It May Almost Be 2009, But Duplicate Content Still Isn’t a Good Thing

Dec 13, 2008   //   by Gerald Weber   //   Copywriting, Plagiarism, SEO Blog  //  30 Comments

Of all the topics that are discussed within the SEO blogosphere, one of the topics that creates the most controversy and disagreement is that of duplicate content. I think one of the reasons that there are so many different viewpoints surrounding this issue is because there are multiple ways that people define the phrase “duplicate content.”

Since I always believe in going straight to the source, let’s find out what Google has to say about duplicate content. According to Google, “Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.” Now that we have Google’s definition of duplicate content, let’s look at what they have to say on the issue of how it can impact a website’s ranking:

“Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

“However, in some cases, content is deliberately duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.”

“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.”

So, if you actually look at what Google is saying about duplicate conent, their stance is that you will only be explicitly penalized if they feel the duplicate content you are publishing is intended to deceive users or manipulate their search results. An example of this would be a Made for AdSense (MFA) website, which only contains content from other websites. The only purpose of a MFA website is to attract visitors who will click the AdSense ads.

If you are wondering how Google judges content and determines malicious duplicate content, this illustration from Elliance (which was published on Search Engine Land) should make that process clear to you:

Search Engines Duplicate Content

Now, while you may think that I’m taking the “duplicate content doesn’t matter” stance, that is simply not true. Even if you aren’t publishing duplicate content with malicious intent, you may still run into problems. For example, I think Dave Feldman really hit the nail on the head in his post on SEL earlier this year, which was titled Got Duplicate Content? Don’t Let It Dilute Your SEO Efforts. The main focus of his post was that even when duplicate content isn’t published with malicious intent, it can still hurt your site’s rankings by diluting the weight of your links. Here’s the example he uses:

“Let’s say you have 30 external sites lined up to provide a link to your site; you just need to tell them what page to link to. If all 30 of those links point to the hiking boots page in the Men’s Clothing section, a good deal of link value will be passed to that page.

However, what happens if those 30 links get divvied-up across three different versions of that page, and are split between Men’s Clothing, Footwear, and Outdoors? Potentially, each page would only get 33 percent of that total link value. Clearly, 100 percent would be better.”

In addition to link dilution, the other major area where duplicate content can cause issues is with affiliate websites. As you may know, Google is getting more aggressive in their filtering of “thin affilaite websites” (which are affiliate websites with little original content). Not only can you run into problems with their algorithm, but if your website is hand reviewed by Google, a lack of original content could cause you to fail that review (and thus incur some form of a ranking penalty).

While the duplicate content debate will inevitably continue, at the end of the day, you can avoid a lot of potential headaches and worries by simply creating some form of content that is unique and useful to visitors.

Similar Posts:

Gerald Weber

I founded Search Engine Marketing Group in December 2005. More recently I co-founded viralcontentbuzz.com. which is the free platform that helps bloggers generate REAL "social buzz" on their best content. Feel free to follow me on Google+

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle PlusStumbleUponDelicious

"Newsletter" Our weekly newsletter features some of the best curated SEO content from around the web!



Comment Policy

  • Ann Smarty
    Twitter:
    says:

    Cool post and well put. Unfortunately, Google is not very good at defining which “copy” is bad and which one is the original. Not all duplicate content is thus removed from the index and thieves can still earn money by stealing someone others’ content.

    Ann Smarty’s last blog post..The 7 Reasons Every Blogger Should Be Guest Posting

  • Alisa Bowman says:

    This is a great post and answers a question I’ve had for a long time. Occasionally people have asked me if they can re-post one of my blogs. I’ve always been leery of this, mostly because of the SEO issue. I’d rather just create a new original guest post for them. Also, I just signed up for a blog syndication service, and–although it should be a great thing for me in many respects–I had worried about a possible problem with my content being posted to other sites. It will be very clear that I’m the original source–with a link back and byline–but Google is essentially a computer and not a human. It still scares me a little. Thanks for the insight.

  • Gerald Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Ann,

    I read your post Blatant Content Plagiarism and I can totally relate to your experience of having content stolen as this has happened to me before. Needless to say I was quite pissed about it when it happened. This experience inspired me to write Combating Online Plagiarism. Of course this is only one kind of duplicate content, however to me it’s the very worst kind as well.

  • One of the main questions that I see people ask on forums is, if they have an article on their site and then submit it to numerous article directories, does that get penalized?

