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Quit Stressing over Duplicate Content

Worried about a “duplicate content penalty” from Google on your website? Stop stressing over it!

Stop worrying over Duplicate Content

Stop worrying over Duplicate Content

SEO blogs, experts and amateurs have been talking about this duplicate content “penalty” for quite some time and in many ways the talk is off base! In this article I plan to explain what this so-called “penalty” is supposed to be and why duplicate content is not an issue  on your website. So settle in and enjoy!

What is the Duplicate Content Penalty?

The theory of the “duplicate content penalty” says this: If you have the same content (or in some extreme theories, very similar content) on multiple pages within your website, or on other websites, your website could be removed from the Google SERP rankings. Under this theory, many SEO “experts” would have you think that if you run a website that uses typical blog features, your website could easily publish the same content on a number of pages within your website, such as Archive pages, Author pages, Tag pages and Search pages. Their fear is that with the exact same content being seen on multiple pages, Google may think you do doing something wrong and therefore may penalize you by removing your website, or at the very least, the content in question, from their search index.

For the most part, this is simply a myth! Google’s Webmaster Central Blog said this about the subject:

Let’s put this to bed once and for all, folks: There’s no such thing as a “duplicate content penalty.” At least, not in the way most people mean when they say that.

source: Demystifying the “duplicate content penalty”, published September 12, 2008

You see,  according to that same article, any penalties for duplicated content are enforced under extreme circumstances. These circumstances are basically practices that are intended to manipulate the search engine results. This would include:
Duplicate content on multiple websites or subdomains

Scraping content from other websites for content on your website

Intentionally having the exact same content on multiple pages within your website
(This is the one that most SEO experts will use in their arguments, but we are about to see the difference in a moment)

So unless you are actually trying to use content published elsewhere as your own content for rankings purposes and are not adding anything unique, there may be a chance Google would not include your content within their search results. In this article, we are going to assume that your stress isn’t coming from using content found on other websites, but the content you write on your own website.

So Lets Explore Content on Your Website

There are 2 ways you may see duplicated content on your website that Google does not “penalize” you for. Here are these 2 ways, with simple examples…

  1. URLs with variables
    www.example.com/widgets/
    www.example.com/widgets/?color=blue
    www.example.com/widgets/?color=blue&comments=show
    All three of these URLs point to the exact same page, but all 3 are specific URLs that could be found on your website. These could be counted as 3  (or more, depending on the number of possible variable combinations) unique webpages all with the exact same content.
  2. Special Pages with Content
    This would include CMS and blogging systems showing content on Author pages, Search pages, Category pages and more. In this example, the same article written by the author Joe Smith and placed in the News category could easily be seen in 3, 4 or more pages.

In both cases, Google does not penalize you for this, but will try to determine what Google feels is the best URL to show in the SERPs. In the case of Special Pages such as Author pages and Category pages, while the same content may be shown on these pages, chances are there are additional articles that are shown on these pages, so there won’t be an exact duplication… more a compilation of content.

Even though there is no penalty for this duplicate content, you may want to consider a couple things…

  • Google is deciding which one is appropriate for their SERPs. While you may think that www.example.com/widgets/ is the more appropriate URL, Google may find that www.example.com/widgets/?color=blue&comments=show is the more appropriate URL for their results.
  • You may be preventing other content from being found. While you want Google to visit your website, you don’t want Google wasting time looking at the same content over and over again. In most cases, Googlebot does not stay on your website until it finds every single page on your website. It kind of stops by, takes a look and explores what it may find. If it keeps seeing prominent URLs and the multiple variations of that URL, it may spend all its time looking at those and not have time to find other content.
  • Bandwidth can be burned with multiple duplicate content pages. Kind of like the previous concern, if Googlebot is constantly reviewing the same page, but with diferent URLs, Googlebot is eatng up bandwidth on your website for no reason! You’d much rather Googlebot is looking at other content it can index while using that bandwidth.

Therefore, you should have a good structure to your websites, as well as using some proper techniques to help give Google some help. If you have URLs  with multiple variables, consider consolidating the variables if you can, or using the canonical tag which shows Google what the preferred URL is. If you are using a CMS or blogging system, consider restricting the information shown on secondary pages. Rather than the full article being shown, use an excerpt or just a list. This will minimize the amount of content shown in multiple places and will also help narrow down the appropriate page for Google to explore and index.

Even if you don’t make these small changes, stop worrying about the duplicate content “penalty.” Google does a pretty good job in determining which pages should be shown, and even if they get the specific page on your website wrong, you have the chance to get ranked and get traffic. So go ahead.. post that content and stop worrying!

Found By Design websites take the guess work out of properly structured websites. Using our FocusBlog techinque, your website’s content is organized in an optimal way and there are fewer chances of content being duplicated. For more information on getting your own Found By Design website, visit our Websites page, our Packages and Pricing page or go ahead and Sign up now!

Comments

  1. Steve Harlow says:

    Great information here. So many keep beating this issue to death, and as you aptly pointed out, Google has already answered this issue.

    One of the best “explanations” of the duplicate content myth that I have heard is, Look at the online news. All of the major news networks pull their major stories from the AP. This places “duplicate content” everywhere. So you are correct, stop worrying about this, create good content, and go enjoy.

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