On the web, unique content is content that has never been published before, is unusual, or has a unique perspective by the owner.
Unique: Being the only of its kind; unlike anything else. Particularly remarkable, special or unusual. Belonging or connected to (one particular person, group, or place). Source: Google.
Web content: The textual, visual or aural content that is encountered as part of the user experience on websites. It may include, among other things: text, images, sounds, videos and animations. Source: Google via Wikipedia.
How unique is unique?
There are a few variations of unique web content.
Completely unique web content:
Sometimes, coming up with unique content is easy, such as purple popcorn on Jupiter. Covering things that nobody else has will definitely get you to page 1 in a matter of hours. A more realistic example of completely unique content would be “how I survived a bear attack”, or the first news report to cover a major story. Approximately 4 hours after this article is published it will rank on the top of page 1 of Google for purple popcorn on Jupiter.
Remarkable, special, or unusual web content:
Remarkable web content actually gets its own special place in Google search. Aside from ranking well, there is something called In-depth articles. As you can imagine, these are articles which Google has decided are very in depth, informative, high quality articles.
Special means “greater or different”. Unusual means “interesting because it is different from or better than others”. If 4 optometrists in your town already have pages up saying that they can perform an eye exam blah blah, then your content must be different, better, more in depth, more detailed, and/or more rich (adding images and videos to pages are ways to make them richer). In the IT world something exists called a VAR (Value Added Reseller). Adding value or a unique perspective can make things unique.
How unique must content be to rank in search?
How unique you must make content to rank in search depends on a huge variety of factors including the authority of your website, the overall topic of your website, if your site is connected to a real business entity or not, and what content other people or businesses already have in place on the web.
Why create unique content?
If you want to show up in Google search, you need unique content. Of course, Google and other search engines reward completely unique content. But even if you do not offer a unique service you can still have unique content. I haven’t looked, but there are probably plenty of people explaining unique content on the Internet. My best advice is to go on and create your web content however you want to without looking at anyone’s content. If you do see someone’s content you will be tempted to mimic theirs. Of course, there are times when looking at other people’s content is necessary; for example, if you are optometrist #5 coming in to town you will need to know what you are up against when creating your eye exam page. The trick then is to keep the page comprehensive yet user friendly. I always write for people first, search engines second. Search engines want to deliver content that is good for people, so, it makes sense to write content for people, not for search engines (that way you technically are making content search engines love).
More often than not, coming up with new ideas is difficult. For example, plumbers, optometrists, and locksmiths – what content can they produce? They fix pipes, eyes, and locks, right? Regardless of your niche there is always a way to come up with unique content, or, a unique perspective. For example, no two plumbing repairs are the same, and a plumber is going to tell you how to fix a pipe going to the kitchen sink much differently than I will (better examples below). Also, a plumber in Dallas Texas can not describe a hot water tank installation in Raleigh North Carolina. A plumber could very easily set up a WordPress website and start blogging about all of his repairs; before you know it he’d have everything covered, even the kitchen sink!
How else does unique content help?
You can rank for many different things.
The plumber, as described in the above paragraph, could be putting out unique content about his repairs. His articles could be titled “A kitchen sink repair in Raleigh”, “A hot water installation in Cary NC”, “Today I’m fixing busted, frozen pipes in Garner”, “Fixing toilets stinks”, “My favorite crawlspace”, “Emergency plumbing services in Cary”, etc. Having a wide variety of content on your website allows people to find you for all sorts of things. Not everyone opens their computer or phone and searches for “plumber, Raleigh NC”. Having a blog allows for people to find you in thousands of ways. Why concentrate on one single term when you could show up for thousands of terms?
Better rankings in general.
In my experience, the more often and the more quantity of unique content you produce the better your overall site DOES rank in search for “money keywords” such as “plumber Raleigh NC”. This again has to do with a variety of factors including content architecture and other stuff beyond the scope of this article.
More link opportunities.
Of course, the more content you put out, the more opportunities you have to obtain links. A plumber could put out a large resource about copper theft. I come up with resources for legal and medical professionals all the time. They must be very informative and unique.
Better click through and bounce rates.
If people see your unique content in search and click through to your content more often than another person’s content you are going to perform better in search. Bounce rates and CTR does affect SEO.
Unique content is one of the things you need to rank in search and a prerequisite to content marketing or social media.