    Dana Willhoit’s last blog post..5 Ways That Press Releases Help Your Business

  • Larry says:

    Some of my articles I post on my Blog, I submit to ezine articles and Isnare which distribute them to various article directories. I have not been penalized. I do get a lot of backlinks from doing this.

    Larry’s last blog post..Three Steps to Finding a Niche for Your Blog

  • George says:

    I found your blog via stumbleupon, we are both in the Houston area. I don’t think Google penalizes all duplicate content. Google itself uses duplicate content in it’s news section (syndicated articles from the AP). I think it’s a good idea to keep duplicate content to a minimum, but I doubt that the occasional reprinted article is going to hurt your site’s rankings too much.

    George’s last blog post..How To Grow Your Business Fast

  • Jun Valasek says:

    Duplicate content has never been good.. I experienced a real bad situation with my ranking after I post my articles in forums and posted the same articles on my blog…

    Jun Valasek’s last blog post..Lists of Webmaster Forums that allow Signature

  • Ned Carey says:

    Ann wrote:
    >Google is not very good at defining which “copy” is bad and which one is the original.

    Yes often Technorati or Blog catalog etc. etc. will rank higher than the original blog for an article.

    Ned Carey’s last blog post..Lessons from Warren Buffett on Real Estate

  • Matt says:

    Help me understand…I write an article for my blog, then publish it to ezine.com. So ezine and my blog have exact content now, do I get penalized?

    Thanks for clearing this up,
    Matt

    Matt | Small Biz Bee’s last blog post..Twitter Fest Friday – December 12, 2008

  • Craig Klein says:

    Matt asks a great question…

    If you’re actually writing valuable stuff, then there’s value in having your content replicated in as many places as possible as it adds to your exposure, name recognition, branding, etc. Sounds like at the same time it may not be seen as a good thing by Google.

    Also, what do we mean by penalized? Is there actually a penalty or are we just talking about diluting the link value?

    Craig Klein’s last blog post..Your Pants Are Down and You Don’t Even Know It

    • Gerald Weber
      Twitter:
      says:

      Craig,

      There is a significance difference between malicious duplicate content that is intended to manipulate search results and a legitimate article that you may have submitted to one or more article directories. Google may choose not to show the same article more than once in the search results. Aslo if you have the same article in 100 different article directories and they all have a link pointing back to your site, then it will only count as one link rather than 100 links. You would need to actually have a unique article for each 100 directories in order for them to count as 100 different links.

      I hope that helps.

      Gerald Weber’s last blog post..It May Almost Be 2009, But Duplicate Content Still Isn’t a Good Thing

  • Ned Carey says:

    Matt,

    You do not get “penalized”, but Google may decide to only show one up high in their results. That could be the Ezine site. Since your site doesn’t get shown, or (doesn’t show up as highly), you could call that a penalty.

    However it could mean your article shows up twice on the first page, your site and the Ezine site.

    They don’t think less of your site overall, it would only affect the content which is duplicated.

    Ned Carey’s last blog post..Evictions Made Easy

  • Gerald Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Craig,

    There is a significance difference between malicious duplicate content that is intended to manipulate search results and a legitimate article that you may have submitted to one or more article directories. Google may choose not to show the same article more than once in the search results. Aslo if you have the same article in 100 different article directories and they all have a link pointing back to your site, then it will only count as one link rather than 100 links. You would need to actually have a unique article for each 100 directories in order for them to count as 100 different links.

    I hope that helps.

    <abbr>Gerald Weber’s last blog post..It May Almost Be 2009, But Duplicate Content Still Isn’t a Good Thing</abbr>

  • Tyler Banfield says:

    Hey guys (and gals), thanks for all of the great comments! I’m really glad that so many of you found this post to be useful.

    Since a lot of the questions that were left have to do with the impact of syndicated content on your own rankings, I dug up an excellent post from Vanessa Fox (she wrote it back in May) that I think you all will find very useful to read:

    Ranking As The Original Source For Content You Syndicate

  • Gerald Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Good article on syndicated content. Thanks.

