5 Steps to Avoid Google’s Duplicate Content Penalty

What is a duplicate content penalty? It is a penalty imposed when a search engine determines that your content or large blocks of your content matches previously published content. If it is determined that you are duplicating content in large quantities, your site ranking may be reduced or in severe cases, your site can be removed from search results!

The most common reason for a duplicate content penalty is TOO much cutting and pasting and this can cause a content penalty. However, many times there are valid and legitimate reasons that duplicate content exist. An example would be this site. For purposes of re-branding, we recently moved the content of this site from our old URL (24x7media.com) to the current site. This created a real concern because we had worked hard to establish good search rankings and we didn’t want to start this process over again. We decided to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site but this resulted in duplicate copies of each blog post! Would our own efforts destroy our search ranking?

Here are other content creation steps you can take to avoid a search engine penalty.

    1. Have you moved your site to a new URL and now have a new version of your old content on your new site? This was our exact problem and we utilized 301 redirects (“Redirect Permanent”) to smartly redirect users. Example the link www.24x7Media.com/contact will automatically redirect to the URL 24x7Social.com/contact and the search engines will not consider this as duplicate content.
    2. Be consistent: Try to keep your internal taxonomy consistent. Don’t create the same content on your site three different ways. For example, don’t link to multiple copies of essentially the same content:
      1. http://www.example.com/page/
      2. http://www.example.com/page
      3. http://www.example.com/page/index.htm
    3. Syndicate carefully: If there are several versions of the same content due to syndication, search engines will always show the version they think is most relevant to the search user, and this may not be your original content! To help avoid this, make sure that there is always a back link to your original article
    4. Minimize use of boilerplate info: As an example, instead of including a long user policy in the footer of every page, provide only a Link to the full user policy page
    5. Understand your site structure: A common method of duplicate content is caused by not understanding your site structure. By default, your blog may display duplicate content. An example would be, a blog entry may appear on your home page, an archive summary page, a category page and a tag page. To avoid this problem, be sure to set your SEO plugin to NoIndex the archive, category and tag pages.

In most cases, you are duplicating small quantities of content such as in a quote. This is harmless and no action is needed and there is no fear of a duplicate content penalty. However, if the search engines believe that you are engaging in deceptive practices, your site can be removed from the search results, Reinstatement is possible if you prove that you have corrected the problems.

Finally, avoid plagiarism. Someone worked very hard to create the content, don’t steal it and present it as yours.

Tip: If you want to check your content to see if you have added too much duplicate content to a post, try http://www.copyscape.com/

7 Comments

  1. Hey Dennis,
    Excellent article on SEO. This would be a great primer for any website owner out there.

    These are some basic tips to live by. It’s really unfortunate that more people don’t understand / know this. All too often I see people use things that get free content on their site, only to ruin any chance they have at ranking.

  2. Dennis, ditto what Eric said. And for WordPress users, the “Redirection” plugin makes creating permanent 301 redirects easy. It also tracks broken links (404 errors). I use it on every site I build.

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