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When is Duplicate Content Okay?

On first glance, most webmasters & marketers would answer that question with “never”. However, there is a more thorough answer that our Texas SEO company has discovered: Duplicate content is acceptable when it isn’t manipulative, deceptive or qualifies as spam. That may seem controversial to some, but let’s be honest: Not all duplicate content is meant to be deceptive. Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, explained further in the most recent installment of his Q&A videos.

When Duplicate Content is Spam

According to Cutts, the biggest duplicate content problems are sites that have “scraped” (copied and pasted) content off other websites. Second to that, sites that have republished articles from other sites in the same industry are also candidates for web spam. Those two types of duplicate content websites are the most likely to be ruled out in search engine rankings. “It’s certainly the case that if you do nothing but duplicate content, and you are doing in an abusive, deceptive, malicious, or a manipulative way, we do reserve the right to take action on spam,” Cutts said.

What Duplicate Content isn’t Deceptive?

The most logical question, then, is “What is an example of duplicate content that isn’t manipulative or deceptive?” Cutts gave one great example: attributed quotes. “People will quote a paragraph of a blog and then link to the blog, that sort of thing,” he said. “So it’s not the case that every single time there’s duplicate content it’s spam, and if we made that assumption the changes that happened as a result would end up probably hurting our (Google’s) search quality rather than helping our search quality.”

In fact, Cutts said, “It’s important to realize that if you look at content on the web, something like 25 or 30 percent of all of the web’s content is duplicate content.” Logically, we can conclude that some of it is non-deceptive, non-spam content that is quoting relevant information and attributing it to the original source. We can also be certain that many Terms & Conditions pages are comprised of duplicate content; after all, most small companies do not have an attorney to draft an original Terms & Conditions page.

No Duplicate Content Penalty?

Surprisingly, Cutts also implied that there is no “official” duplicate content penalty, but the unintended consequences of having duplicate content serves as a stern warning from Google. He clarified, “Google looks for duplicate content and where we can find it, we often try to group it all together and treat it as of it’s just one piece of content…suppose we’re starting to return a set of search results and we’ve got two pages that are actually kind of identical. Typically we would say, ‘OK, rather than show both of those pages since they’re duplicates, let’s just show one of those pages and we’ll crowd the other result out.’”

He continued, “For the most part, duplicate content isn’t really treated as spam. It’s just treated as something we need to cluster appropriately and we need to make sure that it ranks correctly.” If you are the site that is responsible for the duplication, then it is safe to assume that you will be the one who is “crowded out.”

How does Google handle duplicate content?

Video, courtesey of Google Webmaster Help

If Duplicate Content is a Concern…

If you are concerned about the risks of duplicate content on your website, you need the help of an experienced SEO company. Contact Crest Media, a Texas SEO company with a history of helping websites stay as high quality as possible, for a free consultation.

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