Understanding CopyScape Results
As we’ve discussed, plagiarism and duplicate content are fraught with legal and SEO issues. The trend away from article re-writes and thin content is turning to unique, valuable content. Since content is so critical, how can you be sure that your content is truly unique?
CopyScape is one of the Web’s leading anti-plagiarism tools. It breaks your text up into bite-sized morsels and looks for matches on the Internet. If a match occurs, the words that match are highlighted and the reference URL is shown, allowing you to dig deeper.
CopyScape is incredibly useful, but it is only a tool. It is an algorithm that looks at chains of words. It does not distinguish between direct quotes, product names, or your targeted keywords. The presence of a result is not the kiss of death for your article.
Deconstructing CopyScape Results
A CopyScape result with their free option looks like this:
The results are listed with the page’s headline in blue underline, then the segments of copied text with ellipses in between, and finally the URL in green. The search page was www.textbroker.com/. It makes sense that our UK site comes up with a high degree of similar content. When you click on the link, the “source” page opens in a frame. The frame provides the percent of words copied, both URLs, and the target site with the copied words highlighted.
Textbroker uses CopyScape’s API and presents the same information to you slightly differently. You’ll see this when you receive an article for review.
Clicking on the word “show” will give you the details, like this:
You see the time the report was run, the total number of words that appear in both texts, the source URL and the words that appear in both texts highlighted in yellow for up to three result listings. You may see ellipses in our results as well. This separates sections of potential duplicate wording.
Textbroker runs each and every piece of content through CopyScape and our own in-house tool. Our in-house editors review any results that come up. We look for a high proportion of duplicate words and full sentences of copied content. If the results look suspicious, we send the text back to the author for revision. Sometimes, however, a result is a false positive, like a requested keyword, a correctly-attributed quote or a proper name. In that case, we forward on the content as well as the CopyScape results, even if they are innocuous.
This item, commissioned by Textbroker, requested URLs and titles of other articles. This is one example of a false positive result. If you request sources, the URLs may appear as CopyScape results.
Other items crop up in Copyscape often, including:
- Brand names
- Long tail keywords
- Proper names
- Direct quotes, especially in news articles
- Technical data and product specifications
Phrases like KitchenAid Stand Mixers, Craftsman Power Drill Set or Grand Canyon National Park are already on the Internet. But they are also the keywords and subjects of your articles. Without them, you won’t get the traffic you’re looking for. CopyScape may show a result, but if it’s just your keyword phrase and not a full sentence, you have a false positive.
Identifying Clean Vs Copied Content
What if your content has a CopyScape result? How can you tell if it’s copied or just a keyword?
Step 1: Look at the words highlighted in yellow. If it’s only your keyword, you’re ok.
Step 2: Look at the word count. For example, 50 words among a 1500-word article is low. Combine this with Step 3 for a better picture of your content.
Step 3: Look for ellipses. Many ellipses mean lots of space between the words CopyScape has found. The more space between found words, the less likely that copied content is present.
Step 4: Copy-paste the source URL into your browser and manually compare the two pieces. Use the find option in your browser to see where the offending phrase is. Often, these sentences have very different beginnings and endings. Also, check for quotes. Properly attributed quotes are not plagiarized.
When you’ve looked at the source and your content, you should be able to clearly see if an author has copied or if they just happen to be writing about the same thing. Take your industry and the nature of the piece into consideration.
Unnecessary Revision Requests Hinder the Content Creation Process
Recently, we’ve seen an increase in revision requests based on CopyScape results. Most clients understand that a CopyScape result does not automatically mean the submission is duplicate content or plagiarism and accept items with benign results. If you have a zero-tolerance policy, please include that in your instructions. We can then enforce your wishes for you in our manual review.
Most authors put a lot of effort into their articles, and authors sometimes take revision requests based on duplicate content as a personal attack on their integrity. Please try to be polite and informative in your revision request.
If you’re concerned about a CopyScape result, look at the report before requesting a revision. Remember that Textbroker editors have already reviewed the results to screen out copied content. A little effort will go a long way in determining if your article is unique or copied. Revision requests delay your project. Save yourself this time by carefully reviewing your CopyScape results as outlined in this post. However, if the results show full sentences or passages, please ask for a revision and notify Textbroker.
Authors do not have access to the CopyScape results that you see because we send the article through CopyScape after the author has submitted it. If you decide that the submission is too close to the source, please give the author the URL, the offending phrase or both so that the author can adjust their work appropriately. This will minimize the revision time.
We work hard to screen out duplicate content. We review every result for duplicate content. We return articles with duplicate content to the author and remove authors who copy from our site. We provide the CopyScape results for your reassurance. Delivering unique content is our goal. Please contact us if you feel an author is scraping or plagiarizing content. We will support rejections of plagiarized work. We are committed to providing quality unique content, and we appreciate your help in improving our site.