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Mark Zahra

Mark has been involved with WP RSS Aggregator for almost a decade, from running customer support to now leading RebelCode, the company behind the plugin. He has a passion for content and news, especially the concept of ethically sharing content to help each other grow.

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Unraveling the Truth About Duplicate Content and SEO

There are plenty of controversies about duplicate content especially when it comes to SEO. So, is there a duplicate content penalty?
Duplicate Content Penalty

There are plenty of controversies surrounding duplicate content, especially when it comes to SEO. Some experts believe that you can get penalized by Google for having duplicate content on your website. Others believe that it’s not a big deal and won’t hurt your rankings at all. So what’s the truth? Is duplicate content bad for SEO?

This article answers this question and more by exploring what duplicate content is, what it means for your search engine rankings, and best practices for dealing with duplicate content.

What Is Duplicate Content?

Duplicate content is any content that appears on more than one website (offsite) or on multiple URLs within the same website (onsite). Google identifies duplicate content as having substantive blocks of texts that are appreciably similar to or completely match other content in the same language.

Google page seen on a tablet screen

Onsite duplicate content can be caused by different versions of the same URL, parameters in the URL, or duplicate titles while offsite duplicate content can be caused by syndicating your content or copying and pasting it from another website.

According to Google, some forms of duplicate content are non-malicious. This means that the content is not deceptive or was not intentionally duplicated. This includes content in discussion forums, eCommerce websites, and printer-only versions of web pages.

Does Duplicate Content Affect SEO?

When done right, duplicate content comes with a number of SEO benefits. However, the whole story isn’t that simple. In this section, we’ll dive into the details to answer the question, “Is duplicate content bad for SEO?”

Illustration of a content being duplicated

Google has said that duplicate content is not illegal per se. However, it can be seen as a sign of spam, low-quality content, or simply lazy publishing. This can harm a website’s trustworthiness, a crucial factor in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines (represented by the ‘T’ in ‘EEAT’). 

They also say that there are no guarantees in SEO and that you can’t simply game the system by publishing duplicate content.

While Google doesn’t deem duplicate content to be deceptive in origin, if Google realizes that you are publishing duplicate content with deceptive intent or as an attempt to manipulate search results, your SEO efforts will be negatively impacted. 

That’s why, in general, Google recommends that you avoid publishing duplicate content on your website and focus on publishing unique, high-quality content as part of a best-practice SEO strategy. This minimizes the dilution of link authority and confusion to search engines when determining which content is the most relevant to display in search results. 

Of course, there are exceptions here, and some experts claim that duplicate content has very little impact on search engine rankings.

What Do Experts Say About the Impact of Duplicate Content on SEO?

There are a lot of different opinions when it comes to duplicate content and whether it can affect your SEO. While most experts don’t think that websites get penalized for duplicate content, they also believe that Google may see it as low authority and tank your rankings on the SERPs. Let’s quickly go through some expert opinions.  

John Mueller From Google: Duplicate Content Is Not a Negative SEO Ranking Factor

According to Google Search Advocate John Mueller, duplicate content is not necessarily a negative SEO ranking factor. This means that Google doesn’t actually attach a negative ranking score on content that is duplicated. 

Instead of looking at the authenticity of the content, Google focuses more on search intent. This means that the search engine will more likely show content that best answers user queries. It doesn’t matter much if this content is original or duplicated.

In other words, Google may not actually penalize you for having duplicate content on your site. 

Search Engine Land: There’s No Such Thing as a “Duplicate Content Penalty.” 

Search Engine Land columnist Patrick Stox explicitly states that there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. According to Stox, it is nothing more than a myth. 

However, like most experts, he admits that duplicate content is not the right way to go for you. Stox says that while you might not be penalized, duplicate content may hurt the overall authority and credibility of your website, something that ultimately impacts your search engine rankings. 

Moz: Duplicate Content Does Not Directly Impact SEO

Moz, a leading authority in SEO and website analytics, reveals that duplicate content might not necessarily result in your site being punished. According to the SEO software, there is no evidence that your site will disappear from SERPs because of duplicate content. 

Google page as seen on a magnifying glass

However, Moz also admits that duplicate content might confuse search engines since they won’t be sure which version of similar content to rank. Additionally, search engines won’t know whether to direct link metrics to one of the duplicated pages or all of them individually.

