Written on March 2nd, 2005 at 12:03 pm by Darren Rowse

Duplicate Posting and Free Articles = Duplicate Content

Writing Content, Search Engine Optimization 12 comments

I’ve noticed a growing trend among bloggers who have multiple blogs to post the same post numerous times in different places.

I can see why such a practice might seem tempting:

  • it cuts down the work you have to do (two for the energy of one)
  • it increases the chance of your post being read by readers
  • if you’re making money from your blogs it double’s the chance of earning a dollar from your work

For these very reasons I’ve entered into duplicate posting in the past also. It just seems to make sense to get your material out there in as many places as possible doesn’t it?

Unfortunately whilst duplicate posting might have some of the above benefits it is also worth counting the cost of such a strategy. Duplicated posting might double the chances of your work being read, but it also runs the risk of getting you in trouble with Google. You see they don’t like duplicate content - content that appears in different places in the same basic form. They warn about this in their guidelines to webmasters.

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

The reason for this policy is that duplicate content has been a trick of spammers over the years - creating multiple versions of the one page used to be a quick way of getting loads of traffic quickly. But now they have a duplicate content filter that tracks such attempts at spamming the search engines. Sites caught using such techniques will obviously be penalized and in extreme cases have been known to be banned from Google.

Of course no one really knows what is duplicate and what is not - but these days I always walk on the side of caution. One of the theories being talked about more and more in Search Engine Optimization forums is that Google are actually getting tougher on duplicate content and that one of the reasons that some blogs have suffered in recent updates is around these issues.

So whilst I can’t give you any hard and fast definition of what does and doesn’t count as duplicate content and can’t give you specifics of what the penalties are I would suggest that a duplicate posting strategy might not be a good one.

Free Articles - A related suggestion is that you carefully consider posting ‘free articles’ written by others on your blog. ‘Free Articles’ are also a tempting strategy for building up your stocks of content on a blog, the thought is that they are good for the author (as they build their profile and give links to their sites) but also good for the blogger/webmaster who gets free content.

However if Google is getting as tough on duplicate content as the rumors are indicating then ‘free articles’ might actually be hurting your blog. Think about it - you’re not only posting something that is available in one place on the internet - but something that is being offered to hundreds, if not thousands of others with websites and blogs - all competing for the same keywords as you.

I used to use free articles but found that the benefits gained from them were no where near equal to the costs and stopped using them (and deleted most of them) asap. Use them at your own peril.

I’m sure there are people out there who know a lot more about this than I do - so feel free to set me straight and add your bit in comments - but I’d strongly suggest being careful with duplicate posting and free articles.

12 Responses to “Duplicate Posting and Free Articles = Duplicate Content”

  • Just a though. “press releases” are widely distributed and cross posted across the web. Google has some lead way if you don’t push it.

  • I only cross-post when one of my readers asks why I haven’t talked about something on a specific blog, and I realize I blogged about it elsewhere and obviously a certain portion of my audience didn’t get that.

  • I think a way around the duplicate content thing with duplicate postings is to write one post that you put on the most appropriate blog and then you link to it (perhaps with a quote or a paraphrase) from another/others. That way you’re exposing your message to more than one audience but not duplicating. Its also good for SEO this way.

  • I’m relatively new to blogging, but have been running websites for quite a while and I know that it’s sometimes worthwhile to use free content for stickiness and repeat visit purposes. (Granted, it’s a shortcut to the harder work of producing it yourself, which is my personal preferred approach.) To avoid the search engine issues, it might be worth the trouble of hosting that content outside the main blog pages and using a robots.txt file to keep that duplicate content from being indexed. (I’m wondering if using the rel=nofollow tag would also serve this purpose.) Another option might be to use the free articles as email autoresponders. I suppose if you really wanted to insulate yourself, you could host the potential duplicate content on a separate domain name that you also control.

  • I think Google is pretty generous about duplicate content, really. The worst they’ll do is give all of the pagerank to one of the “duplicate” pages at the expense of the others. I don’t think anyone’s been banned due to duplicate content.

    That said, I try to avoid it entirely. I generally do just what Darren said above: post a detailed article at the most appropriate site, then a summary and link at the other site(s). This avoids duplication and also helps to cross-pollinate traffic between the sites, always a good thing.

  • I never duplicate but I do allow the occasional post to be republished on another blog on a different topic, I find that it opens my content up to a new audience and drives extra traffic to the main site, but some good points on the Google aspect though.

  • Duplicate writen content does not get you banned. This is a Google Myth. You are taking what Google says out of context. They are talking about completely identical pages. Not just words on pages.

    Many sites share the same press releases and use aggregated news services like Reuters & APP. No problems…

    Use “free articles” and benefit from more content. :)

  • Darren I wish I’d read this article a year ago. I had a blog back then that was earning $100+ per day and increasing every month. Unfortunately I increasingly began to use these free articles that you talk about in your article here. I saw them as a free way to easily build up my blog. One day my traffic from Google almost completely disappeared and has never returned. My daily income dropped to less than the loose change I have in my pocket.

    I wrote to Google and got the normal standard automatic responses that they send to everyone but I persisted in writing to them and eventually got a personal email back from someone who had looked into my case. She said that the reason I had suffered so much was for duplicated content. I did some digging around and found that some of the articles that I had been posting appeared in up to 100 other places on the internet. From what I understand, they penalise the rank of any pages they find to be copies of an original page. So they try to find the first page to put the information up but penalise any others that go up afterwards.

    I’ve since deleted these articles but my site has never recovered the page ranking it once had, although it has improved a little. My experience echoes what you are writing here and I would encourage others to take heed of what is written above. You might get some short term gain from such articles but it may not last and you may lose everything you are working for.

  • Thanks very much Darren. You are so right about the temptation to publish free articles. I feel like you wrote this for me. I have some cleanup to do now….

  • Are the “free” articles you refer to the ones showing up in the older archives on this site, the stuff not written by you? Aside from any search engine issues, I’d say those articles just plain suck. Their quality is a big drop from the stuff you write, and there’s just no personality to them. As I’ve been reading through your archives as soon as I come to one of these articles I can tell right away–and I get downright bored. They’re usually general and not as specific as your posts, and they have no personality. I’d recommend staying away from them. If someone comes to your site and reads that stuff, I wouldn’t expect them to stick around. The rest of your content has a much better chance of keeping them on your site.

  • Yep they are the ones Kevin.

    I’m slowly getting around to delete them all as I rediscover them.

  • I duplicated just a few posts of mine but even then I used to get this uneasy feeling. Just my instinct telling me that it wasn’t right. Well, I searched the web and found this post. Luckily, before any damage was done. Thanks.

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