Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on April 21st, 2009

The Duplicate Content Myth: Closing the Perception Gap

Every culture is built upon myths and legends. They are stories of deep spiritual meaning, lessons in moderation of materials and emotion, and explanations of the supernatural and unknown. They embody the very soul and spirit of every human aspiration. Myths can also have flair for the dramatic and serve as a warning of consequence to those who fall victim to their vices and upset the natural balance of humanity. Most mythology is derived from embellishment or complete fiction, but people still want to believe in them.

The search engine optimization and marketing industry is an emerging culture that is developing its own myths and legends, to which DrupalCon and PubCon can attest. Guy Kawasaki and Matt Cutts could have led a Twitter-drunk revolution out the front door of PubCon South 2009! (Given that mob would have never made it passed the weather) There is a myth that has risen to a buzz in the SEO “chat-mosphere”, turning a fine line into a gray area for some webmasters who are worried that they will incur a ‘duplicate content penalty’. Before it becomes a legend, it’s time to “demythify” duplicate content.

Closing The Perception Gap

The Google gods may have you lighting incense every time you write a blog post in fear of penalties, or sacrificing bacon, egg and cheese breakfast tacos to appease their spiders. I’ll get to the point because my breakfast is eyeballing the “easy” button. You may be taking precautionary measures to avoid duplicate content penalties that are completely legal and affects your site’s ranking. But in the spirit of any news story, we’ll give you the juicy stuff at the end. Let’s cover what we know will get you banished.

If you are copying content directly from another site without any added value, or generously poaching from a site, you will bring down the wrath of Google upon your site. You also cannot have significantly duplicate content that existing on multiple pages, subdomains, or domains. Avoid any affiliate programs with little or no original content. Most sites will participate in an affiliate program, but they avoid any affiliate programs that have little or no original content. After you find a good affiliate program, make sure your site is adding value. Provide relevant and unique content that drives traffic to your site for more content.

Most site owners that are stressing out about duplicate content aren’t worried about poachers or domain farms. They are talking about having multiple URLs on one domain that link to the same content. This type of duplicate content will not cause any penalties, but it will affect your SEO. The Google gods won’t get you unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be “deceptive” and “manipulate” search results. If your duplicate content isn’t malicious, then you will be fine. This type of duplicate content can be common. When you hear people chat-mosphering about this type affecting a site, it’s because of how the search engines work with its structure, not because of any 'duplicate content penalty'. Stay tuned in this week as we discuss other insights into the mythology surrounding duplicate content.

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