There’s been a lot of talk online about duplicate content. Most of the talk centers around how you should avoid duplicate content and so on and so forth. I’ve done some testing and I can tell you that the duplicate content penalty, as a lot of us have understood it, is no longer an issue.
Depending on how long you’ve been online, you may have heard that Google only counts the first instance of content and not any subsequent instances of the same content. In other words, if I have an article about roses, and I post the article in multiple places, Google will only count the first time it finds the content and every other time the content appears will be flagged as duplicate and those other instances would just somehow disappear from Google’s index.
It doesn’t seem to work like that anymore.
It does bear to mention that duplicate content may still be an issue for content on your own site, for instance the “live” version of a page versus an “archived” version of the same page may count as duplicate content, but I doubt that there’s much weight given to that kind of duplicate content to begin with.
That being said, the duplicate content penalty, as it was once understood, feared and revered is no longer an issue. Search engines want to return the “best” result for any given search term, not the “original” instance of a search term.
My experiment begins with a joke.
The joke was the: Mexican Word of the Day.
Do a Google search for that phrase, and you’ll find a myriad of sites hosting the exact same jokes. I’ve tracked this phrase for 2 years now, and actually had the #1 result for that phrase for about 10 months.
If you were to take the time to look at the various results, you’ll notice that they all pretty much have the same jokes, yet none of those sites were the original posters or sources of that joke.
Look a little closer, and you’ll notice that none of the pages are duplicates of each other.
They all have different ads, different formats, different coding, just about different everything. Even though the content ie the jokes, are the same, the pages are totally different to Google and any other search engine’s eye.
Do your own testing if you don’t believe me.
In this video, Matt Cuts, aka The Voice of Google, flat out tells you how Google looks to return the best results and that they pretty much do nothing about duplicate content. The key to being identified as the original source of the content is to post your original content to your site first, then syndicate the content, carefully. There is not mention about whether your original content on your site will return as the “best result” for any given search term.
You get to decide that what “carefully” means.
Matt also talks about duplicate content over on his personal blog here.