for your website it’s normal to find a source for news and rewrite it in your own words, because of course if you just copy it, you’ll be creating duplicate content and will end up receiving a penalty from Google for your efforts. Not the end goal with content!

However, how much should you rewrite content for it to be classed as unique? Is changing a few words OK, or do you need to rewrite the whole article, changing every sentence.

Think of it this way, if you Google a single quote, one that will exist on Google on thousands of websites, you’ll get thousands (if not millions) of results. Something like:

The Force will be with you, always.

That’s just seven words in a string, yet Googling that phrase as an exact match (using speech marks around the search phrase) produces over 16,000 results. Google can identify that 16,000 pages have that exact phrase on them.

It only takes five or six words in a string to be matched for duplicate content to be found, therefore changing a few words isn’t sufficient.

Let’s say you wanted to rewrite this paragraph from Google’s own section on duplicate content:

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.

If you were to rewrite it as such, making the following changes, would this be enough?

Duplicate content often refers to substantive blocks of content within or across many different domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. This is not deceptive in its origin.

The answer is no, rewriting like that would be flagged up and would see your website banned from Google. To sufficiently rewrite the content, you would have to phrase it in your own words, such as:

When we look at duplicate content we’re referring to content on different websites, or on the same website, that is very similar or sometimes exactly the same as other content. Often this content is not trying to be deceptive with its similarities.

Rewriting to this degree takes time, but that is what Google is looking for. If you want your website to rank well within the SERPs you need to invest time and effort into its content, rather than copying chunks of content from other websites.

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