June 22, 2022
duplicate content penalty

What is the Duplicate Content Penalty?

duplicate content penaltyFor those new to search engine optimization or SEO, there’s a lot learn; and sadly, there’s much misinformation about ranking algorithms and penalties for going outside the Google and Bing webmaster guidelines.

One such example is about duplicate content. The copying and publishing of the same material from site to site. It seems to be a matter of common sense, if one site copies content from another or republished its own material on other properties, said actions will invite a penalty, be it automatic or manual.

However, doing so isn’t necessarily a trigger to a search engine penalty. This is largely because there is no duplicate content penalty. Ironically, the lack of a hard-and-fast duplicate content penalty can lull website owners to a false sense of being safe, scrape away from other sites and nothing will happen. That’s certainly true in one respect, nothing will happen…to boost their site’s ranking in organic search.

Since there’s no original, quality content, there’s no value for search engines to promote. This is precisely why Matt Cutts at Google and Dwayne Forrester at Bing constantly advise site owners to regularly produce high quality, original content. So, why there’s no rigid rule to enforce for duplicate content, there’s no benefit and definitely no reward.

The Most Common Duplicate Content Myths

Okay, so there isn’t a duplicate content penalty; well, that’s not exactly true. There are instances when sites are penalized. For example, a promotional company readied its new site for launch. The organization, attempting to save time and money, copied its unpublished home page and distributed it to numerous press release sites, then made its site live. The result was a manual penalty from Google. Because the copied material was so ubiquitous and published in such a short time span, it was deemed webspam.

Google has said time and time again, duplicate content issues are rarely a penalty. It is more about Google knowing which page they should rank and which page they should not. Google doesn’t want to show the same content to searchers for the same query; they do like to diversify the results to their searchers. —Search Engine Land

There are also countless examples of sites being deindexed by search engines because the owners did nothing more than scrape and republish copied content. Of course, these are spam sites and most use blackhat SEO techniques to manipulate search ranking algorithms for higher organic placement.

Although these are extremes, there are instances when sites don’t perform as well because of things such as boilerplate disclaimer text or pages that are live but only have placeholder text, such as the standard “Lorem ipsum” script. However, there are persistent myths about what is and what isn’t allowed:

  1. Myth one: publishing content that’s live elsewhere first will hurt your site in organic search. If this were true, many news organizations would find their sites being deindexed by the search engines. Though it doesn’t hurt, it really doesn’t help your SEO.
  2. Myth two: republishing guests posts written by you for another site on your own property will hurt your optimization. Again, this isn’t the case, however, the search engine will probably rank the original publisher higher because that’s where it first appeared, especially if the content is a good fit.
  3. Myth three: other sites publishing your material that are low quality properties linking back to your site will have a negative impact on your search optimization. This isn’t necessarily true, unless there’s a real attempt at negative SEO by someone else.

Duplicate content, though most often not a threat to your site, is still something you ought to avoid as much as possible. Visitors and search engines prefer fresh and informative content, not to see the same thing over and over again.

Ways to Avoid Duplicate Content

If you do have pages which are quite similar, the best way to handle duplicate content is simply to consolidate those pages into one. Another way of dealing with duplicate content, like a disclaimer or other legal necessity is simply to summarize it at the bottom of your pages and place a link to the full text within the summary. If you are syndicating content, request the other publishers to link back to the original material.

Owen E. Richason IV

Covers social media, apps, search, and similar news. History buff, movie, and theme park lover. Blessed dad and husband.     

View all posts by Owen E. Richason IV →