Neil Patel: Duplicate Content Has Far Less Impact on Your SEO Results

Neil Patel also believes that contrary to what most people think, duplicate content has very little effect on search rankings. The renowned internet marketer also doesn’t think that Google will penalize you for having duplicate content. 

He, however, also admits that it is best to avoid or limit the use of duplicate content to maintain the integrity of your brand. 

Brian Dean: A Duplicate Content Penalty Is Extremely Rare

Brian Dean of Backlinko says that duplicate content might be bad news if you are trying to rank higher on search engines. He strongly advocates for publishing original, in-depth and helpful content. 

However, he also reveals that it is very rare for Google to penalize your website for having duplicate content. Brian says that duplicate content might only be penalized in cases where you publish other people’s content verbatim without crediting them as the original source. 

This means that if you practice ethical content curation using such tools as the WP RSS Aggregator, you will not be penalized at all. 

How to Deal With Duplicate Content to Protect Your SEO

Duplicate content is not usually a sin in the eyes of search engines.

However, as we have seen from several experts, it is still a good practice to avoid or limit the use of duplicate content. This is because while you might not be penalized (not being ranked at all) because of it, it could still hurt your rankings. 

Luckily, as long as you follow some basic best practices, you can safely curate content with no risk to your site or your site’s SEO.

There are several ways you can make use of duplicate content while protecting your SEO efforts: 

  • Use 301 redirects
  • Syndicate content carefully
  • Practice ethical content curation
  • Avoid plagiarized content

Use 301 Redirects

301 redirects are a way of telling Google that you’ve permanently moved a page to a new location.

Think of 301 redirects as the road signs that lead all traffic to the original content on your site. Specifically, if you find several pages with identical content, you can redirect all these pages back to the original one. This practice ensures Google and other search engines index and rank only the original page. 

Your HTML for a 301 redirect may look something like this: 

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; URL='http://www.example.com/'" />. 

Alternatively, you can easily add redirects to your site using a plugin such as Yoast.

When you use a 301 redirect, Google will transfer the ranking power of the old page to the new page, which may eventually enrich the original page’s ranking. This can help you keep your rankings when you move content from one website or page to another without deleting it from the original source.

Syndicate Content Carefully

When you syndicate your content, you’re giving other websites permission to publish it on their website. While this can be a great way to get more traffic, backlinks, and reach, you need to make sure that you’re not publishing the same content on multiple low-authority websites.

You can avoid this by using canonical tags. A canonical tag is a piece of code that tells Google which version of the page is the original. This can help you avoid getting caught out for duplicate content.

Practice Ethical Content Curation 

Instead of copying and republishing content verbatim, you can practice ethical content curation. This is where you publish content from different sources on your website. 

Curated content allows you to credit the original source to avoid duplicate content issues for your RSS feeds, and you don’t even have to publish the entire article. It also allows you to modify content and add your own voice before publishing it. This way, the issue of duplicate content will be reduced and you won’t come off as a lazy publisher. 

Lastly, don’t underestimate the value of the software you use in your content curation process because it can significantly influence whether search engines categorize your content as original or duplicate. Tools like WP RSS Aggregator are very helpful in facilitating ethical content curation without compromising the integrity and authority of your site.

Avoid Plagiarized Content

There is a difference between plagiarized content and duplicate content. For instance, duplicate content may be published on different websites by the same author. On the other hand, if the same content (especially academic articles) is published on multiple websites under different authors, it might be treated as plagiarized content. 

Google has said that they take plagiarized content seriously and that they may pubish websites that publish it.

Conclusion: Don’t Let Duplicate Content Hamper Your SEO Success

Duplicate content continues to be a topic of debate in the SEO industry. As evidenced by industry experts such as John Mueller, following poor duplicate content practices could potentially affect which page Google chooses to display in search results. 

Therefore, the best course of action is to continually strive for unique and high-quality content, utilizing SEO best practices such as 301 redirects, canonical tags, and syndicating content carefully. 

Remember, having the right tools can go a long way. Tools like WP RSS Aggregator are key in navigating the nuances of duplicate content. It enables efficient collection of articles from unlimited RSS feeds, allowing display, content import, and filtration with automation. This makes adhering to ethical content curation easier, reducing the risk of search ranking issues and ensuring a healthier website.

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