Duplicate Content – Penalty or Not?

The feared “duplicate content penalty” is a subject that keeps popping up whenever people are discussing SEO, link building and particularly article marketing. I already published a short post on this subject, including a video showing a Google representative stating, in no uncertain terms, that there is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. In this post, I want to take a different angle and offer a possible explanation for why the myth about the dcp is such a pervasive one.


Omission From Search Listings

There is something that frequently happens in Google search results, that perhaps could be misinterpreted as some sort of penalty. As an example, I just did a quick search on Google for the name of this blog and “Best Spinner”. The reason I did this is because I know that I have referenced to the program called The Best Spinner in several posts already, so there’s bound to be a whole bunch of listings – some of them from posts, at least one of them on the homepage (at the time of this writing) and so on.

Here is what Google returned:

Google Results 1

As you can see, there’s a double listing of results on this domain. After that, however, results from other places around the web are displayed. As I’ve marked with the arrow, there’s a “Show more results from richquickreview.com” option. Let’s see what happens when I click it:

Google Results 2

Now, I get seven listings and there’s a new option at the bottom for showing all of the listings on richquickreview, for this search term.

Oh no! All of my Best Spinner posts, save for two, have been penalized by Google and they aren’t showing up in the search results! Time to PANIC!

Of course, what’s going on here is not a penalty of any kind. Google generally don’t show more than two results for one and the same domain. And they generally don’t show more than two results from different domains, if the content is identical.

If you write an article and submit it to a dozen different article directories, unchanged, you’ll get a similar result when you do a search for it: The results will typically list your article on one or two directories, followed by the option to show more of the results that are hidden, because they are identical.

The important point here is that this is not a penalty. The omitted pages are all indexed by Google, they are all flowing pagerank and no one is getting their sites “sandboxed” because of duplicate content.

Obviously, the pages won’t all get listed in the results, because who would want to find several pages of the same article as a result for a search query?


Chasing (Long) Tail

This is where article spinning comes in. The point of spinning articles is not to “avoid the duplicate content penalty” as way too many sales-pitches for spinning tools would have you believe, the point is to grab more long-tail traffic. If you write an article, spin it’s content and then distribute it to a few dozen or even a few hundred online properties, it’s a bit like casting a wide net out into unknown waters: You don’t know where the fish are, but by pure chance you’re bound to catch a few.

All of your spun articles will consist of different sequences of words and every time someone “out there” on the Internet happens to search for a string of words that are present in one of your article variations, it’s likely that that variation will show up in the search results. And thus, you catch another fish.

I hope this clarifies the whole dupe-content subject a bit. If you have any further questions, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.


About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • DavidPaul says:

    Do you still hold all of this to be true given the recent Panda update?

  • Chloe says:

    Google absolutely does penalize for duplicate content.

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