Issue #273

Is there really a duplicate content penalty?

You may have heard that Google penalizes sites for duplicate content. It goes sorta like this…

You write a blog post and you publish it on your blog. Now, if you turn around and re-publish that same post someplace else, Google will notice. And they will penalize your site and it will hurt your search rankings.

This “fact” has been paraded around for quite awhile now.

But, let me ask you this…

If that were true, why would a site as big and reputable as Medium make it so incredibly easy to re-publish content?

If you go to Medium to publish a new story on your account, there’s a big fat option right there for you to IMPORT a story from any external URL. Plug in the URL to a blog post on your site and Medium will suck that bad-boy right in there.

Now, Medium is a pretty big site. Pretty popular. Do you think they would make it so easy to re-publish your own content there if every time you did so made you susceptible to Google’s wrath?

Of course not. Because truth is…

There is no SEO penalty for duplicate content. 

Now, there IS a problem when you’re COPYING content. Don’t rip off people’s content. But, re-publishing is part of how the web works. Google knows this.

And, a whole industry sprouted up with things like article spinning. They’d take in an article and pump out alternative versions of it using different verbage and synonyms… all in order to try to dominate search and avoid the supposed penalty for duplicate content. The funny thing is… using article spinners actually makes you MORE susceptible to problems!

There’s no penalty for duplicate content, but there sure is for pumping out useless crap content. And article spinning software definitely does that.

So, is it OK to re-publish or syndicate your content on external sites?

Yes. You won’t get penalized for it. Now, you DO need to be OK with the fact that it is possible Google will index one of your copies rather than the original. But, you can help with that by making sure that every point of syndication contains a backlink to the original on your own blog.

Also, best bet would be to use what is called a canonical link on that backlink. You do that by simply adding “rel=canonical”  to the HTML for the link. This will tell Google that it is a link to the original piece and it will send all “SEO juice” (so to speak) to the original.

What if you want to re-publish one of your own articles on another of your own websites? This is OK, too. Same rules apply.

And… when DOES duplicate content hurt you?

Well, for instance, if you repeat the same content on multiple URLs of your own site, that would be a problem. So, don’t reuse big blocks of text on multiple pages. BTW, this is one of the big problems with blog layouts where they display whole blog posts on the homepage or in the archives. That same text also appears on the main blog post. Hence, duplicate content. It’s clutter. Google – and end users – don’t like that.

Basically, just keep things honest.

Create original content and make it awesome. Feel free to syndicate it on other sites. Don’t copy people.

Do that… and you pretty much don’t need to worry about this notorious penalty for duplicate content.

– David Risley

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