The Duplicate Content Penalty Explained & It’s Myths Exposed

by rhyswynne on March 15, 2011 · 35 comments

The Duplicate Content Penalty Explained & It's Myths Exposed

One thing that gets talked about feverishly on webmaster forums is the duplicate content penalty. There are a lot of articles out there on duplicate content, unfortunately not all of them are saying the same thing. Which ones should you trust? I find it’s easier to try and explain Google’s reasoning behind it.

What Is The Duplicate Content Penalty?

The Duplicate Content Penalty is a drop in rankings for pages that are the same or incredibly similar to pages already in the search engines. In fact, a number of similar pages are hidden from the search. Ever see at the end of search engine results a link to click to view similar results? These are sites that have similar content already in the index and are hidden from normal view.

Is Duplicate Content Necessarily Bad?

This is the myth. Duplicate Content on your site isn’t bad. If you have a travel blog, and you are writing about Spain, then you may have a blog post on “25 Simple Phrases in Spanish”. These phrases are often exactly the same. Will that page be ranked in Google? Probably not. Will that page bring value to your readers? Definitely. If that value leads to them linking to you, than that is more valuable to you than having one page that doesn’t rank in Google.

Yes, one page. Here’s the thing: The duplicate content isn’t site wide. Just applied to individual pages. If you want to test it, publish an article in your blog from Ezine Articles or another article directory. Wait a few days and then search for the article title, I’m confident your article won’t rank in the top 10. Then check for terms you are ranking for, you are likely to remain in the same place.

Think about it from Google’s perspective: there’s no point having two pages with exactly the same content within their top rankings, so they will usually only list one, either the most authoritative or the first to publish the content.

Consistent and blatant use of duplicate content – in methods such as scraping or other forms of content stealing – will lead to your site being banned, but the odd reproduction of publically available, non copyrighted data won’t harm your blog.

When To Use Duplicate Content To Your Advantage

Even though duplicate content isn’t always ranked, it is indexed in Google, meaning that any links on the pages that are indexed will count towards your link juice. So how do you maximise this?

  • Article Marketing - Manually spin your content and submit it to a bunch of article directories (or, better yet, pay other people to). Even though many article directories claim to only offer unique content, many don’t. Use this to your advantage – no need to rewrite articles, just post them up on a number of article directories. Include the link in the “About the Author” box, and you should see backlinks appear in your link tracking systems such as Google Webmaster Tools.
  • WordPress Plugins To Take Advantage of Scrapers - Scrapers are an unfortunate fact of blogging, but links from scraping sites do have a small positive effect in your blog (after all, why should you be punished for them stealing your content). However, to take advantage, you need a couple of plugins.
    • Keyword Link (or similar) links key phrases in your blog posts to pages, help building up the popularity of these pages. When your blog post is scraped, other URL’s will point to those pages. Not great links, but they do count!
    • RSS Footer- This puts at the bottom of your RSS a footer message. This is only displayed in your feed. So if you have anybody read your feed, they can click on your links. Or if the blog post has been scraped, these links are on other sites and can be followed, increasing the amount of links pointing to your site.

Although neither of these links on their own will have a huge effect in your ranking in search engines, they are easily obtained and do help you.

These are a couple of suggestions, do you have any more?

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Daniel Sharkov March 15, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Hey Rhys,
There’s been a lot of talking on duplicate content lately. I myself am not quite certain how much of a negative effect this can actually cause. So thanks for sharing your point of view. Overall I believe that as long as an article isn’t an exact copy/paste, problems shouldn’t be present. This of course doesn’t mean that plagiarism is the way to go though.
Daniel Sharkov@Blogging Tips´s last blog post ..Using the Internet to Build Your Personal Brand

rhyswynne March 16, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Of course. Thing is: copied content isn’t always plaigarism. Like the example given in the article. Furthermore things like technical specs & football results are duplicated, but doesn’t mean it’s not useful!
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Riya March 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Hi Rhys,

Is there any tool available to check the duplicate content. I mean if I’m going to publish a post and before doing so I want to check if it’s duplicate or similar to any other post to other bloggers blog.
Riya @ Couponseasy´s last blog post ..Web CEO Promo Voucher Of 40 Discount

rhyswynne March 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm

If it’s uniquely written (i.e. by yourself), then usually it’ll not throw up any flags, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

Try googling a few sentances, see if any exact match, or run it through Copyscape –

Unfortunately, in many niches a lot of content is repeated quite often!
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Steve March 15, 2011 at 7:34 pm

A month ago I would have agreed with you 110% That as long as your content is up first there will be no negative effects. But with the recent panda and scraper updates i am not so sure.

