The Duplicate Content Debate
Today, I’m going to build some backlinks for my website. Here’s how I’m going to do it. I’m going to write a fantastic article. Then I’m going to take that article and submit to my top 20 favorite article directories. What’s that? You don’t think it’s a good idea? Well I do.
“B-b-b-but what about the duplicate content penalty?!” I can already hear you saying. “Won’t all that duplicate content cause Google and Matt Cutts to give your website an old fashioned Google-style smackdown?”
Hear ye, hear ye. Matt Cutts hath spoken, and spoketh many times hath he on the gnarly subject of duplicate content, what it is, what it isn’t, and what happens to those who breaketh his divine words (for those unititiated, Matt Cutts is a senior software engineer at Google who answers questions about Google’s algorithm on his personal blog and is generally referred to as Lord Cutts by SEO practitioners). So what exactly HAS Matt Cutts said on the topic of duplicate content? (the Lord Cutts thing is a joke, by the way) On Febuary 1, 2008, this post appeared on Matt Cutts’ blog that, for me, clears up the issue of duplicate content for all time. It’s worth a read if you have a minute.
For those who DON’T feel like reading it, however, I shall summarize. Every content that exists in more than one place on the internet is considered duplicate content. When the Googlebot crawls these pages it tags and identifies them as duplicate content. So what happens to this so-called duplicate content?
The theoretical answer (according to Matt Cutts anyway) is de-indexing. That means that the Google algorithm will determine which version of the content is the authority version and devalues or de-indexes the other versions. Is this really the case though? As an illustrative example, I suggest you go to Google and search for “Link Building: Is it Better to have an Ugly Duckling or a Beautiful Swan?”. How many indexed results do you find? This is an article written by a colleague of mine around 2 years ago. He published it to his blog and then syndicated it heavily, publishing it to numerous article directories and allowing re-publishing rights to many independent webmasters. How has Google responded? It has undoubtedly de-indexed and devalued at least SOME of the duplicate copies. For every one that is still up, however, there is a back-link with anchor text pointing to a target page. Back-links have been established.
This makes one point very clear. The only way the duplicate content ‘penalty’ could affect you is if you host the article on your own website as well. Notice in the example I used previously that Thefreelibrary.com is outranking my colleague’s personal website. Google has decided that website has the most authority related to his article and it is now outranking his original article source. For this reason, a duplicate content “best practices” policy should also ensure that content used onsite and offsite should be different. We here at the office would never use the same content on a client’s website to build their back-links. As the back-links themselves go, however, we’re happy sumbitting to dozens of article hosting websites. The very worst that could happen is that a few of them become de-indexed.
Duplicate content can never be totally eradicated. It’s a normal part of online content creation. News sources are the best example of this. How many instances of a single Associated Press article do you think exist on the internet at any one given time?
Because duplicate content is so natural, it can’t be ‘punished’. There is no ‘penalty’ for duplicate content. The worst that can happen is a de-indexing or devaluation of the content (which doesn’t even happen all the time).
So it therefore follows logically: Duplicate content is totally safe to use when constructing article backlinks, as long as you don’t use it on your own website (oh and by the way, it’s really bad manners to submit duplicate content as guest-blog posts).
I hope this clears up some of the confusion about duplicate content. Any further questions can be directed to me in the comments, and I’d be happy to answer them.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some back-links to build. Now where did I put that automatic article submitter…?
This is a Guest post :
David Fishman, blogger and search engine marketer lives and works in Atlanta, GA. He is an employee at Response Mine Interactive, a digital marketing agency offering online marketing solutions to new customer acquisition. His hobbies include link building, SEO, and operating his personal blog, where he writes about how to make sushi. Much thanks to ZK for this guest-post opportunity.