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Duplicate Content Penalty – The Facts

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Posted by steve on July 17, 2011 at 6:08 am

In this post, I want to address a certain piece of misinformation that is being spread widely among Internet marketers. Part of the problem lies with article spinning tools and how these programs are usually advertised.

What I am talking about is the so-called “duplicate content penalty”. Allegedly, Google doesn’t like multiple copies of the same content to be spread out all across the web or across several pages of the same site. If the Google bots finds duplicate content, apparently some type of penalty is applied. Even though this penalty is mentioned very often, it’s very difficult to find any kind of description of what this penalty does, exactly and who it applies to.

Of course, it’s all just a myth. Luckily, it can easily be disproved. Here are some simple examples:

Press Releases:

When an important press release is issued, the story gets picked up by countless news sites, big and small. Typically, the same news item will also be picked up by many related blogs. Very often, most or even all of the original press release text is copied and republished on all of the websites and blogs. It’s clear to see that Google doesn’t care about duplicate-content in these cases, as news sites and blogs are not penalized.

Song Lyrics:

How many sites exist, that let you look up the lyrics to your favourite songs? And how often are famous song lyrics quoted on websites and discussed in forums? In every instance, the song-texts are unchanged and identical, in other words: duplicates. It’s plain to see that sites like lyric databases are not being punished by Google.

Viral Content And Memes:

Viral content and memes are a huge part of the Internet and whenever a joke or video or motivational quote catches on, it can get published tens of thousands of times, all across the web. Again, a clear example of duplicate content and no punishment in sight.

Despite this evidence, the myths about the duplicate content penalty are alive and well, and it might be due to a mis-interpretation of the Google search results.

A Misunderstanding:

One problem is that if you search for a piece of content that as many duplicates, the standard Google search results will only display one or two instances of this content. You can click the button in the search results to see all of the duplicates listed. The reason for the omission of some duplicates from the search results is that Google strives to display diverse and relevant results. Displaying dozens or hundreds of duplicate entries would not be very useful for the person doing the search. However, the sites that are not being listed are still indexed by Google and links from those sites still “count”, so there is no actual penalty in play.

The problem is that it’s in the interest of many producers of article spinning tools to keep the duplicate content myth alive. Fear sells and if you believe that you must spin and rewrite any content you want to distribute or suffer punishment from the big G, you are more likely to make a purchase.

Article spinning does have it’s benefits and purposes, if it’s done correctly, but a duplicate content penalty has nothing to do with it.

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