Plagiarism and SEO

Copycat and plagiarism concept

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Most of us know that we should avoid plagiarizing someone else’s work. However, even without copying articles word for word, we too easily borrow someone else’s phrases and ideas without being aware of it. Besides the obvious ethical problems, plagiarism can negatively impact your hardworking efforts to create a quality website. If you copy segments of your own original material and publish these again, this is called self-plagiarism and it can downgrade your search engine rankings. Plagiarism of any kind can damage your SEO efforts, work against your search engine ranking, and in the end, thwart your marketing goals. 

Types of Plagiarism 

The act of copying another person’s ideas or their work without crediting them is one definition for plagiarism. Technically, it is a type of stealing, whether it takes place on a college campus or on a law firm blog. Although we know we should avoid plagiarism, copying the work of others can occur without awareness, perhaps because there are different forms of plagiarism:


Complete Plagiarism

Complete plagiarism involves taking someone else’s work, and using it as if it were your own. This is world-class plagiarism, and it is not difficult for Google to discover this type of blatant plagiarism and demote your rankings. 

Verbatim Plagiarism

Copying and pasting the work of another, then making it look original is another form of plagiarism. If you copy words and paste them into your own material without citing the source, this is called verbatim plagiarism. If you need to use the author’s words, you must use quotation marks and appropriate citations.  


One kind of plagiarism that is a little more subtle is called patchwriting, which involves taking small chunks of content and adding it to one’s own. Patchwriting can include rewriting short phrases and copying words as well as mimicking the structure of the original article. In the end, the article has not really changed and offers consumers just another version of the same. 

Accidental Plagiarism

Accidental plagiarism happens when you have inadvertently copied someone else’s work without directly intending to do so. Perhaps you have read an article on a certain topic, and the author’s catchy phrases and key ideas lodge themselves inside your head. Then, they accidentally spill out onto the pages, without you realizing that they originated from another writer. You may believe that your text is original, but in truth, you have incorporated ideas and phrases from another author without due credit. 

Plagiarism Kills SEO

Because Google prizes relevant content that demonstrates quality and value, it frowns on republished content in any form, and plagiarized work alerts Google’s algorithms. Sites with recycled content are penalized with a lower ranking, and your company may be fined or reprimanded, as outlined by internet law.

Plagiarized Content Is Brandless

If you take content from another site, it is very possible that the material does not mesh with your law firm’s unique brand. This feels like a disconnect to your audience, giving them a faulty user experience. Finding that you are not what they thought you were, they may leave your website early, affecting your bounce rate and other key ranking factors that measure consumer satisfaction with your website.

Plagiarism Damages Your Integrity

Your visitors will eventually realize that your cookie-cutter content is just a repeat of other material they have read, and your integrity will suffer as a result. Creating fresh, valuable new content is worth the time and effort it takes, and outsourcing your content creation is a smart investment for your marketing goals and your professional reputation. 

Avoid Plagiarism

You can thwart plagiarism by remembering a few simple rules, which will ensure that your content is original and that it meshes perfectly with your law firm’s brand and audience. 

Initiate Your Own Ideas

When you start an article, jot down your own ideas first, before you view other sources. This will help you voice your unique viewpoint — one that showcases your own experience and brand. If you decide to use material from another source, be sure to cite the source appropriately.

Summarize Carefully

Be careful when you rework outside material, because plagiarism can sneak in without you noticing. This can happen with words, phrases or in the structure itself, and it is difficult to rephrase information while avoiding a change of meaning. If you use borrowed ideas or inspiration from another source, give credit where it is due.

Make Plagiarism Checks a Habit

It is smart to check for plagiarism, even if you try to avoid it. Internet tools for this are abundant, and they include: Grammarly, Copyscape, Quetext, Bibme, and Plagramme. 

What is Self-Plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism seems like a contradiction, because how can it be wrong to copy your own work?  Self-plagiarism happens when you republish your own content, utilizing it for another purpose. For example, if you wrote a blog post on bankruptcy basics in 2016, then used patches of the same post for a website article in 2020, this would be an instance of self-plagiarism. Even if you did not violate a copyright law, your SEO practices would suffer because of it. 

