What is Duplicate Content?

…and should you be concerned about it on your website or blog?

Duplicate contentThe term “duplicate content” generally refers to having multiple pages on your website displaying the same, or nearly the same, content. It’s often done unintentionally, especially with some content publishing systems or dynamic websites that create URLs on the fly.

There’s not specifically a penalty for this kind of duplicate content, but it does get filtered out of the search results. Since the Google Panda updates in 2011, duplicate content can now lower the quality score of your website, which affects all of your pages, not just the duplicate ones. So, discovering if your website is guilty of producing duplicate pages, and addressing that problem, is very important. There are multiple ways you can remedy duplicate content on your site.

The questions we usually get about duplicate content are about copied content, or stuff that you find elsewhere online and copy and paste to your own site.

  • If I use a famous quotation, is that considered duplicate content?
  • What about using images or photos that have been used on other websites?
  • If I use content from other sources in a PDF or in Flash, does it count as duplicate?

Bottom line is that if you copy any content that’s on the web and use it on your own website or blog, it is not your original content. Copied content doesn’t help your website or blog, but what’s also important to know is will it hurt your website or blog?

Using quotes from famous sources, especially when clearly marked as a quotation and attributed to the originator, is not a problem. It can become a problem if you have a page, for instance, that is just made up of quotes from other sources and contains little original content surrounding it. A page with very little unique, original content is considered (by the search engines) a low-quality page.

The same is true of images, photos, stock photos or artwork, PDF, Flash, etc. If it’s not your original content, be sure to give attribution to the originator. You may also want to link to the original source and surround the copied content with your own unique content. Copied content doesn’t help your site or blog to rank better, and it can result in your entire site suffering from a low quality score, dropping in rankings, and losing traffic. If your website or blog contains substantial amounts of content that was copied from other sources, you’re devaluing the entire site.

Matt Cutts is the head of Google’s Webspam team and the public spokesperson for website issues. He regularly answers questions about what you should and shouldn’t do with your website and with SEO. He explains Google’s position on content, linking, search and much, much more. Here is his explanation of Google’s position on using quotations, which can apply to all content.

If you are ever curious about Google’s position on SEO practices or website quality, check out the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Let us know what you think!