What Is Duplicate Content In SEO

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There is lots of discussion about the duplicate content penalty and this is a topic with a great number of misconceptions and myths. So what is duplicate content in SEO, and is the duplicate content penalty real or not? You will find the answers below.


Does Google penalize duplicate content

I will start by making a clear statement from the beginning: there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. So now you have the answer, but you do not have to leave immediately, see more below.

Google has been very clear about this for many years now. I guess it is best that you see what Google has to say about it. So please check here to see more.


What is duplicate content

Typically this may imply the following:

  • Terms and conditions repeated from page to page.
  • Boilerplates of various kinds.
  • Blurbs.
  • Footnotes.
  • Texts repeated through various social media.
  • Blocks of texts with descriptions of various items, that spread from the manufacturer or retailer page through numerous affiliate sites.
  • Copies of pages/posts in your different sites.
  • Your posts/pages copied/stolen by others.

How did Google deal with duplicate content in the past

There are several videos by Matt Cutts, who was at Google in the past and he was a high ranking person there. You might want to see some, so here I give two of them, please have a look. The first is from July 2013:

Here is yet another one from December 2013:

So these are the facts:

  • Up to 30% of texts on the Internet are indeed duplicate content.
  • Google has been aware of it for years, and this has never been an issue.
  • So from where the myth about penalty comes is unclear to me.

There are terms and conditions that may be repeated and all sorts of legal boilerplates across sites. The search engines can distinguish this and they will at most not want to count such materials.

If this is about some topic that is more substantially duplicated in various posts, they collect information about all of them and show only one on the top search page, while others are pushed to the bottom of the search results. Consequently, such texts are not necessarily treated as a spam, they are clustered and treated appropriately.

He also says that if the text is duplicated in a malicious and manipulative way, with keyword stuffing they do ‘take action’. But his point is: if this is not spammy and keyword stuffing, he would not stress about that. 


Duplicate content issues nowadays

In fact, nothing has changed. Here is yet another more recent video from 2016, it is long and if you have no time I shall point out below a few things from it:

Here I give a few issues they discussed above.

• If monetization and keyword stuffing is part of duplication, there may be penalties.

• They discussed boilerplate duplicates. The message is, there is no problem with it, Google will recognize it and ignore it if they see it in your posts. Their search bots will differentiate and devalue the presence of the duplicate segments, and focus on what else is on the page. The same is for various blurbs, footnotes, etc. So do not worry about this.

How about texts directly translated into other languages? This is an interesting question and here is good news for many: Google’s bots see words, so these are different words in different languages and they are treated as original texts.

How about texts shared in social media? This is again something of interest for many. If you put the same text on several media you are spreading yourself thin, you also compete with yourself. On the other hand, this may be annoying for your followers who are perhaps following you on several media. So this is a bad practice in general, better avoid.

Should you hide duplicate content (blurbs, boilerplates, etc.) by putting it into images? The answer is: just forget it, this is pointless. But if you really want that the search engines do not read it, you can do it. Either way, there are no penalties for that.

How to deal with descriptions of products? They discuss this issue a lot. The message is, such repeated blocks do not matter. They are used in many sites and Google knows about them. So the search bots will learn to skip them.

But at the same time, they must choose some posts to show to people who are searching for the item. If this is a phrase from the repeated (duplicate) blocks, they may use geo-location to decide which post to chose. If there are no indications of this type, they will choose randomly and your post may be missed. There is nothing more in this.

It is in your interest to make your text different, to add some unique value. Just re-arranging the text in the boilerplates will not make any difference. Add value elsewhere on the page.

But in general, if you do not rank this is not a duplicate content penalty, Google is forced to choose among similar or identical texts. So Google may miss your great duplicate text because there are several with the same blurbs. You see the point.

• As long as you create something unique and add value to the topic, blurbs with the same
copies will make no problem. Add unique value in order to be chosen by machines.

The same pieces of your text may be repeated through several of your posts, like items grouped differently. For example, I have a site with backpacks and I can have the same segments of texts about packs used in different posts grouped by brands, types, purpose, etc. Important is that the post can stand on its own, to be unique and provide some useful information.


Can a complete duplicate be ranked higher

If you did not watch the video this will surprise you. The answer is yes. Using a complete post blog content and adding some useful comments and adding value in general, Google can rank it higher than the original if this looks more suitable to the query. You can hear this at 38:30. I am unpleasantly surprised to hear this.

Some bad and some good news

There is no duplicate content penalty, take this as fact. But this may be bad news for hard-working bloggers who write their posts and publish, only to realize that some of their posts have been duplicated and published in some other site.

As a member of Wealthy Affiliate I have seen this happening several times. Some members reported seeing their posts completely duplicated, with exactly the same text, images, and structure.

Now, you have seen in the text above and in the Cutts’ videos that in principle there is no penalty for this. Such duplicate texts will not rank well, they will be several pages down the line. I have seen an example where the duplicated (stolen) text was ranked on page 4 in Google. The original was on page 1. But as you see, they will be ranked. Yes, they will probably be low but some people scroll down a long way. So even such duplicates can get some traffic. This is quite disappointing to hear.

But I mentioned good news, how about it? Well, if you are a thief, you have just heard one.


One more thing. Just a couple of days ago one Wealthy Affiliate member asked in the forum about copying a post from one to another of his sites where it would fit better into the content. He asked about keeping both versions. The answer is simple and you have seen it above: Google will see both posts, the old one will be ranked as usual and the new one will be far below.

So moving the post into a more suitable site, but without removing it from the first site, would be pointless. Use the redirect option instead.


Summary

So back to the starting question, what is duplicate content in SEO and is it penalized or not? As you realize there exists nothing like a duplicate penalty. It has never been there. This is both bad and good. You have seen the reasons for both. Also, Google bots are able to deal with duplicate blocks that we normally have in various texts.

What is the origin of the duplicate content penalty myth? I really have no idea. If you know please let us know, there is a comment box below. There is a nice statement in the video above: It is not Google against us – we are on the same side, people need quality stuff and this is all. Good point. Thank you for reading, do share your thoughts in the comment box below. I wish you a nice day.


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4 thoughts on “What Is Duplicate Content In SEO”

  1. Excellent article.
    So much time is wasted trying to please search engines, which are just dumb machines.
    Say what you want to say with as many references and quotes as are appropriate to make your point.
    If some of that is duplicated elsewhere, who cares? Certainly not search algorithms.

    Reply
    • Thank you Gary, I agree with you. My post is based on what I have seen and heard from Google’s representatives. There is no such thing as the duplicate content penalty, yet the myth somehow survives. All the best to you.

      Reply
  2. Wow, this website is amazing! I have found so many useful things here, have been going from page to page, could not stop reading. This about duplicate content is completely new to me. Bookmarked for future reference. Many thanks.

    Reply
    • Many thanks James, great to hear the text has been useful to you. Your words mean a lot to me. The duplicate content issue is yet another myth in online business. In any case, I shall be more than happy to hear from you again.

      Reply

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