Google has as much said that sites with a lot of duplicate content will suffer and many sites (ezinearticles included) took up to a 90% hit in their traffic. Is that all due to dup. content? of course not. But some….maybe.

I think it isn’t something that should necessarily be “worried” about, but I would be hesitant to spread too many copies of anything about even as the original author. Google is making a stance against dup content and if it doesn’t have an effect now, it might at some time.

…just my opinion
Steve@Internet Lifestyle´s last blog post ..How to Build an Affiliate Autoresponder Sequence without “Burning” a List

rhyswynne March 16, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Yes I should add: this was written before the panda update.

I’ve seen a drop in inbound links to my sites recently, but I suspect it’s more that sites that my links were on have been removed from the internet as a kneejerk reaction to the panda update. Not a huge drop in traffic either.

Of course, if you have a diverse backlink portfolio then you should be alright :)
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Sam March 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

I initially think that if you have a duplicate content in your site then google can ban your site. I was so wrong and thanks for explaining every aspect of duplicate content.
Sam @ Weekend Getaways´s last blog post ..Cheap Holiday Packages

Kyle Logue March 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I agree with what you’ve written here. It’s always been my understanding that the article that is published first and is indexed first is the one with the authority. If you spin the article to article directories, it’s not going to have an impact on your rankings. Something to think about though, is that people following those links from article directories might be turned off by reading similar content once arriving at your website.
Kyle Logue@ Make Money Blogging´s last blog post ..10 Signs That You’re an Entrepreneur

rhyswynne March 16, 2011 at 4:33 pm

That’s true, but with that said I doubt I get any traffic from article directories.
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Kyle Logue March 18, 2011 at 10:28 pm

True. But a bunch of small trickles adds up.
Kyle Logue@ Make Money Blogging´s last blog post ..10 Signs That You’re an Entrepreneur

rhyswynne March 18, 2011 at 10:30 pm

I don’t even get that!
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Kyle Logue March 18, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Well it’s by far not the best source of traffic for me lol
Kyle Logue@ Make Money Blogging´s last blog post ..Driving Traffic – A Look Into Google Webmaster Tools

Jym April 7, 2011 at 1:15 am

Google’s new update seemed mainly to be aimed at content designed to generate backlinks or advertising opportunities rather than providing value. It’s not necessarily true that the first indexed will be the kept post, the best way to guarantee that your original post is the one ranked in the engines (as mentioned, Google won’t dupes of the same content) is to make sure that every duplicate has a link back to the original.

Good point that traffic coming from article directories will be happier to land on a post different from the article they’ve just read!

Love the idea of the RSS footer message too.

Thanks Rhys, I enjoyed this post and the discussions evolving from it!

Jym @ MLM Lead Generation´s last blog post ..Google vs the Farms & The No1 SEO Tip of All Time

Eddie Gear - The Guy With An Attitude March 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm

You have got it right on. However, there is one misconception, that readers copy paste the entire post as it is. Now this is necessarily bad for a blog. Specially if its not the source. Google has changed its ranking methodology and this has become very important.
Eddie Gear – The Guy With An Attitude´s last blog post ..Use Press Release To Build Credibility And Status

rhyswynne March 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Yeah I mentioned that in the post. The odd post for the benefit of current readers is fine (as long as you can – Press Releases for example are fine to copy & paste), but constant repeating of posts are bad, and you’ll probably lose readers.
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Alex March 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Hello Rhys,

Google had some time ago supplemental results which included all those pages that were considered duplicate and weren’t included in the normal index.

Now they treat duplicate content in a different manner, for example if you have two pages which have the same content google will only rank one version of that page, a version which google “thinks” it’s the best.

When the duplicate content is on other website, they might not index your article, actually they index it but don’t actually show it anywhere. This wont affect your website’s ranking unless you are publishing this duplicate articles in mass.
Alex@Jocuri´s last blog post ..Razboiul Teelonian

Alex March 17, 2011 at 7:15 am

Hey mate, great article – although can you clarify whether this was written pre or post Panda?
I think now article marketing is dying and dup. content is the cause.

Damn you Google!
Alex@make money with Amazon´s last blog post ..How to Make Over 1000 a Month as an Amazon Associate

rhyswynne March 17, 2011 at 8:08 am

Yes it was written pre Panda update.

