The Google Duplicate Content Penalty

20 July 2014

On quite a few occasions over the years we’ve been asked; “Can we just take the text from another website and use it on ours?”

There is a simple answer to this; “No”. Why? Well, aside from any copyright law infringement, you’ll certainly won’t be doing yourself any favours as far as the search engine rankings are concerned.  Google in particular will certainly come down heavy on you so in this post we’re going to look at exactly what is the Google duplicate content penalty, what does it mean to you and how can you avoid it?

What is Google Duplicate Content Penalty?

Most commonly understood, Google Duplicate Content Penalty refers to a drop in Google rankings of a web page due to the presence of scraped or duplicate content. The duplicate content can be either or both of the following:

(a) Same content appearing on different web pages within a website, i.e., same information being displayed on more than one URL of a particular website, or intra-website duplicate content;

(b) Same content appearing on different websites, i.e., same information being displayed on more than one URL on the internet, or inter-website duplicate content.

The content need not be 100% identical. It could fall into “duplicate” category if it is substantially similar.

However, if we go by the official version of Google, there is nothing like a “duplicate content penalty” imposed by Google Search Engine. But in the same breath, Google contradicts itself when it says:

“There are some penalties that are related to the idea of having the same content as another site—for example, if you’re scraping content from other sites and republishing it, or if you republish content without adding any additional value.” Ummmmmm.

The mystery surrounding Google Duplicate Content Penalty has magnified somewhat with the introduction of ‘Panda’ update to Google’s search algorithm, which has affected many sites by downgrading their content’s reliability.

Google Red Lines

Notwithstanding the rigmarole put forth by Google regarding the factual position on duplicate content, there are some red lines that Google disapprove of. These are:

1) Malicious duplicate content, i.e., deliberate duplication of content with an eye on attaining higher ranking on results page. This practice is discouraged due to poor user experience from the visibility of identical content across multiple web pages on the internet.

2) Two versions of same article/content, i.e., if a web page features both HTML and printer-friendly versions, only one of them will find mention and be considered while determining the rankings on results page.

3) Multiple pages, sub-domains and domains with substantially similar content.

4) Typical affiliate websites that do not use original content and generally, scrape from the product website or from other affiliate websites.

How to Avoid the So-Called Google Duplicate Content Penalty?

If you just want a simple response to this answer, it’s “to be honest and write content yourself without indulging in copy-paste techniques.” Besides, here are some of the measures you can take to avoid getting in the negative books of Google:

(i) Regular Updates to your web pages help a great deal in steering clear of the issues arising out of duplicate content. Moreover, Google algorithm has a penchant for refreshed and updated web pages. A blog, for instance, should ideally be updated on a daily basis to maximize its leverage over Google rankings.

(ii) Clean Links must be provided on the web pages. If you are providing any links on the webs pages, make sure they are not dead and do not lead to dubious and malicious websites. Moreover quality links and the absence of bad links will improve the “authority factor” of your website, which Google always appreciates.

(iii) Don’t Publish Stubs or empty pages. If you don’t have any quality content for any page, better not to publish such page, rather than publishing an empty page. And if you have to publish such stubs, make sure to use noindex meta tag to avoid the page from indexing.

(iv) Careful Syndication of content on other sites. It is always advisable to include a back link to your article on every site on which it is syndicated.

(v) Common Precautions, like avoid repetitions; be consistent in linking; and as far as possible, be original in publishing content.

Hope this helps.

If you, like many people, struggle writing your own content, don’t worry – help is as hand. Get in touch with us to today and ask about our copywriting services.