This is a slightly technical post but it’s close to my heart as it answers a question I often hear. Longtime readers of this blog will know that, since 2016, I have been posting all of my content simultaneously on both my main website, nicholasrossis.me, and my WordPress blog, nicholasrossis.wordpress.com (for the reasons which led me to this decision, see here).
This has led me to trouble in the past with some of my guest posters, who dislike the idea that their posts are duplicated on both places at once. The reason is that old SEO boogeyman, duplicate content.
The topic is full of anecdotes, myths, urban legends, and folklore passed down from marketer to marketer over the years. And like any story or tale, it gets taller and more exaggerated as it’s told.
“Google will lower your rank if you post content already published elsewhere,” some say.
“No,” others correct them. “It won’t just lower your rank. It will actually penalize you.”
“No,” a dark voice whispers. “It will blacklist you and you’ll never get another visitor again.”
“No,” someone howls. “It will also take your firstborn and sacrifice it to the SEO gods. And kick your cat on its way out.”
So, I was thrilled when Elegant Themes published a detailed review looking for any kernels of truth in these urban legends and misconceptions.
Will Google Blacklist Your Site for Duplicate Content?
There are variations of this floating around everywhere. That having even one instance of duplicate content will put you on Google’s bad side, whether that means a blacklisting from Google, or a penalty resulting in a lower ranking in various query results.
But is every case of duplicate content the same?
Short answer, no:
- Scrapers take content against the authors’ wishes.
- But you may be re-posting guest articles, fleshing out a secondary site (the way I do), or even syndicating content.
- Or, perhaps, you have a template you use for interviews with the same questions repeated week after week after week.
Are all these examples duplicate content? 100% absolutely yes.
Is Google going to blacklist/penalize you for it? Maybe, but only on the first occasion.
You see, it takes a lot for Google to blacklist a site. If you’re not hosting malware, phishing scams, or just straight-up spam, the likelihood of your being blacklisted is nil. And as for penalizing your site, Google has said numerous times, they do not penalize for duplicate content. Or, as they put it:
Duplicate content is not really treated as spam.
So, if there are two websites with the same content, Google’s search algorithms will determine which website is the most relevant and provides the most value to users, and then display that result.
Google knows scraped content. Those websites are easy to find for them and their algorithms. In fact, you’ve probably run across scraped content before and saw how horrible the website was: full of ads, badly formatted, poorly designed, and just a heinous experience altogether. And worst of all? Nothing else on the site helped you with what you were searching for except this one, tiny excerpt you found.
That’s why Google takes search intent into account so much. Even if you have duplicate content, if it’s valuable content (and the rest of the site is valuable to users), you will be displayed in search results over websites with the exact same article.
Google Penalizes Thin Content, Not Duplicate
The reason that your site would be prioritized in search rankings over the duplicates is that scraper websites are full of what is known as thin content. That means that articles on these sites are short, the site itself is an unfocused mishmash of topics across many niches and industries, and it probably has an incredibly high bounce rate (i.e. most people leave after just a few seconds on that site). In other words, they’re nearly useless articles on nearly useless sites.
So, what kinds of content does Google prioritize?
- Those which answer the question of the searcher
- Articles which go into detail about it and provide as much value as possible.
- Posts with both internal links to other articles you’ve written on the topic, as well as external references.
All these show Google that you’ve done your research and care about providing your readers value, and they also make it so that when you do get scraped, you get a handful of links back to your site that might one day work as referral traffic.
Canonical Links and Other Ways to Do Duplicate Content Right
So, what should I do when duplicating my content on both my website and blog? There are a couple of options for handling this situation (keep in mind that these only address full duplication. For snippets, excerpts, summaries, and incidental duplication, you will be fine, as long as the content itself is sound–i.e. not scraped.)
Using a canonical link tag is probably the best bet you have for keeping your duplicate content in check. While a lot goes on under the hood with a rel=’canonical’ tag, what it boils down to is you’re telling Google that whatever link you provide after it is the real deal and the one they should index.
For instance, if you have an article published at example.com/your-article, but you want to re-post that content on your own site, you’d include a tag on the reposted one that looks like this:
<a href=”http://example.com/your-article” rel=”canonical” >
Google usually respects this request, although it also reserves the right to determine which is the better source to rank based on their internal metrics and algorithms.
On WordPress, adding the canonical tag can be tricky, so you can use a plugin to easily do it. The aptly named Canonical SEO Content Syndication plugin works well for this, assuming you can install plugins on your site. If not, you’ll have to go into the Text editor instead of the Visual one and manually insert the rel=”canonical” tag into your link:
If you have two domain names sharing the same content, or you have recently moved domains, you could also have the old one automatically redirect to the new one. This is called a 301 redirect and it tells Google and other engines where the new content lives. Google eventually sorts out that it’s been redirected and begins indexing the target site instead.
So… Should You Worry About Duplicate Content?
Short answer: no. As long as you create content mindfully and look at why your audience is looking at your site and what answers they need, you won’t have to worry about duplicating content. Unless you’re a content scraper. But you’re not. So you’re safe. And if you’re worried, just add a canonical link at the end (or beginning) of each duplicated post and you’re fine.
For some more information (and links) on the subject, check out the original post on the Elegant Themes website.