However, I haven’t noticed a huge amount of change…..
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Tinh March 18, 2011 at 9:03 am

Everything has two faces right? Bad and good exists at the same time, the most important thing is from those who use it :-)
Tinh´s last blog post ..5 Simple-Yet-Effective Ways to Get More Traffic

Derek March 18, 2011 at 9:13 am

I think there are two types of duplicate content. One is global duplicate, which means other websites copy your content and claim it’s their. Another type is local duplicate, means a same document appear many times in your website nodes. It seems to me that the second type is judged heavily by the big G because big G considers it deceives users into increasing pageviews of a website. So, that’s why they invest canonical URL to solve this. But, I’m not sure about the first type :)
Derek´s last blog post ..Diablo 3 Release Date

whoisbid March 23, 2011 at 11:27 am

Hello Rhysynne.. this is my reply to Derek.

There is also another one where content goes through an intelligent filter and the words are changed completely but it still makes sense if the filter is cleverly made. Since most people don’t read all of a website some people believe it is impossible for a search engine spiders to catch them right now unless more human editing is done.
These to me these are the scariest types and the beginnings of a massive robot war in my opinion.

Thiru March 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

Great blog rhyswynne, It really shows the important of original content as well as evil of duplicate. Bloggers should aware of content and should stay of from copying content.
Thiru´s last blog post ..ESRB Rating Search App – Android App

Jay Costan March 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Hi Rhyswynne,

Great post!

You just made me realize how important it is to come up with a good and unique title in creating blogs and what authority can do to your ranking in search engines. That’s why, more online entrepreneurs nowadays are looking for experts to do this for them.

Free WordPress Themes for 2011 March 18, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I am reading this issue from last many months but you have explained it very well here . I have noticed many IM marketing guru and most of them have almost similar content from taken from PLR packages .

What make them differ :- They always apply different tittle and writing pattern is not similar . I went through one video and learned that – if you make few changes in title and content publishing pattern with little different targeted keywords , it will work fine .
Free WordPress Themes for 2011´s last blog post ..20 Fabulous CSS3 Generator and Tools with Multiple Browser Support

Johanna March 21, 2011 at 4:42 am

Hi Rhys,
I’ve always known that duplicate content is just plain plagiarism. However, your post has changed that view. Thanks for sharing!
Johanna @´s last blog post ..Firefox 4 will be Available for download this 22nd of March 2011

rhyswynne March 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

I wouldn’t say it’s a good thing. It’s an okay thing – unique content is still the best, along with the occasional duplicate content that isn’t plagarised.
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Fairooz March 21, 2011 at 10:59 am

Nice post, friend.
If bloggers are just copying and pasting from other blogs, there’s no use of that blog.
Fairooz @ TechnoTweaks´s last blog post ..How to Edit Your Facebook Comment

Duncan March 23, 2011 at 10:06 am

Thanks you Rhys, I always find your articles helpful.

Quick question if you will indulge a newbie:

We have a product and have given samples to blogging reviewers. Is it ok to copy those reviews onto our site or would I be better just linking to them?

Or maybe a page of extracts would be better?

Any suggestions?

rhyswynne March 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Page of extracts would be best. Then you have editorial control.

Should do it for social proof, and not worry about SEO for reviews & testimonials :)
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Peter Rastello March 24, 2011 at 1:39 am

Thanks Rhys, great article. Let me ask you this though: if you are invited to post a guest blog article on a high authority site in your industry, is it best to:

1) first publish it on your own site,
2) wait for Google to index it,
3) then post it on the high authority site requesting them to provide a rel=canonical to your original work?
I’m not certain, but if you do it that way should you expect to have your cake and eat it too? (link juice + traffic)

rhyswynne March 24, 2011 at 8:14 am

If I was invited to write a blog post on a high authority guest site, I’d submit original content.
rhyswynne´s last blog post ..What Is The Most Accurate Search Engine Rank Checker

Kavya Hari March 26, 2011 at 6:37 am

Generally, you have to avoid duplicate content to your blog because it will be reduce the page ranking in your post.
Kavya Hari´s last blog post ..VPS Hosting And Its Benefits

Kavya Hari March 28, 2011 at 7:22 am

Primarily, content should be unique. Then only, it has to increase your page ranking. Great effort. Thanks Rhys:-)

Mo Money March 28, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Well many sites have duplicate content from article sites to sites that quote articles directly. Its still duplicating someone else’s work. It still gets visitors to article sites making them money. If you get a fair amount of traffic and alot of content I dont think you will be fine.
Mo Money´s last blog post ..A Guide to Affiliate Marketing — Choosing a Niche and Finding Hot Products to Sell

Daniel Snyder April 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Good information since duplicate content has so many myths surrounding it. I agree with you about the usefulness of article directories as a place to spin and use duplicate content. With the Panda update the most authoritative sites with unique and original content will get ranked the highest. Google doesn’t tell us everything, so focusing on original content will always be priority.
Daniel Snyder@Fireproof Safes for Data´s last blog post ..Who tests- rates and verifies fireproof safes

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