There Is No Such Thing as a Duplicate Content Penalty

First, I want you to understand that I am NOT giving you license to steal other people’s content. There ARE repercussions to using duplicate content, but it is not a penalty per se.

There continues to be a lot of misinformation surrounding the so-called „Duplicate Content“ penalty. I actually have one client who was extremely reluctant to start repurposing his articles and distributing them on article directory sites because he was concerned about getting hit with the duplicate content penalty.

There is a myth floating around – and it has been for some time – that if a webmaster publishes the same content on his site that appears on another site (for instance, by publishing an article on his blog and also submitting it to Ezine Articles) then his website will get penalized for duplicate content and banned from the search engines altogether.

Quite frankly, that’s just true.

It IS true that the Google guidelines clearly state „Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.“ However, the guidelines go on to say „Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.“

So, in plain English, what exactly does all that mean? First, Google will not BAN your site for publishing duplicate content. If you publish an article on your blog and 4 months later you forget and re-publish the same article, your entire site will not disappear from the SERPs.

Likewise, if you publish an article on your blog and then submit the article to online directories, your entire site will not disappear from the SERPs.

Additionally, if you have an HTML version of your article and also offer a PDF downloadable version of the same article, your entire site will not disappear from the SERPs.

I hope you see where I’m going here. Google will not „kick out“ your website because you’ve published duplicate content.

However, if you do publish duplicate content on your site, Google will most likely list only one page in the SERPs. When the spider encounters duplicate content on your site, it will try to determine which pages more authoritative and that is the page that will be displayed in the search results. If you do publish duplicate content on the same website, only one instance of that content will be displayed.

If you would like to control which version of your content gets displayed, you can specify it in your site map and your robots file. If your site has been rebuilt, use 301 redirects instead of duplicating the content. And be consistent in your linking strategy, since and will be seen as different pages.

And there’s no need to avoid distributing your articles online, however, you do want to syndicate carefully. According to the guidelines, „Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer.“

In a recent search of one of my own articles, 4 different versions were displayed on page one of the SERPs:

If you are not doing anything malicious to „trick“ the search engines, if you are not scrapping content from other sites, and if you are publishing responsibly with the intent of aiding your human visitors, chances are you do not need to worry about duplicate content issues.

About the Author

Karen Scharf is an Indianapolis marketing consultant who works with small business owners and entrepreneurs. She offers several whitepapers, free reports and checklists, including her FREE Can-Spam checklist and FREE email pre-flight checklist to ensure your emails get delivered, get opened and get read. Download your copies at