Earlier this week, Google sent engineer Greg Grothaus in front of the camera to discuss a topic that should be important to anyone with a Web presence – duplicate content. Grothaus’ mission was to tell the world that the “penalty” rumored to be imposed on Web sites that post identical content in multiple locations is, in his words, a “myth.”
Upon seeing the video, SEOs everywhere started booking appointments to have their sanity checked. Everyone has a story about a site or number of sites disappearing entirely from search results because of duplicate content. DemandResults handled such a case just this year; and upon the removal of the duplicate content across multiple URLs, the original site recovered nicely.
But when Grothaus described what really happens when Google detects what appears to be identical content, his meaning was clear: although Google doesn’t consider its actions punitive, the results – the disappearance from search results – are virtually the same.
Let’s imagine that you own 10 great domain names, but you really only have enough resources to populate one of those domains with original content. You might be tempted to populate the other 9 domains with content from your original site. If you did this without taking certain countermeasures, then this could lead to a process where Google’s spiders, in their desire to show a variety of relevant results, might decide to pick “the best” of these pieces of content to include in its search results. If you’re lucky, Google’s bots might smartly deduce that your original domain name – the one that generates revenue for you – is the one to display, and then bury the other results far below it. But if you’re not so lucky, the results of Google’s process might be to choose to display one of the other sites, virtually disappearing your primary site from its index.
While far from a perfect process, Google’s reasons for doing this are in most people’s best interest. There are far too many Web publishers that attempt to own all the spots in search results for profitable terms. The process, while perhaps not technically punitive, is at least a defense mechanism to guard its product from deceitful Web publishers.
Grothaus also goes into detail about other types of unintentional (non-deceitful) duplicate content, including identical content on multiple URL strings as follows:
The video is a must see for anyone in Web publishing.