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 there a duplicate content penalty?
What Is a Duplicate Content Penalty?
A duplicate content penalty is an alleged penalty that Google and other search engines can impose on websites for having duplicate content.
The penalty is said to occur when these search engines penalize your website for having low-quality or spammy duplicate content. This may include content that appears on multiple domains on the internet in exactly the same way.
However, there is no concrete evidence that search engines like Google actually strike publishers with a duplicate content penalty. Some people believe that the penalty is simply a myth, while others think it duplicate content might matter for SEO.
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.
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.
So, Is There a Duplicate Content Penalty?
The answer is yes and no. Google has never officially said that they penalize websites for having duplicate content. However, many experts believe that Google does use duplicate content as a factor in its algorithm.
So if you’re worried about getting penalized, your best bet is to avoid publishing duplicate content on your website. You can do this by either avoiding it entirely or using canonical tags, robots.txt files, and 301 redirects for duplicate content.
You also need to be careful when syndicating your content or copying and pasting it from other websites. For instance, instead of copying an entire article, you can publish just a brief summary with a link back to the original article.
What Does Google Say About Duplicate Content?
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.
They also say that there are no guarantees in SEO and that you can’t simply game the system by publishing duplicate content. According to Google, duplicate content is ‘not deceptive in origin’. So, in most cases, it does not treat it as grounds for penalizing your site.
However, if Google realizes that you are publishing duplicate content with deceptive intent or as an attempt to manipulate search results, you will be penalized. In general, Google recommends that you avoid publishing duplicate content on your website and focus on publishing unique, high-quality content.
What Do Experts Say About Duplicate Content Penalty?
There are a lot of different opinions when it comes to duplicate content penalty and whether it can affect your search rankings. In general, most experts don’t think there is a duplicate content penalty.
However, they also believe that while Google might not strike your site for having duplicate content, it may see it as low-authority and tank your rankings. Let’s quickly go through some expert opinions.
John Mueller From Google: Duplicate Content Is Not a Negative Ranking Factor
According to Google Search Advocate John Mueller, duplicate content is not necessarily a negative 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, the penalty 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.
Moz: Duplicate Content Is Not Technically a Penalty
Moz, a leading authority in SEO and website analytics, reveals that duplicate content might not necessarily result in a penalty. According to the SEO software, there is no evidence that your site will disappear from SERPs because of duplicate content.
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 Search Rankings
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.
Patel terms duplicate content penalty as being mostly a myth and not something that search engines actively exercise. 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
Duplicate content is not entirely a sin in the eyes of search engines. You might, therefore, not be penalized for it.
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.
There are several ways you can do this:
- 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.
When you use a 301 redirect, Google will transfer the ranking power of the old page to the new page. 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, 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 penalized 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.
Tools such as WP RSS Aggregator can help you with ethical content curation without hurting the credibility and authority of your website.
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 penalize websites that publish it.
Duplicate content can be a serious issue for your website. While there is no proof that search engines will penalize your website for duplicate content, it is generally a good idea to avoid it. There are several things that you can do to avoid duplicate content, including using 301 redirects, sticking to top-level domains, syndicating content carefully, and using the right content management system.