18 Jan

Avoiding Duplicate Content Penalties

Duplicate Content Penalties

By: James Peggie and Dylan Downhill
Originally Published: Jan 18, 2005
Updated: Jan 30, 2005

Fact: Google penalizes page rank when it determines that content is duplicated by other sites.

If your rankings have slipped then it’s possible that your page contents have been duplicated causing a duplicate content penalty. Google doesn’t want multiple copies of the same content cluttering their results pages so they will devalue all but one of the copies of the content based on the age of the page.

Don’t Let Other People Benefit From Your Hard Work

Writing good quality content for your site is hard work! If someone has not paid you for your work (either with money or with a reciprocal link or other agreed payment) it is stolen!

Checking For Duplicate Content

It is a chore to check for duplicated content but luckily someone has come to the rescue – www.copyscape.com. Just by entering the URL of the page you want to check, Copyscape will return a list of pages in the Google index that contain text also present on your site, or for more detail you can subscribe to their Copysentry service.

No one knows how much duplication can result in a penalty, if it’s 10 words, 20, a paragraph or a whole page. You will need to make a decision on whether you believe you have a problem. A lot of time your marketing text will appear as a description for a link to your site – this probably won’t be counted as duplicate content. If your site’s position in the search engines has recently plummeted then duplicate content might be the cause or if a competitor is found for text or an article you wrote then you may also have an issue.

What To Do With Duplicate Content?

If you are hosting someone else’s content and you’re seeing duplicate content put a ‘robots’ meta tag in the head section to stop the search engine spiders indexing that page. If you’re tempted to modify the content then you will need to get the original author’s permission. A much better option would be to take the central idea of the article and write a completely new article using your own text.

If you’re concerned that someone has duplicated your content, write to the website owner who has published your content requesting they remove the offending text, you can mention that you will report the matter to Google under their DMCA guidelines.

If the email does not elicit a response or your content is still visible then report the duplicate content issue to Google under the DMCA guidelines they provide at http://www.google.com/dmca.html

If all else fails, change your copy of the duplicated text. Keeping your copy fresh is essential so make the best of a bad situation and write even better copy.

Tips To Ensure You Avoid Duplicated Content

  • Put a copyright notice on the bottom of the page and warn that you check for duplicated content.
  • If you have multiple domains that point to the same site content take advantage of permanent redirection. (301 status report) This informs the spider of the redirection so they understand you are not putting up duplicate content.
  • When you have an article to get republished on other sites send them in a text format. (Articles are a great way to quality incoming links by the way!) This ensures that when the article is republished it will be reformatted and viewed by the search spiders as original.

27 thoughts on “Avoiding Duplicate Content Penalties

  1. Yes, but what is internet, getting pieces of information and making them at one place (aggregating) for others to see.
    when i did copyscape search on my site , i found that the bits of news i had put, was also in some 10 more websites, are we all being penalised ??
    I don’t believe in penalising for duplicate content.

    • It is a hard problem for any search engine to crack – who was the original content writer and who should get the credit for the work. Currently it seems to be based on where they saw it first and the reliability of the sites involved. Simple content aggregaters are easy enough to spot, its the ones who modify your content just enough to pass duplicate content checks that’s the problem. Your only come back is to file a DMCA report against infringing sites. What I tell my clients is if the site gives you a link back then leave it alone, if they don’t then file a DMCA against them.

  2. I do not subscribe to the view that “there is no duplicate content penalty” mainly as I have seen it happen.

    Also, the site that had copied the content was left alone and the “victim site” was blacklisted from Google and Yahoo.

    It took substantial effort and negotiation to resolve the situation, which meant that the site was out of the engines for 4 months!

    Had our client been genuinely guilty, it is extremely unlikey that this penalty would have been lifted.

    Duplicate if you dare but I’m not taking the chance again.

  3. In regards to the duplicate content part of this blog post, I personally use the http://www.copygator.com website to find and stop duplicate content:

    1. it’s automated and brings me results instead of me searching for duplicated content. All i had to do was submit my feed and it started monitoring my feed showing me who’s republished my articles on the web.

    2. i get notified by email so it contacts me when it finds copies of my articles online.

    3. i use their image badge feature to alert me directly on my website when my content is being lifted.

    4. it’s a free service as opposed the “per page” cost of copyscape/copysentry.

  4. Duplicate content-what a problem for guys like myself who are not very good at blogging and even like it less,to be able to come up with my own content it’s like trying to reinvent the wheel.So were does a person find the information on those affiliate products we are marketing, do I go out and buy every item I am selling heck I will be in the poor house.

    • in the post, it appears that Meta Description is not used anyomre for SERP ranks. But it clearly is still important because on some requests Google will display that just under the page name, so it can help you increase the CTR to your pages. > > On Page SEO: Meta-data 1/2

    • Your best bet is to do some searches for your keyword and see if any article sites show up. If you’re very niche look for other keywords. If the site shows you up know it isn’t banned, it has reasonable authority. This doesn’t mean it passes link juice but you should submit anyway.

  5. I’m concerned about duplicate content within one of our sites (not a blog), obviously all pages are more or less related to the same subject and have many similarities, yet they are different for the users. I haven’t seen it do anything negative (yet anyway) to the site, but now I’m wondering if I should start adding no index on some of the pages.

  6. There is lots of webmasters who use other popular site’s content to make their own sites popular. But it is wrong. If you are using other site’s content then you must be declare that the content is taken from xyz… sites. Even google does not like to duplicate content and you may be banned in Google search engine.

  7. hi,

    Google will penalizes the duplicate content because Google will not give importance to duplicate content sites in terms of search engine ranking and visibility.


  8. Have just seen someone blatantly copying my article and stripping all links and replacing with his own! To make matters worse he’s ranking higher than me! Have done the DMCA submission to Google but I doubt they’ll do anything. This guy has no contact info on his site (even though has Adsense on it) and whois info is protected. Annoying!!!

  9. You’ll right.. sometimes i’ve tried hard to make some unique article but another blog copy it and get more traffic from it without link or trackback. Thanks for share

  10. Thank you!
    After reading this article and comments, I tried checking one of my sites on copyscape. I was surprised to find somebody had copied the four key pages almost verbatim, only changing the company name.

    He put it on Weebly, which is some kind of free page site. I will send him an email asking him to take down the pages and if not hopefully Weebly will shut down the site.

    Any suggestions on what I should do if he won’t take down the plagiarized pages?


  11. Hey Dylan,

    Thanks for the response to my earlier comment. I found two sites that had copied several of my pages verbatim, changing only the company name.

    I filed a DMCA with Godaddy (hosting) and with Weebly. It worked! Both sites were taken down within about 36 hours. An owner of one site wrote to me and apologized that he did not know that his site designer had copied my pages. He said that he would personally write replacements.

    Thank you for the article on this page! It certainly helped me.

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