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Search Engine Optimization Marketing: The Duplicate Content “Penalty” Explained

Updated on January 14, 2010

Web Site Optimization: Why You Don't Need to Be Afraid of the Duplicate Content Penalty

The duplicate content penalty is among the top concern of many new to search engine optimization marketing (internet marketing).

As an SEO copywriter, I get emails from clients and other freelance writers alike. They usually go something like, “I’ve heard about something called the duplicate content penalty? What exactly is it and how do I avoid it? I don’t want to get my site banned?”

Understanding what the duplicate content penalty is – or more importantly, what it is not -- will ease any fears you may have in this area.

Search Engine Optimization Marketing: How Search Engines Handle Duplicate Content

When a search engine finds the same content on many sites (ie, duplicate content), it excludes the links from duplicate sites. Hence, the duplicate content penalty is really not a penalty at all; it’s an exclusionary mechanism used by search engines to keep 100 sites with identical content from popping up in search results.

Duplicate Content: The Secret Is . . . It's Not a Penalty At All

To explain a bit further, you must understand how Google works; how search engines work; what their primary goal is. A search engine’s job is to provide as many different, relevant results as possible to web surfers. They do this by choosing from among the top sites that have the most relevant content.

How they choose which site with identical content to show results from is what should concern you. And, this is what website SEO is all about.

Sites with more relevant backlinks, more keyword rich articles, with well-written meta tags and good site navigation all have a better chance of having their content shown than one that doesn’t have this type of SEO done.

Search Engine Optimization Marketing: Will Distributing Free Content to Many Sites Trigger the Duplicate Content Penalty?

No. And remember, the duplicate content penalty is not a penalty, but an exclusionary tactic used to return the best results to web surfers.

What happens is, when you distribute free content (articles) via a service like, or to article submission sites like, the duplicate content filter spots this content and may exclude the links pointing to your website from results.

Some of the links will continue to count though – just on the most relevant, highly ranked sites – not all sites. Furthermore, many of the links from the content you distribute will still count from many different sites in some search engines. This helps your backlinking strategy.

Article Marketing Tip: One thing I do not recommend is posting articles that are written for mass distribution on your site. Your website should be filled with unique content if possible. This is why we offer two types of articles at New Media Words: (i) “easy, breezy” content; and (ii) foundational content.

Easy, breezy articles are meant for mass distribution (eg, article directories,, etc.) Foundational content is meant to be posted only on your website.

I hope this tutorial has given you a better understanding of what the duplicate content penalty is. Or, more accurately, is not.

Still need more convincing? Learn more about what Google says about the duplicate content penalty.

Duplicate Content Penalty

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    • Yuwanda Black profile image

      Yuwanda Black 8 years ago


      Glad that cleared it up. When I first started writing SEO content, I had to gain a clear understanding of what it was so that I didn't run afoul of any guidelines when writing for clients. THEN, I found out, "It's not a penalty at all!" Although many continue to tout that it is.



    • Chelsea Forster profile image

      Chelsea Forster 8 years ago from Montreal

      Great explanation of the benefits of article marketing and original content! Makes it much easier to understand!!