Google Has A Lot To Say About Duplicate Content These Days

    December 22, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Duplicate content has been an issue in search engine optimization for many years now, yet there is still a lot of confusion around what you can and can’t do with it, in terms of staying on Google’s good side.

In fact, even in 2013, Googles’ head of webspam Matt Cutts has had to discuss the issue in several of his regular Webmaster Help videos because people keep asking questions and looking for clarification.

Do you believe your site has been negatively impacted by duplicate content issues in the past? If so, what were the circumstances? Let us know in the comments.

Back in the summer, Cutts talked about duplicate content with regards to disclaimers and Terms and Conditions pages.

“The answer is, I wouldn’t stress about this unless the content that you have is duplicated as spammy or keyword stuffing or something like that, you know, then we might be – an algorithm or a person might take action on – but if it’s legal boiler plate that’s sort of required to be there, we might, at most, might not want to count that, but it’s probably not going to cause you a big issue,” Cutts said at the time.

“We do understand that lots of different places across the web do need to have various disclaimers, legal information, terms and conditions, that sort of stuff, and so it’s the sort of thing where if we were to not rank that stuff well, then that would probably hurt our overall search quality, so I wouldn’t stress about it,” he said.

The subject of duplicate content came up again in September, when Cutts took on a question about e-commerce sites that sell products with “ingredients lists” exactly like other sites selling the same product.

Cutts said, “Let’s consider an ingredients list, which is like food, and you’re listing the ingredients in that food and ingredients like, okay, it’s a product that a lot of affiliates have an affiliate feed for, and you’re just going to display that. If you’re listing something that’s vital, so you’ve got ingredients in food or something like that – specifications that are 18 pages long, but are short specifications, that probably wouldn’t get you into too much of an issue. However, if you just have an affiliate feed, and you have the exact same paragraph or two or three of text that everybody else on the web has, that probably would be more problematic.”

“So what’s the difference between them?” he continued. “Well, hopefully an ingredients list, as you’re describing it as far as the number of components or something probably relatively small – hopefully you’ve got a different page from all the other affiliates in the world, and hopefully you have some original content – something that distinguishes you from the fly-by-night sites that just say, ‘Okay, here’s a product. I got the feed and I’m gonna put these two paragraphs of text that everybody else has.’ If that’s the only value add you have then you should ask yourself, ‘Why should my site rank higher than all these hundreds of other sites when they have the exact same content as well?’”

He went on to note that if the majority of your content is the same content that appears everywhere else, and there’s nothing else to say, that’s probably something you should avoid.

It all comes down to whether or not there’s added value, which is something Google has pretty much always stood by, and is reaffirmed in a newer video.

Cutts took on the subject once again this week. This time, it was in response to this question:

How does Google handle duplicate content and what negative effects can it have on rankings from an SEO perspective?

“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,” said Cutts. “There’s man page for Linux, you know, all those sorts of things. So duplicate content does happen. People will quote a paragraph of a blog, and then link to the blog. That sort of thing. So it’s not the case that every single time there’s duplicate content, it’s spam. If we made that assumption, the changes that happened as a result would end up, probably, hurting our search quality rather than helping our search quality.”

“So the fact is, Google looks for duplicate content and where we can find it, we often try to group it all together and treat it as if it’s one piece of content,” he continued. “So most of the time, 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, you know what? 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.’ And if you get to the bottom of the search results, and you really want to do an exhaustive search, you can change the filtering so that you can say, okay, I want to see every singe page, and then you’d see that other page.”

But for the most part, duplicate content is not really treated as spam.,” he said. “It’s just treated as something that we need to cluster appropriately. We need to make sure that it ranks correctly, but duplicate content does happen. Now, that said, it’s certainly the case that if you do nothing but duplicate content, and you’re doing in in abusive, deceptive or malicious or a manipulative way, we do reserve the right to take action on spam.”

He mentions that someone on Twitter was asking how to do an RSS autoblog to a blog site, and not have that be viewed as spam.

“The problem is that if you are automatically generating stuff that’s coming from nothing but an RSS feed, you’re not adding a lot of value,” said Cutts. “So that duplicate content might be a little more likely to be viewed as spam. But if you’re just making a regular website, and you’re worried about whether you have something on the .com and the .co.uk, or you might have two versions of your Terms and Conditions – an older version and a newer version – or something like that. That sort of duplicate content happens all the time on the web, and I really wouldn’t get stressed out about the notion that you might have a little bit of duplicate content. As long as you’re not trying to massively copy for every city and every state in the entire United States, show the same boiler plate text….for the most part, you should be in very good shape, and not really have to worry about it.”

