Duplicate Content Penalization Truths
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Duplicate Content Penalization Truths

Update: 6/13/07

Straight from the horse’s mouth (Vanessa Fox):

“Google wants to serve up unique results and does a great job of picking a version of your content to show if your sites includes duplication. If you don’t want to worry about sorting through duplication on your site, you can let us worry about it instead. Duplicate content doesn’t cause your site to be penalized. If duplicate pages are detected, one version will be returned in the search results to ensure variety for searchers. Duplicate content doesn’t cause your site to be placed in the supplemental index. Duplication may indirectly influence this however, if links to your pages are split among the various versions, causing lower per-page PageRank.”

Sorry to sound like Magnum P.I. – but I know what you’re thinking. Why are press releases and article distribution sites so very useful for SEO and branding, and yet you’re hearing warnings about duplicate content penalization everywhere you turn? Before Higgins releases the Lads, here are a few things you need to know.

If you’re up nights worrying about being penalized for offering an RSS feed or participating in other forms of syndication, you’re taking the term ‘duplicate content’ too literally. A press release or article which appears on more than one unrelated site is not going to get anyone penalized. The operative word here being unrelated. Not every website in the world can be 100% original, and multiple domains are naturally going to aggregate the same news, quotes and other content.

On the other hand, If you sell pet food, and you’ve registered petfoodrules.com, www.buycheappetfood.org, petfoodinmypants.net – and they all contain exactly the same content (copy, tags etc.) – now you’re playing with fire. And gosh help you if you’ve got them all on the same server/IP address. This is what is meant by duplicate content that can get you penalized. Pick one of the domains to focus on, implement 301 redirects on the others and stop being so silly.

If you’re very attached to your multiple domain strategy, and are of the opinion that penalization will never happen to you, bear in mind that one of two things is probably inevitable, at least within Google:

  1. All of your domains will be banned except for one.
  2. All of your domains will be banned, period.

That sort of a slap can be dynasty-destroying. You’ll return to square one in terms of search engine visibility and be trying to get your old job at the liquor store back. Know what duplicate content is, what it isn’t – and then don’t do it. For more detail on the science of DC, including a break down of the different levels of severity, read this fantastic article by Todd Malicoat.

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