Debunking the Duplicate Content Boogeyman

When we published our post at the end of December and made it free for agents to publish on their blogs, we received a few worried emails asking about Google and how they treat duplicate content.

For years the phrase “duplicate content” has struck fear in the hearts of online marketers and anyone hoping to get free traffic from search engines like Google.


Because that phrase is usually followed by the word “penalty.” And even if you don’t know exactly what it is, a duplicate content penalty sure sounds like something that should be avoided right?

Well the fact of the matter is Google hasn’t had a “duplicate content penalty” for several years.

What Is Duplicate Content?

Now, before I go any further I need to make sure you understand precisely what duplicate content is.

Search engines like Google crawl websites and store (they call it “index”) the content on each page.

And much like your middle school teacher, if they get two book reports back that are word for word copies, they know something fishy is going on.

So, if you copy and paste an entire blog post, or even a large portion of one, Google knows there are other copies of that post out there on the web, and it must decide what to do.

Google Filters Duplicate Content

In today’s online world, there are actually a lot of legitimate reasons Google might find multiple copies of a blog post out there.

The AP, for example, publishes a single story but newspapers and reporters across the country pick it up and run it in their publication.

So what is Google to do?

They simply identify which of the copies is the original, and largely ignore or filter out the rest.

The local news site doesn’t get penalized and they aren’t sent to Google’s version of the principal’s office. The local version of the story just isn’t likely to come up when someone searches for that topic in Google.

Duplicate Content CAN Be Dangerous

However, duplicate content CAN be dangerous in large quantities. If a large number of your blog posts or the pages on your site are copies from somewhere else, Google might decide that your site isn’t worth their time to crawl and index, and your organic (free) traffic will plummet.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a game of degrees.

While one or two syndicated blog posts won’t hurt your rankings, your site needs to maintain a sufficient level of content that is unique to your site and drives prospects to respond.

So, we’ll keep offering up blog posts that you can republish on your website or blog. If you find one that you think your audience will appreciate, use it! But make sure these syndicated posts aren’t the ONLY thing you’re publishing.

And, if you have any other Google or online marketing related questions you’d like me to tackle, let Gary know by emailing him at I’d be happy to help.