In case you’re wondering, quoting is not considered duplicate content in Google’s eyes. Cutts spoke on that late last year. As long as you’re just quoting, using an excerpt from something, and linking to the original source in a fair use kind of way, you should be fine. Doing this with entire articles (which happens all the time) is of course a different story.

Google, as you know, designs its algorithms to abide by its quality guidelines, and duplicate content is part of that, so this is something you’re always going to have to consider. It says right in the guidelines, “Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”

They do, however, offer steps you can take to address any duplicate content issues that you do have. These include using 301s, being consistent, using top-level domains, syndicating “carefully,” using Webmaster Tools to tell Google how you prefer your site to be indexed, minimizing boilerplate repetition, avoiding publishing stubs (empty pages, placeholders), understanding your conteent management system and minimizing similar content.

Google advises blocking it from indexing duplicate content though, so think about that too. This is because it won’t be able to detect when URLs point to the same content, and will have to treat them as separate pages. Use the canonical link element.

Have you been affected by how Google handles duplicate content in any way? Please share.

  • http://geekaudit.com/ Sumit

    I still feel, Duplicate content is a major isssue in wordpress sites, as there we have seprate pages for category, tags, author and archive. so does google understand this scenario in case of duplicate content?

  • http://doveglobalmedia.com DGM

    But how about this scenario:

    Client with 100s of unique pages of services/info and a blog to keep readers informed but applies proper attributions – would this effect the rank of other pages that are organically optimized and rank in local search? So far it has and hasn’t and bounces me around for a few keywords here and there.

  • http://doveglobalmedia.com DGM

    Failed to mention that some of the blog articles were taken from other sites simply as information to the readers with proper credits & sources attached.

  • glover

    Thank you, Matt Cutts! Can I ask you to make us be confused more? Because now we are totally confused. But how we understand we allways must create excellent content and link it to wikipedia and google?
    Or we can have 25-30% of dublicated content on website? Or we need to register as news media to put dublicate content? Or we need to index google search snippets and put it on our pages (because it not dublicate), or we need to use clustering to share our article across many websites? Or???

    Thank you, Matt Cutts, you confirm main idea what everything work via the ass in your algorithm and here is no any rules. If you wake up in bad mood, you will add some additional subroutine to tank few more billions of websites!

  • http://www.historycentral.com Marc Schulman

    We have over the past years been very negatively impacted by duplicate content. First from a sub site on navy history. We had in the 1990’s OCR’d the US government History of American Fighting Ships. We created a CD rom and then in 1996-98 put it all on the web. Sometime in the past 10 years other people including the US Navy did the same, so when Google started knocking people for duplicate content we were hurt-even though our content was up at least 10 years before anyone else. The same has gone for primary source documents on our site. We have been digitizing documents for over 20 years, but many of the documents we have exist other places on the web- so we got dinged for that. Five year ago we had a 6 rating today its between a 2-3 and we have never stuffed content played games etc etc.
    If you look at our site we have more original content then almost any other history site, but we also have some duplicate content- We have been on the web since 1996 and yet we are not ranked well by Google in most cases.

  • http://www.nessseo-scotland.co.uk/ NessSEO Scotland

    I get Matt’s point about legal boiler plate, etc but my concern is content on a lot of the websites I work on. I have a lot of accommodation providers and it’s difficult to come up with completely original content as they all pretty much offer the same thing i.e. services, breakfast, etc.

    • http://mine-bitcoins-online.webs.com/ CoinMiner

      “Add Value”, that is your answer to the duplicate content for accommodation, breakfast etc.
      A unique review would be a great way to add value without adding duplicate content. Don’t recycle other people reviews, some unique, useful content is required.

  • http://www.askbeen.com Gaurav


    I have a big question in my mind and i am really confused.

