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Duplicated Content and Search Engine Optimization

The idea behind duplicated content is that search engines don’t like the same content appearing in different places; after all, why would they want to provide people with lots of different ways to get to the same information?

Google users want to see a diverse cross-section of content when they do searches. In general, Google tries to eliminate copies.

A lot of paranoia exists about duplicated content; people talk about how sites can get themselves banned for using duplicated content. Most of this talk is gross exaggeration because sites often have good reasons to have duplicated content.

Perhaps you’re running news feeds from a popular central source or using press releases about events in your industry. It wouldn’t make sense for search engines to penalize people for such innocent uses. In fact, there are various reasons why search engines can’t penalize sites for republishing content.

Whom will they punish — every site holding the content or all but the first one to publish it? Also, how would they know who was first?

Here’s another reason that the search engines can’t “punish” sites for duplicated content. Say that your rodent-racing site is coming up quickly in the search ranks, and you’ve got a lot of excellent, unique content related to the exciting world of racing very small animals.

If someone were of a nefarious bent, here’s what they could do: Build a bunch of websites on different servers, but build them anonymously. They could then “scrape” data from your rodent site and republish it on these other sites, forcing the search engines to penalize you.

In general, then, the dire warnings about duplicated content are wrong. However, if Google does figure out that you have duplicated content, it may drop the duplicate pages.

So what can you do about duplicated content, with articles you get from syndication sites, for instance, or press releases you drop into your site? If you want to make it more likely that the content isn’t ignored, mix it up a little:

Add headings within the pieces, change a few words here and there, surround it with other information that’s unique to your site, and so on. But don’t worry about a penalty, because if every site that contains duplicate content were dropped from Google’s index, the index would be empty.

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