Duplicate content - what the experts had to say...

As a relatively new blogger, with only 39 posts under by belt - keen to share my musings with others, I set about looking at reputable article marketing sites (ArticleMarketer, Ezines, GoArticles), posting articles to Digg, sharing my posts across Forums I was participating in (Women's Marketing Forum, and UKBF,http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk), and even advising a client of mine that he too should be doingthe same!  But then - someone mentioned, Duplicate Content - and the fact that I would be 'slammed' by Google and any positive SEO elements for my blog would be removed: go to jail, do not pass go - do not collect £200 'styley'!   So, given that I accept everything, believe nothing (til I've done a bit of digging around myself), I set about finding out the facts about Duplicate Content from some experts. First things first, I posted a thread on UKBusinessForums http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=93819

Some of this was pretty useful but a bit 'light'.  So I decided to dig deeper.

These were the questions I wanted answers for:

  1. Is it okay to share the same articles across the two blogs?
  2. If not - is it best to rewrite an article before adding it to the other blog and if so how different does it have to be (85% seems to be a magic number but not quite sure where this is plucked from?).
  3. I am a member of a forum and run a blog on that forum - can I simply post the same content from my original blog into that forum blog with a link back to my original blog - content identical?
  4. Article marketing - I was advised that Ezine and Goarticles are reputable places to share articles.  I am copying my blog posts and sharing them via these mediums - content identical - is this acceptable?
  5. Digg - I am posting links to my unique content via Digg and stumbledupon - not sharing content - just linking back to original content - so surely this is a good thing?

Using my online networking links - I noticed a chap on the Pro Marketers Group on Linked In who was pretty vocal.   Toni Anicic had the following to say...

There are two different kinds of duplicated content. One is caused by using bad content management system which creates different URL-s with same content. This issue happens pretty often on the web. It usually happens when a user is putting an article or a product in multiple categories and is using a category based SEO friendly URL structure. The category based structure will then make bot index the same content under the "x" multiple different URLs where "x" is the number of categories a user has listed the article or product in. Google will not penalize this kind of duplicated content, it will choose the most relevant URL and display that one in the search results and simply ignore the rest of the duplicated content caused by this problem on the same site. However, you should try and get that fixed as you are leaking your PR and number of indexed sites to the sites that are duplicated and will not turn up anywhere in search results.

The other kind of duplicated content is the one Google will take action against. If your duplicated content is found on the other sites and Google finds that it's been submitted a lot of times in the same form to many different locations on the web such as article directories, blog comments and so on, Google will probably ignore the PR flow of the link and neutralize the effect of that article's backlink to your original article's ranking.   Toni Anicic, Online Marketing Expert at http://surgeworks.com

As an avid follower of http://www.hubspot.com - I emailed their Digital Marketing guru - Rick Burnes (he's run a couple of great webinars)  And he responded via a message I sent to him in Linked In and Twitter

Hi Michelle,

I'm happy to answer a few questions or put together a few thoughts, but I'm not sure I understand the duplicate content discussion -- I'm not sure why you'd want to duplicate your content. It's just going to cause complications for you w/o really improving your search engine rankings. That seems pretty clear to me from Google's treatise on the subject:http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66359

Some folks might be able to find a temporary shortcut, but at the end of the day, the best way to get sustained increases in organic search traffic is to create unique, authentic, high-quality content.

Can't disagree with this.  But I suppose where my query was coming from - was that if one is not purposely going all out to proactively 'duplicate' content to skew SEO purposes - but is sharing articles across a number of platforms as more of a brand building exercise, to grow awareness of my blog and marketing advice, tips, views - etc - is that deemed as 'duplicate content' - to the degree that I will be penalised for it.

Having some working relationships with a great team at Google - I thought I'd ask the question of one of the team there to see what they had to say... it was a long shot as I was sure that they wouldn't be able to respond to my specific query, but the feedback was actually very useful:

I've asked one of developer advocates who knows about this sort of thing and they said:

"Generally, we don't advise on this stuff. If there's a report from an SEO or company that says something which goes against our webmaster guidelines, then I know which one I'd believe. Us.

1) Yes, it's fine. Although, it would make more sense to have the articles tailored for the audience reading.

2) There's no magic number.

3) If pasting blog posts into forums is something users are going to find useful, then by all means, go for it. I'm not sure what the goal is, though.

4 &5) You should feel free to distribute your media however you like, but take note of our paid link policy.


And finally, a reply to a post I put in a Discussion Forum on the Women's Marketing Forum http://www.womensmarketingforum.com

Hi Michelle

Good questions. I assume you are talking about being penalised by the search engines (or more specifically, Google) for having the same content on different sites?

My understanding is that it is by no means certain that Google does penalise you for this, and that nobody actually knows either way for sure anyway.

There is a good summary of the basic ins and outs of this here:


With all that said, though, I imagine you are posting your information on this site because you also want to publicise your knowledge and your services to visitors to and members of this site (that's the idea, after all!). If that is the case, then the importance of any possible penalty has to be weighed against the publicity you are getting for your services by posting your content here and elsewhere. If search engine rankings are your one and only concern, then the potential risk might be something you might want to consider, but if you are also wanting to get your name and business in as many places as possible, then it is probably less of a consideration.

I am of course rather biased (because you have been providing this site with some high quality, practical and very readable information via the blog!), but if it were me, I'd be continuing to put my effort into getting known as many places as possible, rather than purely chasing search engine rankings...

So - some mixed views there - or perhaps not.  I certainly don't feel as anxious as I did - and I suppose there's an element of 'horses for courses'.   I always remember a web developer friend of mine advising that one should always undertake business online with people in mind, not search engines - people talk and push stuff they enjoy - and so brand building it is... (for now...)

Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.