A lot of digital agencies are spreading rumors about “Google penalty for duplicate content”. So they can charge their clients more for content and technical seo.

There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. It’s actually been almost 2 years since Google answered this question publicly. Just watch this video of Google’s Andrey Lipattsev answering this question here:

Before diving into the subject of the myth of duplicate content, let’s take a look at the actual Google penalties, so far.

There are 2 types of Google penalties: manual penalties and algorithmic penalties. And people mistake a lot algorithmic penalties with actual algorithms, like Panda or Penguin.

The main difference between manual and algorithmic penalties is that when your site gets a manual penalty, you get a message straight in the Google Search Console. And after you remove the cause (that is clearly stated in the message), you can submit a reconsideration request. For algorithmic penalties (assuming you know what penalty is affecting your website), you just remove the most probable cause, use the fetch and render tool in Google Search Console, and pray.

Here is the actual list of Google manual penalties:

  • Cloaking or Sneaky Redirects (showing different content for users/Googlebot, using doorway pages)
  • Cloaking: First Click Free terms Violation
  • Cloaked Images
  • Hacked Website
  • Hidden Text or Keyword Stuffing
  • Pure Spam
  • Spammy Free Hosts (there are no free hosts)
  • Spammy Structured Markup
  • Thin Content With Little or No Added Value
  • Unnatural Links to Your Site (paying for links)
  • Unnatural Links From Your Site (selling links)
  • User-generated Spam (auto-approved comments with do-follow links)

And here is the list of Google algorithmic penalties:

  • Panda
  • Penguin
  • Mobile-Friendly
  • Top Heavy
  • Payday
  • Pirate

And by the way, there is no non-HTTPS Google penalty either. Google will start marking “not secure” sites this July, when Google Chrome #68 rolls out.

But…

Just because duplicate content is not a Google penalty, it doesn’t mean that duplicate content is not bad for your site. Just calm down a little. The worst thing that can happen to your site is actually no content at all. And then, continue reading.

While duplicate content is not going to get you penalized, it is going to keep you from achieving top rankings. If you already have duplicate content on your site, you should rewrite it. If you don’t, just keep writing unique content, as that’s the only way to have lasting results.

Besides copied content, there are other ways you can get duplicate content on your site: by mistake. And that mistake would be a technical one:

  • Setting up an SSL certificate and not redirecting your domain from http to https
  • Having your website working both on www and non-www urls
  • Using parameters and faceted-navigation without setting up canonical tags
  • Session ids, without setting up canonical tags
  • Having your website working both with and without trailing slashes
  • Having an index page indexable, and not canonical to the domain
  • Having your dev site working and indexable on the dev environment
  • Having indexable pagination, without the rel next/prev tags set up
  • Having multiple country or language versions, without using the appropriate lang and hreflang tags.
  • Having more than one version of the same page, without the proper html (rel) tags:
    • Desktop
    • Mobile
    • Amp
    • Print version

If you’re not sure that you have or don’t have duplicate content within your site, you can use the Siteliner’s free checker tool. If you need to check your site vs. other sites, just use Copyscape or other similar tools. And please, read the Google guidelines regarding duplicate content here:
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66359?hl=en

If you are an experienced seo specialist, you may know that it is, in fact, possible to rank high using copied or very similar content, but you also know that it’s just a temporary thing.

There is, however, a form of penalty for duplicate content. When more users report your site using the “Removing Content From Google” page:
https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905?hl=en

 

We hope this article has answered your question. If it didn’t, please leave us a message in the comments section below.