Anyone that’s anybody in the online marketing world knows the effect the Google Panda rollout had on many companies; some sites were highly devalued or removed from Google’s Index entirely.

One of the large reasons for a huge drop in site rankings was duplicate content – one of the issues Panda seemed to take aim at. Even though Google has since stated that “There’s no such thing as a duplicate content penalty” in a blog post, there are many remaining controversies about this issue and who is right. Some of this confusion stems from liberal use of the word “penalty”.

Google is likely telling the truth when they say there is no specific “penalty” for using duplicate content – however, that duplication can still hinder your search optimization efforts because the duplicate content dilutes the relevance of all your content. Instead of your authority being consolidated in a central page for a topic, you spread that relevance across multiple pages, leading to less presence in the search results.

Effects of Google Panda Update:

  • 14.4% of all search engine results negatively affected after Panda
  • There are now 3,000 duplicate content checker tools in Google SERPs
  • Nearly 80% of all affected sites are still struggling

Types of Acceptable Duplicate Content

There are a few types of “duplicate content” that Google says is acceptable:

  • If content is published in several different formats to adapt to specific types of users. Example: desktops, tablets and mobile phone web users. Publishing this content for each of the formats is acceptable and will not get the wrath of Panda.
  • It is also acceptable when there is a need to publish a single piece of content, but then also reference and link to it in multiple locations. The purpose here is to add value to the piece and is also a legitimate type of content duplication.
  • Finally, another form of acceptable duplication comes when a search engine index tree identifies separate URLs within a domain that point to a single piece of content. For example: http://Facebook.com, http://www.Facebook.com and http://www.Facebook.com/login.php.

Duplicate Content

Basically content that is not acceptable comes down to your overall purpose. If you are duplicating content to beat the system, you’re bound to get penalized by Google. Here is what Google has to say about the matter:

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”

5 Ways to Avoid Duplicate Content Penalties

SEO best practices would say just don’t do it; don’t write duplicate content on your sites or repurpose content from your competitors either. Not only will it affect your ratings with Google, it’s just not ethical or fair to your potential customers. Create compelling content that increases your search presence instead. Below I have listed some of the ways I as a marketing professional suggest avoiding duplicate content, both from a marketing perspective and from a technical aspect.

1. Blogging: One of the best ways to get new, fresh and original text on your site is to incorporate a blog. Blogs allow you to get up to date information on your website on a consistent basis. Not only that, but it also is a great way to market your company. However, with that said, make sure your content is original and not just copied from another site or blog. To ensure results, write new content for your site that will engage your readers and invoke them to share it.

2. Content: This may be obvious, but I will say it again, to avoid duplicate content issues write good quality content. Write content that is interesting, accurate, thought provoking and most of all original.

3. Redirect Permanent (301): If you have moved your website, don’t simply copy everything over to the new site. You will need to use a “permanent redirect” also known as a 301 redirect. This will automatically redirect visitors to the new URL so there won’t be any exact match duplications and the search engines will be happy.

4. Include User Reviews: Another content approach is to include opinion pieces, personal reviews and user reviews on your website. This type of content tends to be unique in general and adds value to your site. Google and other search engines also like this type of content.

5. Customize Product Descriptions: This may seem like a difficult task and a time consuming one; however it is important to write unique product descriptions for the same product you sell on each of your sites. This adds value to your site because you then aren’t just copying the manufactures description or one that you previously wrote.

Back to the Basics

The basics of online marketing are no different than any other type of marketing if you break it down piece by piece. For example, you wouldn’t copy a billboard of one of your competitors and put the same ad into a direct mail piece. So why would you copy their content online either? The answer is you shouldn’t. For some reason as technology advanced, in my opinion, people got lazy and decided that they couldn’t come up with their own content and it was easy to copy and paste from another site instead.

Yes, it is easy to find information about any topic you search online, but that doesn’t mean you should steal it. Get back to search engine optimization basics and start creating engaging and original content. It will build your brand and speak to both your prospects and clients.