    There is a good web industry for Job Sites. For example there are 10 job sites in a country and they have 10 clients each. and in 10 there are 5 clients which are same for every job site. for example i have a vacancy and i have registration on all 10 job sites and i post same jobs to every website and all 10 website will have same content. then this is also a duplicate content. then how Google will give priority? i am sure google will give priority to that site which have most traffic and social engagement. but i think this is not a right solution? What about job sites which have less traffic but the same client post same job to all site? How google justify duplicate content

  • http://www.askbeen.com AskBeen.com

    i also have same question for website who provide questions and answers. for example a person have a question and he post same question on 5 differenet questions and answers websites then how google justify the duplicate content? this means low quality sites never can come on top without investing millions of $? Kindly clarify me what exactly google meant to be duplicate content

  • http://www.algarveaccessibility.com Andy

    I just don’t get it.. I seen my websites google page rank drop to 1 so I’ve given up on trying to please them & concentrate on other search engines now.

    • http://Www.bestcarhire.com Malcolm McNeill

      I think that sounds like a wise strategy Andy – I can’t help thinking that Google will self destruct at some point. In the future

  • http://snel-kilo-afvallen.nl/ Afvallen

    Never had any problems with duplicate content.
    I think they can’t stop it anyway, article spinning works to well.

  • john

    Sellers on auction sites take store`s hard written content and duplicates it each time auction repeats.

    Selling directories pick content up and duplicate it.

    Google crowds original from results.

    Google actually has date on original years before auction site published it.

    Ebay are great about looking after this once discovered. Some auction sites are basically nasty.

    Some manufacturers on offer sites are also an issue.

  • http://www.hoveringhelicopter.com mike

    Just more confusion. What’s the point of the publisher, authorship and original content links in the meta-tags then?

  • http://www.risnerwebdesign Norman Risner

    If you get some content from elsewhere on the internet to post on your website, change some of the paragrahs around with your own words so it’s not a duplicate. This seems to work best for me and I’ve always maintained a good ranking with Google.

  • http://weborm.com george iov

    Yes, duplicate content is an issue for ranking. One of my old sites suffered heavily in 2010 (rank dropping from 4 to 0, out of indexes after that. Since, I am careful.

  • http://www.meninggikanbadan.web.id joecgp

    that’s right and i have been enjoy the new of google warning, i’ve lost 52blogspot in this week.. :(

  • http://www.orbis-travel.com Edward

    We have recently overhauled our website and tried to bring it into line with Google’s latest guidelines for websites. As far as I can tell, we have followed Google’s suggestions and requirements to the letter and our website has plummeted in the rankings. Prior to the update, most of our pages appeared in the top 10 pages of Google search results with our most popular pages within the top two or three.
    For the last three months (since the update), our search traffic amounts to around 4 or 5 views per day. We are in absolute despair and don’t know what to do next.

    • http://www.realitist.com BobP

      You forgot to overhaul your title and description which are a mess of adsense keywords gibberish. Your basic seo needs editing.

  • http://preporod.org Reuben

    Good old Cutts. Too much talk and not a point made. Tight lipped as always. If transparency, user experience and good information are Google’s rules, they are the worst in keeping to their own principles. We all depend on Google internetwise so let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the better.

  • http://1sureprofits.com vinton samms

    Hey guys,
    I think we should all stop trying to please and behave as is google is the owner of the internet. We should concentrate on pleasing our clients and customers from whom we earn our living. There are more creative ways of getting to them and engaging them. At the rate at which google is changing the rules, they are going to self-destruct soon!

  • http://www.realitist.com BobP

    In my opinion Google has spent way too much time in China losing vision of a free market place. The grounds keeper wants to be the gate keeper. I’m all for a level playing field, where everyone can complete fairly as opposed to regulating competition. Take the newspaper model, hundreds of papers subscribe to AP and most post stories verbatim. Some remove portions of the stories that may prove offensive to their readers such as who, what, when, where, race, creed, religion, etc. sending their readers scrambling to search for more complete versions of the story. Anyway, this duplicate content does not appear to be a problem, yet when a hundred webmasters take a free to use article off ezine magazine verbatim, OMG we have duplicate content even though the odds are slim to none anyone will ever see the same article twice. Now here comes Google saying only one can use the article, as if only one coffee shop can sell coffee online, all the rest are worthless bottom feeders who only want to provide their readers with quasi quality content just like the newspapers do from the wire services. So now Google is actually the cause of unreadable spun article crap everywhere, what, they didn’t think people would be competitive? Google go back to providing a level playing field and let the market choose the best websites.

  • http://www.watchmyarticles.com/ jackson joy

    so more confusion.What is the point for the content writer,when he write the content,pls share more information for this topic.

