Duplicate Content: Could Allowing Another Site to Copy Your Content Strip Your Website of Its Stripes?

When another blogger asks permission to share your content, it’s flattering. What a satisfying feeling to know others 2 zebra imagebelieve your insight is worth sharing with their audience. Most often, people will simply share your post’s link via their social channels or give your post mention in one of their posts. But occasionally, you may discover that someone who has asked permission to share your post has duplicated your post’s content entirely – the only difference between their content and yours being a note of attribution with a link to your original post.

Duplicate Content – Could an earnest, honest effort to raise awareness of your content get your website slapped by Google?

It happened to me just about a month ago. A very nice, professional, courteous connection asked if he could share my post via his channels provided he gave attribution. I was of course thrilled to give my approval. But when I discovered my post, including the title, was directly duplicated (aside from the attribution) on his blog, I felt my heart leap into my throat for a moment as visions of being penalized in search or ranking by Google played on my mind. Assuming the duplicate content could negatively affect both my site and his, I reached out to him and asked if he could alter his title, write an introductory blurb with an excerpt from my post, and then link to my blog rather than copying and pasting the entire article. He cooperated immediately; he hadn’t realized copying the content could potentially create problems for our sites.

We dodged that bullet, right? That’s what I thought, but then I noticed duplicate content shown by some other sites and began wondering if there was any bullet to dodge at all. For example, I ran across this blog that essentially copied and pasted this other blog’s post verbatim – title and all! And neither the syndicator nor the syndicated are novices or newbies!

What Google says about duplicate content.

According to its guidelines in the Webmaster’s Tools Help section of Google’s Support site, Google doesn’t automatically penalize sites for duplicate content; only if it perceives the duplication has been shown with intent to manipulate rankings and deceive Google search users.  The penalty if Google deems duplicate content was done in an attempt to game the system: “As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”

So, it sounds like we might have been in the clear after all. Surely, Google would be able to tell we weren’t trying to pull a fast one on them, right?

Maybe so, but after talking with a local online marketing and SEO expert, I feel like I made the right decision.

Real world observations about how duplicate content is treated by Google.

Owner of 1 Sky Media, John Oppenheimer, shares his insight and experience regarding the duplicate content issue…

Duplicate content has always been a concern for webmasters. Google has always suggested that duplicated content would not rank well. Their stance had been that the original copy would be indexed and potentially rank well, while subsequent copies would be ignored. In real world practice, however, this has not always been the case. We’ve had original test sites that have garnered the wrath of a Google penalty while later launched copies have lived on without issue. We’ve also had virtually duplicated sites that lived harmoniously.

In the winter of 2011, with the emergence of Google’s Panda algorithm update, the search world changed. Google’s policy regarding duplicate content grew some teeth. We witnessed duplicated sites/pages drop instantly from near the top of Google’s ranking to the basement floor. The handwriting had been on the wall for this for years, so it was really no surprise when the change came. Today, we suggest that if your website writings are to be copied that you request a delay in the copy such that your copy can be indexed first and hopefully gain recognition as the original source. We also suggest that an excerpt is better than a pure copy and that in either case a credit and link must be given on the copied text directly to the source page of the original.

Duplicate content: You decide.

With all that John shared, I’m confident the smart thing to do was play it safe, but you need to decide for yourself when someone asks to share your content. Have a policy in place about how you’ll want your content shared from someone else’s blog and follow up after it’s posted there to make sure your wishes have been carried through.

All in all, keeping in the clear just takes a minute or two of your time and some clear communication. And keep in mind that although we fuss and fret over the changes Google has made, ultimately they have vastly improved the user’s search experience.

In the words of John at 1 Sky Media:

Seems somewhat odd when you think about it, Google is nothing more than copies of all websites indexed, yet we must be concerned about copying! The enforcement of duplicate copy rules has in fact improved the search experience because we no longer need to go through page after page of virtually identical copy, supplied from different websites, whenever searching competitive topics.

 

Your turn: Have you let others copy and paste your content onto their blogs? Have you experienced any repercussions by Google as a result?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

 

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