Can You be Penalized for Using Duplicate Content?
By Connie McKenzie
A topic of hot debate these days is whether or not using duplicate content on the World Wide Web can get you penalized by the search engines? And if so, how can you avoid being penalized?
What is duplicate content?
First of all, there is no precise explanation of duplicate content and it is not definitely clear that there is a penalty for using duplicate content. However, it is believed that using duplicate content repeatedly in large blocks, such as articles or blog posts, could get you a penalty with some search engines like Google.
Why do search engines care if you are using duplicate content?
How search engines work and how they earn their income are based on two things:
1. When a visitor does a search, do they get the results they are looking for?
2. Do the search engines and advertisers make a good income?
If for instance, you were to write an article about "Web Design Tips." You then submit it to article directories, after a couple of weeks it gets published on over 200 different websites.
Someone goes to google, does a search for "Web Design Tips" and there are over 200 results. At first glance, that looks great for the visitor because they can choose from a variety of results. However, an ugly problem is soon going to present itself because each website contains the exact same article.
Now, do you honestly think that this person is going to be impressed with what google produces for results if all the articles are the same, but just on different websites?
NO, they are going to be very disappointed in Google and likely complain or stop using Google altogether. Then advertisers on Google are going to make less money and so will stop advertising. Google then makes less and lo and behold, they have some pretty serious problems.
Clearly, this is why search engines do not like to display articles using duplicate content for a keyword search. So they will filter out as much duplicate content as possible, meaning your website may not be displayed but someone else's will, even though the content is the same.
Most people feel that the original content should be given precedence. However, search engines are not always able to determine the original content from the duplicate, at least not every time.
The best they can do is try and establish where the content was first published or which website has the most authority, etc.
So, if you submit the same article that you have on your site to 50 other websites that are more established, it may look like your site has duplicate content, and not the other way around.
Avoiding duplicate content penalties if there is one?
Write articles specifically for your website and then change it significantly before you submit the article to article directories. Then, if your articles are later published on other websites, they will link to your site, and your site will appear to be the authority site.
If your website has the same theme and the article directories link to you with keyword-rich anchor text, the incoming links suggest to the search engines that your site is the authority on that theme.
Likewise, if you syndicate your article, only syndicate the description and title paragraphs, not the whole article. In this way, your site will have most of the content on the topic, once again making your site the authority.
So you see, it is not a question of whether you could get a penalty for using duplicate content or not. The search engines are required to filter out the use of duplicate content so that people are presented with the best results possible and advertising revenue is maintained.