google duplicate content penaltyDuplicate content raises a lot of concern in the world of webmasters and bloggers, the fear of the infamous ‘duplicate content penalty’ abounds. We are constantly being warned against producing and utilizing duplicate content, and I agree, the use of duplicate content on your blog is not something I would ever encourage. After all your blog, is supposed to be YOURS, a unique piece of the internet where you can share your personality and be yourself. I regularly run into blogs that aren’t doing much but scraping content from other websites and when I find these blogs I leave them just as quickly as I came. I’ve even written about how these so called ‘bloggers’ aren’t really blogging at all (you can read my rant here, when a blog is not really a blog.)

In this brief article I want to discuss the issue of duplicate content and it’s use on the web. Firstly lets take a look at what duplicate content is. In fact there are two types of duplicate content.

  • The first is duplicate content that takes place within your own website. In other words it’s the same information appearing on more than one URL on your domain. This content is not necessarily 100% identical, in many cases it is only ‘considerably similar’.
  • The second form of duplicate content can be called ‘Cross-domain-duplicate-content’, this is identical content to that which is on your website appearing elsewhere on the internet on other websites. This can be unintentional, or perhaps caused by scrapers (or maybe you are the one doing the scraping?)

No such thing as a “duplicate content penalty”?!?!

To bring a sense of calm to this discussion, right off the bat I’m going to share an excerpt from Google’s webmaster central blog where they discuss the issue of duplicate content. Many webmasters ask the question “am I being penalized for duplicate content?”. The official google answer (though somewhat vague) is “In most cases, having duplicate content on your site does not mean your site is penalized.” In fact google goes on record to say and I quote, “Let’s put this to bed once and for all, folks: There’s no such thing as a “duplicate content penalty.” At least, not in the way most people mean when they say that.

Sources: Google Webmaster Blog, deftly dealing with duplicate content.  Google Webmaster Blog, duplicate content due to scrapers.

Google also mentions that we should not worry about excerpts or snippets (when you’re quoting someone or another source) as duplicate content. The Google algorithms are much more complex and smarter than we’d all like to believe. As people interested in SEO our ego’s lead us to believe that we can outsmart google, or that sometimes google is penalizing us for things we didn’t even do. This way of looking at SEO is inherently wrong since it fails to take responsibility for the things we CAN control, and that is all of the content on our own website. There was recent debate about the google honeymoon period where webmasters who are seeing their keyword rankings suddenly drop blame it on a google algorithm called the google honeymoon. Blaming a drop in YOUR rankings on google is ignorant, and a cop out. But too stay on course and not go off on this tangent, you can read more here about my theories on the… google honeymoon period.

In essence Google does not penalize a website for duplicate content. They essentially are saying we aren’t going to drop you in the SERPs what we are going to do is filter out the duplicate content so it doesn’t appear in the SERPs at all.

There are websites that have stolen my content, am I affected by a duplicate content penalty?

The biggest fear I think most bloggers have is that their original articles are being stolen and posted on other blogs and that this is affecting their blogs ranking. Not only that, but their content is being stolen which leaves them with a sense of being violated and somewhat powerless to do anything about it. Have no fear, google is here! Google is smart, and they boldly claim that they are able to identify the original article. Google promises “you shouldn’t be very concerned about seeing negative effects on your site’s presence on Google if you notice someone scraping your content.

Summarizing the duplicate content penalty

Based on the articles I’ve read from the Google Webmaster Blog, and various other webmasters SEO experiences with duplicate content I would still want to encourage everyone to produce only original content. If you are a website owner building niche or affiliate sites and looking for content, at the very least you should be manually re-writing those articles. Put things into your own words, add your own style, add your own experience… wait suddenly you realize you’ve done research and written a whole new article! Good job. There is a lot more that can be discussed surrounding duplicate content, including the issue of duplicate content within your own website. Google reports to you duplicate content they’ve found on your site within webmaster tools, so if you are concerned you should take a look there and read up on what you can do to resolve those issues. The sources cited above contain some great resources for resolving duplicate content issues.

What’s your experience or take on the google duplicate content penalty?