A lot of people are worried about duplicate content. Sometimes it can seem like mass hysteria.
OMG, will that paragraph I copied and pasted from my favorite website last week count against me?
If I have articles floating around at 50 article directories online can I still use one for my blog?
Will my websites suffer if I put the same article on two of them?
You get the idea.
Well, Adam Lasnik has a great post on duplicate content and I highly recommend you reading it. For those of you who don’t have the time, here’s a summary:
Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Most of the time when we see this, it’s unintentional or at least not malicious in origin: forums that generate both regular and stripped-down mobile-targeted pages, store items shown (and — worse yet — linked) via multiple distinct URLs, and so on. In some cases, content is duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or garner more traffic via popular or long-tail queries.
The most common duplicate content that is malicious is where people attempt to manipulate the search engines by adding several websites to a single server and using the same content. These type of “blackhatters” are trying to get over by building more than one website with the same content and ranking highly for each website. Search engines caught on to that game and now penalize websites that meet that criteria. If you’re not doing that, then you probably don’t have anything to worry about. There are lesser, minor offenses that could get you in trouble but if you correct those quickly then you shouldn’t have any problem.
Translations aren’t duplicate content. In other words, if you have the same article or website content written in English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Chinese, then you’re OK. Lots of power to you. Another snippet from Adam Lasnik’s beautiful treatise:
Similarly, you shouldn’t worry about occasional snippets (quotes and otherwise) being flagged as duplicate content.
Search engines realize that bloggers and others tend to copy each other’s words in short bits and comment on those. It’s the nature of the Web. In other words, that’s the name of the game. Don’t worry. As long as you include your own comments to the snippets that you borrow, and the snippets aren’t too long, then you should be fine. One thing to think about is when you add your own comments, try to add as much as you borrow. In other words, make at least 50% of your content original content. You’re better off with more, especially if you are borrowing for your website content rather than your blog, but this is a good principle to follow. 65% to 75% original content should keep you safe.
So what does Adam say about penalties for duplicate content? Good question. Read the snippet:
However, we prefer to focus on filtering rather than ranking adjustments … so in the vast majority of cases, the worst thing that’ll befall webmasters is to see the “less desired” version of a page shown in our index.
If it’s obvious that you’re not trying to game or spam the search engines then you don’t have a lot to worry about. The guys who are getting kicked in the shins are the guys who are trying to get over in some way. Innocent mistakes are easily rectified with few serious ramifications. The search engines adjust. They always have. If you’re not doing anything intentionally wrong, you don’t really have anything to worry about.
Does that mean Google, Yahoo, or MSN don’t make mistakes? Of course not. Occasionally, a website might be penalized when nothing was done wrong. Or someone might steal your content and the search engine rewards the thief instead of you. Don’t take it personally. There is a way to fix that problem. It’s called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and you can submit a request to the search engines to recognize you as the rightful owner of the content.
If you want to understand duplicate content better and read up on ways to fix or prevent any such issues, read Adam Lasnik’s post on that topic. Realize that this is a starting point. If you need more information then do some research and, of course, you can always send me an e-mail with a question. I’ll be glad to help.