By Laura Pennington
As a busy freelancer, there’s a good chance that you might come across the need to use plagiarism software. Plagiarism software has become increasingly important as more people express their concerns about the dangers and problems of duplicate content. Unfortunately, duplicate content can accidentally appear any time where a writer uses material that is very similar to or is exactly the same as content posted on another website. Google flags situations in which duplicate content is posted on multiple sites, and this can cause significant problems for all parties involved.
I have personally had the opportunity to interact with numerous clients who have been harmed by duplicate content. Some of them did not even realize the negative impacts this had on their website until someone had completed an audit of that site and identified that multiple pages included duplicate content.
This is where a tool such as Copyscape is instrumental in helping to prevent these problems and to hold writers accountable for creating original work.
The Basic Premise of Copyscape
Copyscape exists to help freelancers, content managers and companies verify that their content is completely original. Copyscape is a form of artificial intelligence that scans the internet to identify how much of a particular portion of text matches something else on the internet. For example, if a website contains the phrase 'bicycle brain injury lawyer in New York', any other website that has the same word or phrase listed numerous times might show up as a partial match in Copyscape. Then, by looking at the rest of the potential duplicate website, you can try to gauge how much of the content is actually copied.
Does Each Piece of Content Need to be 100% Original?
Freelancers should be aware of a client's request for originality. Many clients expect 100% original content. However, others are willing to accept content that is largely unique but not 100% original.
A great example of this is one of my clients that requested their content be 80% original via a Copyscape analysis. This 80% originality is because they published the same types of content relatively often on their site and sometimes this means that writers end up duplicating material that is already posted on the same site. This company is flexible with regards to allowing some level of duplication so long as it is not any lower than 80% original.
It's tough to guarantee that content is 100% original—it can be very natural for certain phrases to occur on the same website without any plagiarism having taken place. Just because Copyscape shows that a match exists doesn't mean that there was any foul play—however, to be sure, you'll want to look at the surrounding sentences around the phrase matches in order to be sure that they're sufficiently different.
How Does Copyscape Work?
To use Copyscape, you can take a piece of written content and paste it into the Copyscape web browser. Copyscape charges based on the length of the overall piece, and it's very affordable given the all of the benefits it provides. Copyscape also allows you to reload your duplication checking account on a regular basis paying as little as $10 through PayPal. This makes it simple to reload your account when it begins to run low.
I use Copyscape all the time when completing search engine optimization audits of my clients' websites, and also before submitting materials that I submit to clients. I have also used Copyscape in a capacity as a content and project manager to ensure that the work being submitted to me was 100% original. I have found Copyscape to be especially useful in helping me identify writers who have submitted plagiarized work, so that they can be held accountable in a clear fashion by directly providing screenshots about how much of the work is duplicated.
After copying and pasting the text into the tool on the Copyscape web browser on the premium search feature, Copyscape evaluates other websites on the internet that have similar or duplicate content. They will then list all of the websites that have more than a 3% to 4% match, and will highlight the various chunks of texts that are identical to text on other websites.
As a freelance writer you might have inadvertently copied something or have work submitted to you by another freelancer who did not realize that you would be checking their work via Copyscape. These Copyscape results can be used to tweak the piece of copy you are currently creating or to return the existing draft to the writer and to request a rewrite. In both of these contexts, Copyscape is a powerful tool for verifying that the content you create is original and unique.
How Much Does Copyscape Cost?
Copyscape charges 3c per search, for up to 200 words, and 1c for each additional 100 words.
One of the things I love about Copyscape is the simplified pricing model—there's no confusion on my end about what I am paying for and how much things will cost. You can know how much it will cost to run a piece of content through Copyscape simply by looking at the word count.
Considering the potential downsides of having duplicate content on your website or having an upset client, paying this small amount to verify originality is more than worth it.
What to Look For in Copyscape
When entering content into Copyscape, the outcome, "no results", is exactly what you're looking for, since you want to know that no one else on the Internet has similar content to what you're getting prepared to post.
On the other hand, the screenshot below is an example of what you don't want to see when you enter text into the Copyscape tool. This shows that multiple other websites have the same copy on their page. To learn more about how much is identical and the phrases involved, you can click "compare text".
As a writer or content manager, this information is invaluable. It gives me the chance to go back and correct what went wrong or to point out to a writer that his/her work is not original. It's always better to know this before posting copied text on a website. When you click "Compare Text", here's what you'll see:
While the example above shows an attempt to duplicate a page almost identically, even smaller match levels could be problematic. I view a match any higher than 2% as an issue and either redo the work or ask that the writer try again.
Special Notes About Using Copyscape
Posting extremely long chunks of text into Copyscape will trigger an override switch. This is because it will cost much more than a few cents per piece that you are likely to pay on shorter pieces of copy. I would suggest that you break up longer pieces of copy into multiple smaller groupings.
This is because I have found that pieces of content longer than 2,000 words might have individual chunks of texts inside that are duplicate to other pages even though Copyscape might tell you that the work is 100% original. Copying and pasting multiple smaller pieces of the various chunks of content will reveal whether or not any of those portions within the bigger 2,000 words are indeed duplicated from another site.
Copyscape also allows you to pay more to check an entire website to see how much of the text is copied. This could be an excellent add-on for a freelance writer or SEO audit specialist to flag problem areas and to target an action plan for improvement. Since you'll be checking many pages of content, this will cost more than your traditional evaluation of one page, so make sure you review "batch search" before committing to do this for your own page or for a client.
How to Use Copyscape As A Benefit for Clients
As a freelance writer, I have long used my membership on Copyscape and the fact that I pass all of my work through Copyscape on all of my clients' work as an additional benefit when signing new clients. This gives them peace of mind that the work submitted to them is 100% original and removes the pressure from them having to additionally run the work through.
Most savvy freelance clients know about Copyscape and understand its overall importance. Providing this as an added bonus as a freelance writer makes it easier for them to decide to work with you because they know you are already familiar with Copyscape.
As a freelancer, you can regularly use this tool to check your own work and to ensure that if you are ever serving in the capacity in which the client asks you to audit their website or to check another person's work, that you have the necessary tools to identify when problems have occurred.
Final Thoughts on Using Copyscape
Understanding and knowing how to use Copyscape will give you peace of mind and also give clients one more additional reason to decide to work directly with you.
New freelancers might be hesitant about making yet another investment in their writing career, but Copyscape is well-known throughout the industry and can really help position your offer with prospective clients more effectively. Even if you've never written duplicated copy in your life, giving clients the confidence that you're going one step beyond and verifying your content's originality takes one thing off their plate and can seal the deal if you're negotiating with a new potential client.
As a business expense, the low cost of Copyscape and the ease of purchasing additional credits at my leisure appeals to me. I don't have to commit to a monthly or yearly purchase amount, but I can still get all of the benefits of using this tool while allowing my credits to ebb and flow based on my need.
Laura Pennington is a freelance SEO writer working with law firms across the country. She's also worked for companies like Microsoft and TrueCar helping to build teams of digital freelancers. She blogs at Six Figure Writing Secrets. Laura is not affiliated with MarketMuse.