Is There A Duplicate Content Penalty?

by on February 27, 2011

Duplicate ContentThere is a theory that having the same exact paragraph or article on multiple sites will cause your site to catch a dreaded STD (Search  Transmitted Disease) called the Duplicate Content Penalty.

For example, pretend this sentence is an entire article, not just nine words:

“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog”

The fact that it’s a famous sentence and already all over the web notwithstanding, if I go and post that as an article on multiple sites, the theory is that Google and other content networks won’t pay attention to it since it’s not original content.

Does The Duplicate Content Penalty Exist?  That Depends…

It all depends on what context you are talking about.  The arguments go back and forth on internet message boards about it forever.  In the purely search engine getting your page noticed context, there is no duplicate content penalty.  For example, do a Google Search for the full quick brown fox term  mentioned above.  What do you get?   Close to 300,000 results for it!  Search for it in quotes to tell Google to return only results for that exact sentence and you still get about 90,000 results.

Many people point to this fact, that there are over 30,000 results indexed for one sentence as proof that the duplicate content penalty doesn’t exist.  Google has indexed 90,000 pages with that exact term, and thus how can there be a penalty?

Think about high ranking syndicate content for a minute.  The AP and Reuters publish the exact same news stories word for exact word on thousands of high ranking news sites across the country.  Think they’re getting penalized for it?  Doesn’t look like it.

That’s good right!  Maybe not.  Think of it this way.  Since you have duplicate content, you are now competing with 90,000 other pages for that same term or headline.

But think of it just like any other keyword.  There are a million sites trying to rank highly for the term “car insurance”, but only about 10 can be on the first page of Google and thus profit from it.  The other 999,990 sites are still on the list, but you’ll never see them.

So, Google and other search engines do acknowledge duplicate content.  That’s an indisputable fact.

Does Duplicate Content Count For SEO Purposes Though?

This is the real question here that no one seems to be able to definitively answer.  Maybe after my Great Link Building Service Experiment, I need to kick off the great Duplicate Content Penalty Experiment to answer it once and for all.

There are a couple of theories here.  The most popular is that the Google ranking algorithm gives duplicate content pages much less page rank than unique content and links from a duplicate page count less toward your search engine ranking than would for a page with unique content.  Is it true?  How much less does it count?  How does Google know which is the original page for the content?  These are all questions no one seems able to truly answer.   My opinion is that duplicate content does have an effect in the value Google gives to your page, but it’s probably a small effect.

The other theory is that eventually with too much duplicated content on a site, Google will toss your entire site onto a list where everything gets much less page rank weight and may disappear from search results completely.   This theory says that too much duplicate content on your site and even your original content is devalued.

Most people who claim this are running autoblogs and such that just post duplicate content, which tend to get traffic for a few month from Google, then one day just drop off the map and their traffic plummets as Google realizes they are nothing but a content farm.

Screw Duplicate Content!

Want my take?  Duplicate content is fine for article marketing and building links, but do not use it on your main site or sites.  Too many people try to fake out Google with a site full of duplicate content and hope they don’t get caught for long enough to make some money.  Screw that!  Don’t waste your valuable time creating sites that live in fear of a Google slap.

Make good sites that can stand on their own.  Create a real authority site on a single subject, not just tiny niche sites.  Create unique and useful content on that subject site that targets those tiny niche keywords, then build links like it’s your job.

Do it long enough and well enough, and it could be your job!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jogging Benefits April 26, 2011 at 8:29 am

Hey man. I really agree with you – writing your own unique content for your website is best. That’s what I do. But I do submit a same article to dozen of different article directories, I somehow believe that those dofollow backlinks would push my site a bit further up the Google’s natural listings.

Just started reading your blog. Great stuff- cheers!

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