    I am Jhonson Mark writing to introduce my newly launched free article submission site – watchmyarticles.com. it is a free articles submission site,


  • http://www.aditmicrosys.com/ Hemang Shah

    Well I little bit of confusion about that well Some breaking news about technology and Internet world So I put this same content source to blogs with source link.. So It’s going to the Spam.

  • http://www.i-webtechsolutions.co.uk/ Ritesh

    Some eCommerce websites also contains the duplicate content in there product pages, such thing should be kept in mind while building the eCommerce based website.

    Google don’t like duplicate content, so its better to keep your content unique and fresh.

  • http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk Alex M.

    They could do with just being clear cut about it in a concise few sentences, rather than turning it all in to a great big presentation on YouTube. Everything’s always really complex with them, but then I guess this is the way the internet rolls, mon. There won’t be a backlash against Google as they remain too popular outside of business circles – it’s just important to adhere to the rules they sling out as best you can. Really, I think common sense and no spamming should suffice here.

  • http://www.visiting-cornwall.co.uk Visiting Cornwall

    My original website was designed for viewing on desktops and laptops.
    I now want it to be available for viewing on mobile devices in the appropriate format and am in the process of creating a set of mobile-friendly pages on the same URL but from a /mobile folder. The majority of the content will be the same as the desktop/laptop pages but with appropriate formatting for viewing on mobile devices. The design layout will differ due to the narrower display on the mobile devices but the significant areas of the text will be the same on both websites. Although both websites are accessed via the same URL, identification of a mobile device will redirect to the mobile pages.
    Would Google identify the mobile pages as duplication of the desktop/laptop pages and penalise the site as a whole?

  • http://karbashaat.info/forum/ james

    Large sites impossible to control members on topics

  • http://www.gbepackaging.com bob teal

    If you haven’t realized it you are working for Google but they are not paying you. Next week they will change everything again. Been happening for the last 15 years we have been in business. We have the lowest prices for packaging supplies whether Google sends us traffic or not. Want to save money forget Google and check us out.

  • john

    In my view, a lot of content theft is by made by google adwords sites.

    Google financial reward leads to the theft then the victim / creator of the content is penalised for duplicate content by google.

  • http://www.thoughtfulminds.org Swadesh Rohilla

    Being the founder of a content writing company, I can just say the power of original content and the penalties of duplicate content are so strong that Google can never overlook it. Original content was the need of hour, is the need of hour and will remain for ever,even emphasized by Matt Cutts.

  • Confused-SERPS

    There is no way to tell if my website is being punished by duplicate content, negative SEO, or some other negative indicator. For one of my sites, I’m number one in Bing and Yahoo for many search words and in any comparison with Google search results my content is better but I got hammered, ending up on page 20 for one set of search words and pushed back to page three for another. Google gives no indication as to why I got punished. I’m not doing any paid SEO or much SEO at all. I believed Matt Cutts when he stated that one should build the best content and user experience. I am finding that it is clearly not true. I wish Google could indicate what would cause me to go from number one on the first page one month and to page 20 in the next. When I compare my original insightful content, original photographs, video etc and get surpassed by sites which link to my content, refer to it as an authoritative site on the subject, I am completely baffled. There is no dialog with Google, they are not answerable to the community. They can crush your web site and you will never know why.

  • http://N.A Sumit

    I often pick the topics from question-answer websites and then I start writing on them. But If same topics are already written by someone else even content is totally changed but topics are same then which one get priority olde one or new one ?

    I have updated more than 100 articles in my blog and I was on top with few keywords but after penguin 2.1 I have lost my ranking. But I am still in confusion. What does Google want ? I think we should do one thing. When we have reached on first page then we should disallow the robot from our website. I also want to share self experience with you that I used to copy content from other website and used to publish that in my own website and trust me I was on top that time. I think Google software does not work properly and everything depends on matt cutts mood. If he is happy then he will make us happy otherwise he does not want us to be happy if he is in bad mood….

  • http://N.A Rahul Sharma

    I was having one website named http://www.bay-be.co.uk and I did really very hard work on that one and within 1 month I got a good result from google. My 25 keywords were in top 20 and I was very happy as well as client was happy too. When I checked ranking second time then I lost my 10 keywords out of them which were out of 100. I was using same techniques and I was very secure about duplicate content or link farm. But I am still in confusion what should I do. Despite publishing a lot of unique content I had lost my ranking. I think Google wants us to run a PPC campaign because they want to increase their income. Matt Cutts always updates something in his personal blog and I often read them also I always implement them. But no results. We should focus on another search engines.

