Website Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is such a hard concept to convey to people who want a website. For some reason just because other people do it they just don’t understand why they cannot.

Duplicate content:

  1. Is illegal! If you have copied someone else’s work.
  2. Will get you banned from the search engines.
  3. Is against the Terms of Service for you web hosting company and domain registration company.
  4. Will not set you apart from your competitors.

To better understand duplicate content issues and duplicate content penalities you need to understand what duplicate content is and how to avoid getting a duplicate content penalty from the search engines.

First we’ll look at the definition of duplicate content then examine the webmaster guidelines of the major search engines and duplicate content, why duplicate content is illegal, your web hosting company, domain registration company and duplicate content and duplicate content issues for Web Designers.

Definitions of Duplicate Content on the Web

Let’s start with looking at some definitions of duplicate content.

“It is a strategy by which varying domains use the same or near same website to serve the user. Also if contents of one page on the internet are same or similar to another, it is considered duplicate content. Duplicate content is considered spamming by Search Engines and therefore should be avoided.”


Here is another one:

“separate web pages with substantially the same content, which may attract a penalty from search engines.”


Three important points are common to both of these definitions of duplicate content:

  • “if contents of one page on the internet are same or similar to another, it is considered duplicate content”
  • “Duplicate content is considered spamming by Search Engines”
  • “may attract a penalty from search engines”

Webmaster Guidelines and Duplicate Content

Each search engine has a set of guidelines for Webmasters and Website Owners to follow if they wish their website to be included in that particular search engine’s index. Seeing the topic of this article is duplicate content let’s look at the Webmaster Guidelines for the major players in the search engine market, Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

Google Webmaster Guidelines Regarding Duplicate Content

“…Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content. ..

…If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first. ..

…If a site doesn’t meet our quality guidelines, it may be blocked from the index.”

Reference: Webmaster Help Center – What are Google’s quality guidelines?

Update December 18, 2006:
Google has further addressed/clarified duplicate content with their Deftly dealing with duplicate content post on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Update September 11, 2007:
Another update on duplicate content from Official Google Webmaster Central Blog. This time the duplicate content caused by URL parameters is discussed.

Update September 12, 2008:
Google tries to clear up myths about duplicate content penalties, Demystifying the “duplicate content penalty”.

Update May 26, 2009:
Video by Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team – Can product descriptions be considered 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

Yahoo! Webmaster Guidelines and Duplicate Content

“What Yahoo! Considers Unwanted

…Pages that have substantially the same content as other pages …

…Multiple sites offering the same content…

…YST’s Content Quality Guidelines are designed to ensure that poor-quality pages do not degrade the user experience in any way. As with Yahoo!’s other guidelines, Yahoo! reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to take any and all action it deems appropriate to insure the quality of its index. “

Reference: Yahoo! Help – Search

Note: The file name of this referenced page is deletions-05.html.

MSN Website Owner Guidelines and Duplicate Content

“…The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA), limits the use of copyright-protected content on the Internet. Users and site owners should be aware of the following provisions that govern MSN Search:

  • The DMCA limits the liability of Internet service providers (ISPs) such as MSN Search for providing access to and publishing content that infringes on a copyright.
  • When ISPs, including MSN Search, are notified that content infringes on a copyright, they must remove the content to preserve their protection under the DMCA.

MSN Search notifies you when relevant search results are blocked because of a complaint regarding copyright infringement.”

Reference: Site Owner Help: About the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

Ok, do you get the idea that search engines do not like duplicate content?

Duplicate Content is Illegal

Did you notice above that MSN specifically referenced The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA)?

So what you say, that’s a USA document. News flash! All the major search engines are in the USA so they have to abide by this legislation.

If you are in Canada then you should read through the Copyright Board of Canada website.

A British source of copyright information is UK Copyright Service.

Now you are going to say you have gone through the proper channels to use some copyrighted content on your website. This brings up another issue, originality.

Original Website Content

Did you notice in all of the quotes from the search engines that they want to see original quality content?

Think of it this way, if you are a person looking for a service or information on a subject and the search engine results all show the same description, how is that person going to decide which site to visit? Once they read the first result they are not going to waste their time reading the rest of the results with the same description in the search engine results list, would you?

I know it is difficult to come up with original content when you are an affiliate or a supplier of a product that a number of other people also provide but you have to come up with your own original content!

If not for the sake of avoiding being banned from the search engines because of a duplicate content penalty, (well, guess duplicate content won’t be an issue, because no one is going to find you if you are banned) think of your potential visitors and customers. You have to make your website stand out from the rest and the only way to do that is to provide quality original content.

Duplicate content also applies to articles that are available for use on your website. A zillion other people are using those articles too. You need original content! If you feel an article is of value to your visitors and customers you could quote a small portion of the article and provide a link to the rest of it.

Your Web Hosting Company, Domain Registration Company and Duplicate Content

Just like the search engines, your domain registration company and your web hosting company are bound by The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and all the other copyright laws around the world. If they receive a complaint that you have plagiarized content from a website (or anything else for that matter) the owner of the copyrighted material can have your site shut down, no questions asked. Do you really want to risk that?

If you do not believe me, review the Terms of Service for the company you used to register your domain name and the company you are using as a web host.

Web Designers and Duplicate Content

Web designers should also keep in mind that they can be named in a lawsuit if they take part in the duplication of copyrighted content. The person who has been violated will go after everyone they can to reap revenge.

As a website owner, if you have hired a reputable web designer, you should find a clause in the contract that they will not upload copyrighted content and if they find out you provided copyrighted content they will remove it.

Summary About Duplicate Content

Hopefully this article has convinced you that duplicate content is not good. Your website’s success is hampered by the use of duplicate content.

Let’s review the duplicate content issues and their repurcussions:

  • Search engines don’t like duplicate content. They will issue a duplicate content penalty against the website and will/may ban your website from their index.
  • You are breaking the law.
  • You are going to loose potential visitors and customers due to lack of originality on your website.
  • Your website can be shut down by your domain registration company and/or your web hosting company.
  • You and your web designer can loose everything if you are sued.

If you want a successful website, do not use duplicate content of any type and be understanding when a knowledgeable web designer refuses to produce a website that contains duplicate content. Actually, read your contract with your web designer, there is most likely a clause in there that they refuse to partake in the use of duplicate content.

Can your business/website afford duplicate content issues resulting in duplicate content penalities? Only you can decide.

More Reading About Duplicate Content

How to Find Your Website Duplicate Content Issues.

Pagination and Duplicate Content Issues

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2 Responses to Website Duplicate Content

  1. mandeep dalal Says:

    this is the best article about duplicate content i have ever read. i was going to use free articles on my future website but i was not sure about it. but after reading your article i will definately avoide all these stupid things.others websites do not tell the visitors what to do.But you put you opinion very clearly.I wiil return to this website regulerly.this is the best site in its field. Please keep it up.
    mandeep dalal.

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