The Truth about Google and Duplicate ContentAre you as confused as I’ve been about duplicate content online? It seems everyone’s got a different opinion about what happens if you have duplicate content, with some claims of being penalized by Google for doing it. I’ve been curious about this for a while, so I set out to find the truth. Since the “issue” is with Google (the most used search engine), I went straight to the source.
According to Google, duplicate content:
“generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content could include:
- Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
- Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
- Printer-only versions of web pages”
If your site contains multiple pages with mostly identical content, there are various ways you can let Google know of your preferred URL. (They have a preference for “canonicalization”. Visit their site for the technical details of how to set up canonicalization.)
Penalization for Duplicate Content
Some people out there try to trick Google to improve their search engine ranking or get more traffic.
Here’s the thing — Google likes to show different content in response to a search request. This is because they want the user to have the best experience possible.
A site may be removed (ie. penalized) from Google’s index if “Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users”. So, don’t be devious and your site should remain indexed by Google.
How to Address Duplicate Content
If you have (non-malicious) duplicate content on your site, Google outlines some ways to proactively address duplicate content issues (more details at the link).
- Use 301 redirects
- Be consistent with internal linking
- Use top-level domains
- Syndicate carefully
- Use Webmaster Tools to tell Google how you prefer your site to be indexed
- Minimize boilerplate repetition
- Avoid publishing placeholder pages
- Understand your content management system
- Minimize similar content
The REAL Issue with Duplicate Content
Personally, based on what I now know, I think the real “issue” with duplicate content is when it’s syndicated (or copied without your knowledge).
Syndication is when another site copies your article in it’s entirety and posts it on their site. Often, this is a great way to have more readers view your content. However, here’s the catch: Google will always show the version they think is most appropriate for the user in each search…which may or may not be on the website you’d prefer (ie. yours).
Google ranks sites higher if they have many backlinks, indexed pages, high traffic, etc, so if you post content on your (low ranking) site compared to having the same content syndicated on a high ranked site, it’s very likely the article on the other site will appear higher in search rankings than yours. Of course, you may or may not care about this, depending on the goals you have for blogging. But, it’s beneficial to make sure each site where you syndicate content includes a link back to your original article.
The Final Word
Don’t try to fool Google. Avoid non-malicious duplicate content. Be careful when syndicating content.
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