Avoid Self Plagiarism

It is easier to tweak an old article, rather than come up with new material, but doing so may diminish your value in the eyes of the search engines, who frown on recycled work. To get away from the problems of self-plagiarism, think through the following when carefully rewriting your own material: 

Start Fresh

When revisiting an old topic that you have handled previously, make a fresh start, without looking at the original piece. It is possible that you have some new experience to share, and you may want to consult updated sources and learn more about the topic. By doing this, your new material will be more likely to be completely original in structure, tone and phrasing. 

Remodel Your Writing 

If you must reform or update a previously written article, one way to avoid self-plagiarism is to remodel it without the aid of the old one in front of you. This way, you can sidestep the use of previous words and phrases from the first article. It may seem tedious to remodel your own work this way, but it may help to remember that your efforts will keep your SEO stronger if you do. 

Credit Your Previous Work

When you insert a short passage or add a quotation from outside material, be sure to cite the source. Give credit to its author, and if you are the author, simply insert the date of its first publishing.

Law Quill | Plagiarism and SEO

Does Google Check for Plagiarism?

Google does check for evidence of plagiarization in online content. Its algorithm automatically uses several methods to determine instances of copied content, such as by comparing website copy to other websites and seeing if there are any matching words or phrases. If Google discovers plagiarism after completing these checks, Google may then either remove the copied content from search engine results or severely penalize its search ranking. Ideally, law firms want to avoid this as it makes their firm less visible in online searches, which impacts its ability to attract new clients.

How Do I Remove Plagiarism?

According to GeeksforGeeks, plagiarism is common in research and academic circles, but it also happens frequently in content writing and causes legal and SEO issues for law firms when found in a firm’s website content. To remove plagiarism from your work, consider the following tips.

Record Your Citations

To remove plagiarism from your content, think about where you got your ideas from and then make a note of your sources. Doing this prevents you from accidentally claiming your own ideas as someone else’s. It also allows you to gain a list of sources to include in your content for when you decide to cite another author’s work. To help you do this, consider adding labels to your notes so can differentiate between your original ideas, quotes, and any paraphrased content you want to use that requires links to the original sources.

Quote Correctly and Use Sparingly

Sometimes, you may come across content that has particularly effective wording that you may want to include exactly in your own content. In this instance, you can remove plagiarism by correctly quoting these words or phrases and stating the material’s original source. While this can be quite an effective way of presenting content at times, use them sparingly and avoid quoting very long passages. For long passages, it is better to paraphrase them instead. Below are some examples of when it is a good idea to use quotes in your content:

  • When you want to include the exact definition that the original source used
  • When rephrasing the original material is impossible, as it would lead to a change in its meaning
  • When you want to emulate the material, due to its effective style and authority, without wanting to plagiarize

Credit Others

If you do decide to use other people’s work in your content, make sure you credit the original author. This means including a link to the website where you sourced the content and mentioning the content owner’s name, which you can do by including this as the anchor text. Doing this clearly indicates that you have not copied the content and helps others to look at the original source themselves to find out more about the topic.

What Is an Acceptable Plagiarism Percentage?

Ideally, you want to aim for 0% but, sometimes, it might not be possible to avoid certain words or phrases to effectively address a topic and target certain keywords. Due to this, you can generally achieve a 5% plagiarization level before it starts to negatively impact your SEO performance.

How Law Quill Can Help 

Plagiarism involves taking the thoughts, words and ideas of another person and passing them off as one’s own. Although plagiarizing the work of others may be subtle or seem relatively unimportant, it can kill your hard won SEO efforts, hinder your reputation and lower your rankings. Avoid plagiarism by writing or outsourcing original material, and cite sources when appropriate. Avoid self-plagiarism by starting fresh, reworking carefully and checking often. Creating original, plagiarism-free content avoids trouble, brings value, and speaks loudest to your audience. 

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