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May 14, 2008

The Duplicate Content Myth

For some reason, the words duplicate content seem to strike fear into the hearts of webmasters everywhere, particularly those who run affiliate programs.

Questions about dupe content are amongst the most common questions I get on my Ask Kalena blog. But most webmasters worry about this for the wrong reasons. Let me set the record straight: I don’t believe there is such a thing as a duplicate content penalty. Yes, search engines can detect duplicate pages and will do what they can to avoid including them. But that usually involves a filter-based algorithm to determine the “original” page and ignore the dupes. eMarketing firm Elliance have put together a terrific graphic that shows how this filter system works.

So search engines are good at filtering out dupe pages. However, duplicate content can cause other issues that you might not have thought about. As Eric Enge points out on the SEOmoz blog:

  1. dupe content can take up a search bot’s crawl budget, meaning that some of your important pages may not be indexed.
  2. dupe pages waste valuable PageRank and link juice
  3. a search engine’s final decision about which is the “original” page and which are the dupes may not be accurate

I see 3. happen a lot, particularly in the case of blog posts that have been scraped or articles that have been syndicated. Pages containing my own original articles have sometimes suffered this fate when they are syndicated on a popular hub or authority site. Google incorrectly assumes that the authority site is the originator of the content and ignores my pre-dated version.

So how to avoid these issues? Where possible, use NoFollow tags to the dupe pages. If you’re syndicating content, ask your publishers to NoIndex the pages containing your content and/or to include a link back to your original source.

13 Responses to “The Duplicate Content Myth

    […] Lots of questions submitters ask me about duplicate content on their sites and how that impacts their visibility in Google. Many are convinced a ranking penalty will be slapped on them by the Google Gods, but this is a myth. I’ve written a post about this over at my blog on SiteProNews so if you’re at all confused about dupe content, check it out. […]

    avatar rhcerff says:

    I see the biggest problem of duplicate content as the dilution of links.

    If you have two domain names and haven’t 301’d the one onto the other then visitors could find either of the pages and link to either of them. In this case you have deep links going to what seem like two separate websites.

    avatar Pun says:

    You say ‘a search engine’s final decision about which is the “original” page and which are the dupes may not be accurate’, presumably because they don’t take into account the creation date. Right? Well, how about trying to compete on Bangkok Property when the #2 site has duplicated its main site six times with the same content using keywords spamming techniques! Where is the justice in organic search and what do I tell my client? My client is a large real estate company in Bangkok and they couldn’t possibly resort to such tactics. So what do I do? What do I tell my client?

    avatar Farhad says:

    Another potential problem with duplicate content is that if Google perceives your site to be mostly made up of duplicate pages with little original content from one page to the next, it devalues your site and reduces the likelihood of even the non-duplicate pages from ranking

    avatar alan wayler says:

    we’ve been chasing a chinese-based owner who has hijacked our site, using a global search and find to substitute his company name, Beauty Tree of Philadelphia. The site’s URL is http://www.weightbye.com.

    We continue to use cease and desist orders with teh american based hosting companies to shut it down…but it resurrects shortly thereafter on another US hosting site. Others are telling me to ignore them.. as it’ll be impossible to shut them down. The site is an almost exact copy, including the internal links, menu items, etc with the exception of the company name, URL, and the sidebar advertisements. Frankly, I don’t know what’s the point of the site is, unless it an attempt by a competitor to undermind our rankings? Perhaps someone has an idea.

    OUr site retains strong SERPs with Google in our KW categories. My concern has been duplicate content.

    I’d appreciate any input on next steps or what could be done to an impossible situation or do I just ignore it.

    Thanks.

    Alan

    avatar John Brumby says:

    Well out of intetrest I have had for reasons certain duplicate pages, and rather than seeing them banned, I noticed instead that they were all appearing in diffent areas. But then I did later make certain changes to each of them, and saw they did even better.

    avatar Rob Goodwin says:

    I have many top level SERP pages optimized for specific key words. I would like to make duplicates of some of these pages and optimize them for other specific key words. Any idea how many single key word changes, say ‘golf elbow’ instead of ‘tennis elbow’, and associated word changes such as ‘gold course’ instead of ‘tennis court’ would not be considered duplicate content?

    Thanks

    avatar versed says:

    Hi, does this mean that all my blogs with say eg. ‘swansea college’ linked to ‘swanseacollege.com’ would only count as one link?
    ‘desperate’ versed.

    avatar P Lee says:

    Great write up. i too believe that Duplicated content is not the problems its cracked up to be. Mostly Google will still include it but as a sub note
    “We have excluded similar content click here to Show All”
    So every thing is in there Duplicated .

    avatar Anisa says:

    I agree on point 3.

    One solution for SE should ignore web pages from same domain.

    -Anisa

    avatar Beat Adsense Videos says:

    I always add some rich original content in the beginnign and end of a page that has an article of duplicate content.

    avatar Hemlata says:

    Nice write-up…

    Here is very good article http://www.searchengineguide.com/stoney-degeyter/theories-in-duplicate-content-penalties.php by Stoney about duplicate content.

    Thanks,
    Hemlata

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