  • http://www.town-court.com Traffic Court

    I’ve been disappointed Google doesn’t do more about duplicate content. We created a lot of original content and others have copied what we created. Google does little or nothing to penalize the copycats. We’ve made numerous attempts to let Google know and nothing works.

  • Google Blows

    Google is terrible at dealing with duplicate content and essentially put my thriving business out of business with its “automated” practices. I published a review site with all original content, and typically my content would rank very well in Google. But others stole my content, republished it, and then outranked me. It did not matter if they linked to my site, the content they borrowed, or did not provide any sort of attribution at all. Even worse, if it happened often enough in a short time frame, Google would drop ALL of my site so far down in their search results that my site would not be found by anyone. I would spend thousands of hours getting my content removed from other sites, and this would bring my site back up in the rankings. I’d start making money again, but then others would steal my content, and the whole process would repeat.

  • http://www.visiting-cornwall.co.uk Visiting Cornwall

    Google appear to be unable to distinguish between the site that has the original content and other sites that have copied that original content. If, somehow, they can make that distinction, then they have a problem with their algorithm as they seem to be penalising the site with original content but not the site that has copied that content. It is obvious that the site with original content should NOT be penalised and the copying site SHOULD be penalised.

  • http://www.privatejobalert.in Ashish

    I still feel, Duplicate content is a major isssue in wordpress sites, as there we have seprate pages for category, tags, author and archive. so does google understand this scenario in case of duplicate content?

  • http://www.bunbabergflorist.com.au Fran

    I have also noticed a drop in orders my web site had been on the top of Google since 2003 now a relay service has taken my spot also have noticed that the search has added an s to the geographical name even though it is not type in my web site doesn’t come up at all unless you hit refresh I have made a few changes to my wording so hopefully things will change for the better, I can only hope.

  • http://www.latestinworld.com abhishekchoudhary ar

    really copying other content is very bad. sometime people copy my content and get good rank with better seo from me that’s bad

  • http://www.intermart.co.nz Peter Hatherley

    Duplicate content is not necessary under any circumstances but strangely enough the word “copy” writing seems strangely connected. The point is that we subconsciously copy many phrases and sayings like “buy now”, “call now” etc, etc and very little is unique. The truth is that most writing is copied in terms of general phraseology but in Google’s eyes it remains a unique collection of phrases, words and sayings.

  • Adrian

    Hello my site is in adult cam industry is an whitelabel that got penalised for duplicate content i made it as much as unique i can for this industry custom text title descriptions and all… But all the models are from the mother site and google take that like a duplicate. I have a bounce rate of 12% wich mean that my site have a good retention rate every user of my site spend aproximately 30 minutes on it i dont understand why google dont use bounce rate and time spent on a site from a user to show a more acurate search result duplicate is also relevant but mot on all industries. Am i right?

  • http://sumitproductions.com/ Deepak Chauhan

    I have too many new and fresh website and the web content are also fresh, unique and quality base, but ranking is not improve. I think only web content is not an issue for better ranking result.

  • http://manifestyourdreams.biz Curt Bizelli

    Great tips! thanks, I often quote other blogs and link back but never copy the entire post so its great hearing that cleared up. :-)

  • http://resultbaba.in Sophia Wright

    ya totally Agree if your publishing duplicate article on your blog it will never get index in Google search if you want #1 Position then write an unique Content.

    • Anamika

      ya as you said content is king in google eye if you want to Rank in number 1 position you have to write an unique content and also it should be SEO Friendly.

  • Nathan Brook

    I think duplicate content in Blogger blogs can be the result of having different URLs point to the same content.

  • http://www.govtcareer.in/ India

    Duplicate content is not necessary under any circumstances but strangely enough the word “copy” writing seems strangely connected. The point is that we subconsciously copy many phrases and sayings like “buy now”, “call now” etc, etc and very little is unique. The truth is that most writing is copied in terms of general phraseology but in Google’s eyes it remains a unique collection of phrases, words and sayings. http://www.govtportal.in

  • http://theresultsjobs.com/ Hiren P Bhatt

    Nice article duplicate content is one type of spam. and google is definitely penalized copay content site. Government Job

  • Jordan

    You are right, I agree with you.