The Privacy Suite for WordPress

Are legal pages considered duplicate content?

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We often are asked if legal pages are duplicate content in the eyes of search engines. It is true that Google can give a penalty to pages with duplicate content. And legal documents all have a tendency to have similar content, because of the way they’re created. I bet a lot of you have copy-pasted their first privacy policy from another website. Don’t worry, I won’t tell 😉

But seriously, a lot of text in legal documents will be the same, with minor variations. If you use Complianz, this effect will be less than when you just copy over a default page from someone else, because the text will be custom built based on your answers in the wizard, your contact information, cookies and services. But even then, chances are that a lot of other websites will have large chunks of text with the same content.

I’ll explain why we believe there is no problem with duplicate content on legal pages.

Google Guidelines

With the duplicate content penalties in mind, it is understandable that some website owners worry about this. So let’s first take a look at the Duplicate content guidelines.
An important statement from Google is:

Google does not recommend blocking crawler access to duplicate content on your website

So you should not prevent crawlers from crawling your legal documents. And, most importantly:

Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results

Our cookie policy is active on 250000 websites.

We’ve been building this plugin since 2018, and Complianz GDPR/CCPA is currently active on over 250000 websites. Every one of them with a cookie policy, and every premium user also with a privacy policy and disclaimer that’s based on the same set of texts. No issues have been reported of penalties for duplicate content. Among them, our own plugin websites,  complianz.io, really-simple-ssl.com, and really-simple-plugins.com. No penalties were received for the duplicate content in the past three years.

Moreover, legal documents are heavily copied over the internet. Even if Google would group the cookie policies as being one page, this would only mean that your cookie policy will not rank very well when someone searches using keywords in your Cookie Policy. Your site as such will not get hurt.

Matt Cuts from Google stated:

25-30% of the web’s content is duplicate content

Matt Cuts

This duplicate content is not treated as spam but grouped together. The bottom line of this article is that Google only wants to show one of the duplicate content pages in their search results. If a site is duplicating content excessively, and an obvious malicious intent is shown, a site might receive a penalty.

The question was asked directly to John Mueller, Google. When asked if copying legal pages would be harmful from a SEO point of view. The answer was very short:

That’s no problem

John Mueller

So what this means is, that there is essentially no such thing as a duplicate content penalty.

Technical configuration by Complianz is optimised

All links in the Cookie Policy and Privacy Policy are set with an attribute rel=”noopener noreferrer nofollow”. noopener and no referrer are there for security reasons. The nofollow attribute tells crawlers that these links should not be followed.

The legal pages are usually not very interesting for visitors and therefore are automatically ranked lower by search bots anyway.

Conclusion

  • Google does not have an issue with duplicate content as such, only with malicious intent, often showing in excessive amounts of duplicate content.
  • We have not had any reports of issues with duplicate content on any of the 250000 websites that use our legal documents.
  • Legal documents are known to be often copied across the internet, without any known issues.
  • John Mueller from Google states that duplicate content in legal documents is no issue.

Based on the above, we are confident that your site will not get hurt in any way by using our legal documents. Questions? Let us know!

Got interested in duplicate content issues? More interesting reading on duplicate content, or read it from the source at Google.

 

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