What is Duplicate Content

In our previous article, Website Duplicate Content we talked about the webmaster guidelines of the three major search engines, Google, Yahoo! and MSN. In this article we will explore a little further what is duplicate content.

Reading this article will give a better understanding about duplicate content issues and duplicate content penalities.

Duplicate Content Websites

Duplicate websites are 2 or more websites that have the exact same content (or basically the same).

Now you could have intentionally done this, are in the process of moving your website or you may not realize that you have duplicate content websites. Whatever the reason, your website could be subject to a duplicate content penalty from the search engines.

WWW vs Non WWW Versions of Website

You may not realize you have duplicate content in the search engines’ eyes because your web hosting has not been set up properly. When your website hosting was setup the web hosting company should have set things up so the www.yourwebsitename.com and yourwebsitename.com versions of your domain name should point (go to) the same content. Try it yourself, type your domain name with www. in front and note what the address is in the address bar of the browser after the first page loads. Now type it again without the www. . Both versions should show the same address in the address bar of your browser. If they don’t, then the search engines think this is duplicate content.

When your website’s non www version and www version are not resolving to the same address then you need to get a hold of your web hosting company or webmaster and have this corrected. Pick one version, have the web hosting setup to resolve to this version and use this version to promote your website.

Moving Website

If you are in the process of moving your website to a new web host or building a new website to replace the old one it is possible the search engines will find the new location all by themselves, without you promoting the new location. To understand how search engines work, see the How Web Crawlers, Search Engine Robots or Search Engine Spiders Work article at HTML Basic Tutor.

When in the process of moving your website to another web hosting company or in the process of rebuilding the website at another location you have two choices, either take down the old site (remove it) and have the domain name servers changed to point to the new web hosting (domain name servers that 12 to 48 hours to catch up on any changes so you want to put a 301 permanent redirect at the old hosting until the domain name servers catch up) or at the new web hosting put your website in a test folder while you rebuild the website and edit the robots.txt file to tell the search engines not to go into that folder. Once the new website location is set up and the new site is ready, move it to the main folder of the webspace, change the domain name servers for your domain name, take down the old website and put a permanent 301 redirect at the old location.

Affiliate Websites

When you sign up for an affiliate program they may provide you with a website/web page or some stock advertising material to use. Now you may think this is great, no work required, WRONG. Everyone else that has signed up for that affiliate program is thinking the same thing. The search engines (and people who use the search engines) see tons of web pages with the same content. Not only will the person who did the search just read the first listing and skip the rest, the search engines will see all those sites as duplicate content.

To solve the dupliate content problem and duplicate content penaltities for affilate programs you have to come up with your own original content, there’s no way around it. If you are serious about promoting the program, sit down, write articles about the product and create an original web page/website to promote the product.

Representing Manufacturer’s Products

Representing a manufacturer’s product is no different than promoting an affiliate program. Ever searched for a product and get a zillion results with the same information? Annoying, isn’t it. So, be different. Just like affiliate programs, create your own original content about the product. Include product reviews, how to use the product, anything more interesting than the rest of the people who are also selling that product. You’ll get more interested visitors and the search engines won’t ding you for duplicate content.

Free Articles

There are sites where authors submit articles for you to reuse on your website. Although this may seem like a great idea to save yourself some work or if the article is so well written that you couldn’t write something like that you have to consider the implications of including the article on your website. You and other people who think the article is a valuable addition to their website will be partaking in duplicate content.

If there is an article you have found that would be valuable to your visitors, write your own review of the article and include the web address for it or write at least, an introduction to the article, in your own words, and reference the article.

RSS Feeds

With the advent of RSS Feeds there is also a problem of duplicate content. If you wish to include a RSS Feed from a site, try and find the type of feed that just serves up an introduction or portion of the article. If you use the type of RSS Feed that serves up the whole article you will have duplicate content of the original article (and so will everyone else that has done the same thing).

Search Engines Know Duplicate Content

The search engines know when you have duplicate content. If you read How Web Crawlers, Search Engine Robots or Search Engine Spiders Work then you will understand how the search engines file your website information.

Search engines also know who had the content first. They just have to check their archives to find out who they found wrote the material first.

Here’s a graphical representation of how a search engine determines duplicate content.

My post mentioned that “we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.” That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week.

Algorithm change launched

– Matt Cutts, Google Spam Dept., January 28, 2011

If you are the victum of stolen content, you can report the websites that have stolen your content to the search engines. Once you have proven you are the original author of the material the search engines will remove the thief’s website from their index.

Solution for Duplicate Content

So, did you notice a common solution to duplicate content issues and duplicate content penalities?

Write your own original content for your website!

Yes, it’s a lot of work, especially when you are trying to run your business as well, but it will be worth it in the end. Your visitors will appreciate it and you will be found in the search engine results.

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One Response to What is Duplicate Content

  1. Web Host Directory Says:

    Very good post. I didnt realize this a while back and put 5 of the same articles that I wrote on 3 of my websites and was penalized.

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