I keep hearing people ask “Won’t Google penalize me for duplicate content?”, so thought I’d write up the pragmatic response.
In short – no – there is no “duplicate content penalty”. Google is not going to slap you down for letting the same content appear on more than one URL.
Think From Google’s Perspective
You’re happily indexing the entire web, and you find an article. You add it to your index.
Later, you find the same article on another page. The page is slightly different, but it’s clearly the same content.
Then, you find a few more copies of the same piece. Now you have ten.
When your customers (that’s us, web searchers) ask for content that matches the subject of these ten pieces, what should you do?
Clearly, if you put ALL TEN results in the top 10 search results, that would not be useful to the searcher – right? They’re practically identical, so that will not be helpful. If someone clicks on more than one of the results, they’ll be disappointed to get the same advice multiple times.
So what do you do? Should you penalize all the websites for having non-original content? That surely wouldn’t be fair.
No. You’d simply decide which of the ten is the most relevant, and you’ll include just that one, and none of the others.
How will you decide which is the most relevant? The same way you do it with non-identical results:
- Which is on the highest-authority domain?
- Has the most inbound links from the most websites?
- Has been liked or shared the most?
- Or, failing all that, is the original version (the one the spider found first)?
So That’s Google’s Duplicate Content Filter
There is no penalty here. It’s just common sense. Google doesn’t want to show the same result many times. That’s stupid.
So it’ll provide the best experience for its users it can – by intelligently selecting the best range of search results it can.
(Note: If versions of content are sufficiently different, and have inbound links, you can find more than one result showing up in the search engine results.)
Find Out More
- Mark Attwood of Attwood Digital on how the duplicate content filter slashed one of his sites’ traffic (not a penalty, though)