It has become popular in recent years to discuss what has come to be called Google’s “duplicate content penalty.” But the truth is, and most serious SEOs – the ones who are actually good at it – will tell you the same the thing. The idea of Google having a duplicate content penalty is a myth. It doesn’t exist.
How The Myth Of Duplicate Content Got Started
Google came out with a policy awhile back (forgive me if I don’t look for the exact web page and link to it) that effectively said that they would not index multiple copies of the same document. The issue came up because searchers would conduct a search and get a first page full of results containing the same article on different web pages. It happened because article marketing was reaching its apex and many article marketers had figured out that they could have their articles indexed multiple times and receive tons of traffic from a few searches. It was good for article marketers but bad for searchers.
News for the uninformed: Google’s first concern is the needs of searchers!
A few savvy, if not seedy, marketers began calling this the duplicate content “penalty” because, it was argued, that if Google was denying you a ranking for content that you deserved based on a particular search query then you were being penalized. In actuality, its a misnomer.
What Really Happens To Duplicate Content
Shortly after the myth saw its beginning some marketers started teaching that Google ranked the first instance of an article and none of the others, but this isn’t true either. The fact is Google reserves the right to show in the search results any web page that best answers (according to Google) a searcher’s query. In other words, what is most relevant to a searcher’s need based on Google’s interpretation of their search query.
This determination is based on a number of factors. Age of a content page is one factor. But the number and quality of back links could influence the outcome as well. In fact, any of the normal algorithmic factors that determine how Google returns results for a search query are the same factors used to determine which page among many with the same content will appear in the search results (and in what order). The difference is, if there are multiple pages with the same exact content then some of those pages will not be indexed, or may not be shown for a particular search query.
Here are some qualifiers:
- A page of content could appear for a search result ahead of other similar pages but fall behind those same pages for another search query.
- Other content on a web page could be a factor in determining where your page falls in the line up for a search query.
- If your page appears spammy in any way then that will count against it.
- Age, domain name and back links are still factors you should pay attention to.
In essence, there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. Every web page will be considered for search results based on the same algorithmic factors as every other page. Be original – in content, design and presentation – and you’ll always have an edge.