Do You Really Get Penalized for Duplicate Content?

June 13, 2011

Blog Optimization/SEO

I’ve been blogging for a number of years now and this is a topic which people still talk about today…

Will Google “penalize” my site or article because there are duplicate copies of my article out there?

Most people don’t realize, however, that this isn’t a proper question to ask, and here’s why – because there’s no “penalizing” going on here, just evaluation.

Take for example two airplanes built for speed and are going to race each other.

Airplane A was built by me and Airplane B was built by you. We both bring our unique experiences to the table and build as fast of an airplane as possible.

Next the two planes race and yours beats mine.

Damn! Thought I was going to win…

So let me ask you this: Was my plane “penalized” because it lost?

Nope.

I mean it didn’t win, but it wasn’t penalized for anything. It lost because it wasn’t built better / faster.

Now let’s look at how this relates to our duplicate content issue

Let’s take this article you’re reading right now. Let’s say I published it last week and after reading it today you loved the article so much (why thank you) that you decided to email me and ask me if you could republish this article on your own blog, word for word (this actually happened to me with this blog post here).

Now after publishing my exact same article on your blog, Google realizes that there are two of the exact same articles in its index, one from your blog, one from mine.

What Google DOESN’T WANT is for someone to type into Google something like, “Will having duplicate content penalize my article?” and every result returned are copies of my article but from different websites.

I mean, who would use Google if it worked like that, right?

Google only wants to return ONE copy for everyone to see and click on. So then ideally the top ten returned results would be all articles on the subject, but different articles.

Now back to our example of you republishing my article onto your blog.

Who’s article will Google want to return when that person above types that search into Google?

The article which is more popular. Now more popular could mean a couple of things to Google, like:

  • Your blog is much more “important” in Google’s eye’s than mine (high PR)
  • Your article goes viral and attracts 200 links while my article has 0 links to it

So now your article is the one which gets “returned” in Google Search when someone searches for “Will having duplicate content penalize my article?”

Yes, mine is still out there – not penalized, just beat. Beat by your article. Your article became more important than mine because everyone linked to it and no one linked to mine.

Yours won the airplane race.

UPDATE: Here’s a video I uploaded to YouTube to help you visualize what I’m talking about.

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About John Hoff

John is the lead instructor inside the Blog Training Classroom Video Course. He's been blogging since 2007, authored a WordPress Security ebook, and was recently featured at Niche Profit Classroom as an affiliate rising star.

View all posts by John Hoff

15 Responses to “Do You Really Get Penalized for Duplicate Content?”

  1. Dave Clements Says:

    It’s hard with there being such a cloud around Google’s algorithm. I had originally heard that whomever published the article first was seen as the creator and the other copies tended be penalised/ignored. Who knows…

    Reply

    • JohnHoff Says:

      Hi Dave,

      That’s actually a pretty good general notion. I have noticed that when you’re FIRST to talk about something, like reviewing a product let’s say, Google likes it when you are first. If we’re talking about exact copies, well like you said Google keeps that kind of secret.

      But imagine if you wrote an article to a no nothing blog and then republished it a month later on Copyblogger and it attracted 300 backlinks, etc. while yours had no links to it… well it would be an interesting test, wouldn’t it? I would bet the Copyblogger would win, though. It seems Google bases a lot of its algorithm on backlinks and how popular a page is.

      Reply

      • Quo Says:

        I definitely think the most important thing to Google is still the number of backlinks. Yes, content and uniqueness play a role but just look at the spammers who are getting websites to rank for the words “buy viagra” or something. Many of these sites have hundreds of thousands of backlinks, but the content is all pretty much the same.

        Reply

        • JohnHoff Says:

          But are they getting ranked? I think a lot of them have been severely penalized since the “Panda” update.

          Definitely backlinks are still the cornerstone of good SEO. The deal now, though, is that even better quality backlinks is important. I feel that someone with fewer backlinks but from better content and better sites in Google’s eyes will beat out the person with a hundred crap backlinks.

          Reply

  2. John Says:

    I bought your eBook on WordPress security.

    I enjoyed the above article because you explained away some of the myths surrounding Google’s Panda in a logical way that even I could understand and be reassured by.

    Thank you

    Reply

  3. John Hoff Says:

    Hey John, thanks for stopping by.

    Awesome and thanks. I definitely try to break things down to a simple explanation… not only for my readers, but for me! lol I hate technical explanations.

    Hey I see that you offer a system on how to make acne go away (or better). My nephew is 19 and having some issues with that. He’s tried just about everything over the counter and nothing seems to help.

    Any tips I could pass along to him?

    Thanks

    Reply

  4. sanji Says:

    I think that the way you write it is more important than the other one. people nowadays love to share stuff, if your article is useful to them you’ll receive the love(backlinks).

    Reply

  5. Jaylyn Says:

    Hi John,

    I started listening and following you on NPC and bought your WordPress Defender book, which I believe happens to be the most thorough book written on the subject. I’ve shared your book with my 82 year old Mother, who was able to do everything you recommend. That says a great deal about your thought process, writing, and explanation of why and how to do things.

    She as well as I have shared your site with many and have said that you are the expert in the wordpress security world.

    Lately I have been too busy to keep up with, listen and read everything, however you are the one source I do make sure I listen to. This article is most informative.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

    Jaylyn

    Reply

    • John Hoff Says:

      Hi Jaylyn (lovely name),

      Thank you for that comment. It’s always nice to know what I’m doing is making an impact and I’m still in awe that your 82 year old mother is doing all that stuff online… that’s awesome.

      Glad to see a fellow NPC user over here. It’s a specialized training we get, isn’t it?

      Reply

  6. Keith Davis Says:

    Hi John
    Interesting article.
    Duplicate content was one of the things that bothered me about wordpress i.e. categories, dates etc are all duplicate content.

    Fortunately most SEO plugins now have a canonical setting, which allows you to set the original page as the canonical one.

    BTW – great vid as ever.
    Well explained with a great example.

    Reply

  7. John Hoff Says:

    Hey Keith.

    Yeah the WordPress community has made leaps and bounds when it comes to dealing with duplicate content, and Google has been giving us the tools to work with it as well.

    Glad you liked the video. I always feel like I can explain myself better in video.

    Reply

    • Keith Davis Says:

      You have a great style on video John – relaxes and natural.
      I think that my first contact with you was via one of your videos.
      How time flies.

      Reply

  8. Jenny @ BingoBabe.co.uk Says:

    Cool post. Duplicate content is something i always wondered about.

    My take on it is this: Google will try and find the original source or the most important source. Therefore you want to be seen as the original by getting spidered first and getting a number of signals to the page to validate it. IE links, tweets, likes.

    If you do all of that i think Google will not mix you up with a scraper or someone else and you should get the traffic you deserve.

    Reply

  9. Nathan Says:

    Funny thing is, I have over 100 autoblogs set up, that I’m receiving more traffic since panda, than EVER!

    Reply

    • John Hoff Says:

      Hi Nathan,

      That is interesting, but a good point to make that nothing is 100% set in life, right (meaning Panda’s effect). Out of curiosity, can you share some statistics in regards to traffic before and after Panda? Google Analytics screenshots would be very helpful.

      Thanks

      Reply

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