As seems so often the case these days every time Google launches another update to its collection of algorithms people become increasingly worried about duplicate content penalties. So I thought I’d quickly clarify a few points with regards to the current stance on duplicate content.

First of all, let me make this as plain as Google always have done – there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. Google has always vehemently denied they have ever employed such a penalty. However, on the flip side if you have original content then you are more likely to have your site ranked higher.

There is a world of difference between being actively penalised for having duplicate content, and simply not being actively boosted up the rankings. So if you see other people’s sites rising up above yours, that doesn’t mean that your site is necessarily being penalised, but simply that other people’s sites are deemed to be of more value than yours.

Let’s take news stories as a perfect example. If you’re writing about the latest developments in iPhone technology then you may be tempted to simply lift wholesale any press release or news story published by a notable and trustworthy source. That gives your site something interesting for your readers, and the external links to a reputable site won’t harm either.

But from Google’s point of view this adds no value whatsoever. There is no value added either to the original news story or to your site, and so inevitably what will happen is that whilst your site won’t actively be penalised, you will find that other sites running their own original twists on that story perform much better than yours.

So whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with publishing duplicate content on your site (as long as said content is being duplicated legally and with the permission of the original publisher or source) it won’t help your cause in any active way and will drain authority from other pages on your website.

stampSo what’s the answer?

Talk to many people and they’ll happily suggest that what you do is to rewrite the news story in your own words. However, this is bad advice. Because if all you are doing is picking up a news story published on a site that’s already crawled and listed, Google will be able to tell that there is no original content at all. Yes, it might not be duplicated, and the wording might be original, but the content, statistics, facts, figures, names and so on will all be the same.

So how can you overcome this problem without making news up? The answer is to make sure that you always add to the news story. This might be by adding your own twist, your own view or angle, contacting someone relevant or affected and getting their view, or tying it in to local issues or concerns. If you can add something new and original to the news story then this gives you a much better chance of standing out from the crowd and finding your site listed higher up the results.

The advice is not to duplicate where you can help it, but also not to simply rewrite content if you are not an expert in the field, and have nothing original to add.

This is true whether you’re looking at news stories, blog posts or content. Originality is important, but that doesn’t just apply to the wording. It must also apply to the focus, angle, subject or approach too, and this must also not simply be added for the sake of it.

I hope this helps to clarify the current position on duplicate content, if you have any questions or thoughts please leave a comment below.


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