Clarification on duplicate content
It now seems we have received something of a clarification (and a rather surprising one at that) regarding duplicate content. One of Google’s colleagues has come out and stated officially that duplicate content is not a negative ranking factor when it comes to websites. For those of you who aren’t aware, duplicate content is simply having the same text repeated across multiple pages.
Duplicate content is a subject that is often of discussion between webmasters and is one of the central points of audit when a technical health check of a site is undertaken. Google have gone as far as saying that some duplicate content is to be expected, and their algorithms are robust and able to handle this without penalty to the website. In practice, this would work by only showing one page of the duplicate content (rather than several or all) according to the statement.
In greater explanation of this Google, cites the example of shopping websites and how duplicate content could apply here. An online platform selling multiple products can expect to have similar styles, ranges and types of the same thing across different websites as other organisations or shopping sites would have these products too. In this example it is therefore expected that the descriptions of these products would all be similar and therefore a factor of duplicate content could arise in this way. Google go on to explain that it would therefore not be ethical to punish a site in terms of lower rankings because this has been done in this way.
Whilst Google may have cleared up the technical nature of this, it still does leave both some questions unanswered, and some valid points which still stand.
- Duplicate content looks poor and unprofessional. Imagine clicking on a website seeing multiple pages of duplicate content. It is hardly something that would inspire trust and confidence in a searcher.
- Whilst there are certain limited circumstances (e.g. the shopping example above) where duplicate content can be excused, it does not work for the majority of situations. People want to see unique writing, text and descriptions, which allow the webmaster to explore their own style and take of the content – allowing them to conduct with their audience in a personal way.
- As already mentioned, if there are multiple pages of duplicate content Google is forced to work out which one to use. If those pages are virtually the same but differ in some way, it could mean that the intended page is not cited and instead an alternative is chosen which is not the most desirable outcome.
- It sends the wrong signal out. It gives the impression that industry has become lazy and anything will do, rather than the high standards that people would expect. It is also quite ironic that Google have released many articles and statements in the past about the importance of unique content which is informative to the user, rather than being stuffed with keywords. It would seem that this flies in the face of Google’s latest duplicate content revelation.
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