It’s obvious that Google, and other search engines for that matter, do not want duplicated content in their index and in their SERPS. If all their search results led to the same regurgitated copy, this would offer users very little value and they would go else ware. Thus, Google take the issue of dupe content very seriously and invest a hell of a lot of time and money ridding it from their system. However, regardless of what you may have read or heard, Google will not and cannot penalise you for having duplicate content on your site, here’s why -
In general there are two forms of duplicate content:
1.) Duplicate content on different domains – caused by content theft, article syndication, press release distribution etc.
2.) Onsite duplicate content – caused by having the same content on multiple URLs, intentionally or otherwise.
Google cannot penalise you for having content on your site that can be found else ware for one simple reason – it cannot know for sure which is the original. Now Google is not stupid and it’s gotten very good at taking educated guesses about which content deservers to be given the ‘original’ stamp and be included in the rankings, but it cannot be 100% sure, and therefore cannot dish out a penalty.
Let’s say for example you start a blog and write on it every day about how the flowers in your garden are getting along. You don’t have very many backlinks and no site power, but you’re a good writer and enjoy sharing your stories. Now the owner of a far more powerful site than yours comes along, likes your content and decides to use it on their own blog. This site has thousands of backlinks and is crawled many times a day by search engines, so the stolen content is found first on this secondary site and for all intents and purposes the original content now looks like it’s the duplicate version. Google might display the stolen version in the SERPS, and this would be unfortunate, but it won’t slap the weaker original site with a penalty because it cannot be sure it has done anything wrong.
Now the point above has actually been stated by Google themselves and a great many SEOs have backed this up since. However, what a lot of people are still unclear about is the second form of duplicate content – that which resides on your own site. Well, the idea of getting a penalty for this is a myth also. Let me explain -
People were building websites long before Google (or BackRub as it was once known) came on the scene. Google had to play catch up and learn how to interpret all the various types of sites that used different coding, different links and different ways of displaying content etc. Amazingly now a great many web designers and developers build sites with Google in mind, based on what, over the years, Google have said they liked. However, as the internet continues to expand rapidly, there are more website variations than ever before, including sites have all their content on one URL, are completely Flash-based, and you guessed it – have lots of duplicate content.
Whilst Google might of course favour certain website structures and give preference to these in their search results, there is no way they would slap a penalty on a site simply because it doesn’t conform to their ‘recommended standards’. They again say this themselves quite explicitly. As a last point Google does hint at the fact that malicious duplicate content can cause a penalty when they say –
“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.”
However, interpreting ‘deceit’ and ‘manipulation’ is a very difficult thing for a robot to do as they both stem from ‘intent’ – which is not a black and white thing in itself. Essentially the only way Google could be confident enough to actually ‘penalise’ a website (which is very different than devaluing certain areas of it) is to review sites manually. Since the number of websites online is increasing by around 20 million every year, Google better get recruiting if it wants to use up all those penalty stickers it’s got lying around.
Some may disagree with the last point here, and that’s OK, but I’d be very interested if anyone can provide an example of a site receiving an ‘actual penalty’ as a result of hosting duplicate content on their site?
D.Heath is the manager of Extreme Sports Trader – an action sports price comparison site reviewing everything from Roxy luggage for your vacation, to Animal flip flips for the summer. He is a keen Internet marketer and tries to stay on top of the ever-changing SEO world.