  • Caleb
    Twitter:
    says:

    This all sums up to: "…what Google feels like"

    I understand they're the biggest engine in existence…but c'mon aren't you all tired of running your independent business at the sole discretion of Google :?:

    There are plenty of successful marketers who don't live by Google's gun…now of course we have to do the basic SEO'ing to get that traffic, but I refuse to let Google "ganster" me … I'm beginning to get the notion that "blackhat" ain't so blackhat after all, it's just something put out to extort our cooperation with Google :!:

    <abbr>Caleb’s last blog post..Whitehat, Blackhat, and Now Bluehat Techniques!</abbr>

  • Salwa says:

    Duplicate content is a big NO NO and does nothing for you other than getting into trouble with google in most cases.

    Salwa’s last blog post..Why Your Blog Design is so Important

  • This is valuable information and I need to explore it even more. I have original articles on more than one site and have also posted youtube videos. I didn’t realize it impacts rankings. Thanks for this post!

    Dr. Carolyn Clansy Miller’s last blog post..Would Any Other Word Smell as Sweet?

  • Gerald Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Dr Carolyn good to see you. I'm waiting for your next inspirational video. I haven't seen you on Twitter lately.

    <abbr>Gerald Weber’s last blog post..Are You Stumbling Yet?</abbr>

  • Frank C says:

    I've found that Google really doesn't concern itself that much about duplicate content across domains. They base rankings on backlinks and the more nebulous site authority factors. That's why you see dozens of lyrics sites in results when you search for a favorite song. Now, the pages aren't full duplicates, their ads and internal linking structure vary, but the core content is duplicated.

    You are correct in that Google gets confused about the original owner. I've had that problem with a scrapper who was grabbing my content and who had an old domain that Google had given some authority to for some crazy reason. I found that building high quality, niche related, links quickly after a new post put my original content ahead of the scraper although we were both on page 1. Before I started doing that, I was on like page 83 of results.

    <abbr>Frank C’s last blog post..Power Screwdriver Buying Guide</abbr>

  • Gerald Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Frank,

    Your correct that Google may give more relevance in search results to the higher authority page. Therein lies the problem. In other words it's possible for someone to scrap my content and rank higher in the search results for it. In fact I caught some guy scraping my content just the other day. 4 of my articles.The best thing to do in that case is contact their hosting company and file a DMCA complaint. I talk more about how to do that in Combating Online Plagiarism.

    <abbr>Gerald Weber’s last blog post..Is Your Captcha Killing Your Business?</abbr>

  • And backtype as well now (in fact, backtype tends to show up in google in about 10 seconds for most of my posts!)

    <abbr>malcolm coles’s last blog post..WordPress comment pagination & duplicate content</abbr>

  • kelly says:

    I hate plagiarisers!! They have no respect for others' intellectual properties. Sad!

    I have several duplicate articles on other sites. The one in my blog is linked to the other site and vice versa. I hope Google will not see this as something to penalise! (Will they?)

    <abbr>kelly’s last blog post..qutequte: @Skribe Yay that means my guess is right! I like your title cos it's very 'un-corporate'!! Lord God of the Universe! Very creative!</abbr>

  • Probably good to distinguish between duplicate content on your own site (like a post on the home page, category page, and permalinked page, which, inbound-link splitting apart, google doesn’t much care about) and plagiarism. Which it does.

    malcolm coles’s last blog post..Avoid duplicate content with paged comments in wordpress

  • I'm wondering if the new rel=canonical tag can be used to fix duplicate content issues in wordpress, as well as all the other duplicate content problems it will now fix (EG your answers above). What do you think ..?

    <abbr>malcolm coles’s last blog post..Can you use rel = canonical to fix duplicate comment problems caused by comment pagination in wordpress?</abbr>

  • Gerald Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    Peter,

    Sorry for the late response your comment was accidentally caught in my spam que for some reason.

    The main point to keep in mind when it comes to duplicate content is the reason this could be viewed as a negative by Google. Google's main objective is to provide a positive user experience so they can continue to be the number one search engine in the world. There is a great post on SEO hosting's blog titled what does Google really think about SEO That talks about this in a bit more detail. In any case if you have a search query that returns the same content 10 times on the first page this would be an example of a bad user experience. In other words the user would want to see different listing returned in a Google search query result rather than the exact same content 10 times on the first page. For this reason Google will may filter out the duplicate content and they indicate that they prefer the one that was published to the web first. However the problem is that Google is not always so good at determining which content is "the original" and sometimes the wrong content or original could end up being the one that is ignored or treated with less preference. This is why it's best in my opinion to simply avoid duplicate content.