Is your small business blog losing out on a huge second audience because of fear?

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Duplicate blue, Australian jellyfish


There is a long standing controversy over whether or not it’s OK to duplicate your blog article content on another website. The argument between search engine optimization (SEO) experts goes like this.

SEO guy– “Never duplicate your blog content on another website, Google will penalize you.”
SEO girl– “When we were dating you were always such a fraidy-cat. Google doesn’t penalize you unless you are trying to game the system or steal someone else’s content. Just look at all the news syndication websites out there. Do you think Google is penalizing all of them?”
SEO guy– “Well, you,….you… ”
SEO girl– “Wait, what’s that music I hear? Are you listening to the new Taylor Swift album? Are you sure you’re a man?”

Will Google penalize me if I duplicate my content?

Duplicating your blog content simply means that you take your blog article, publish it on your own site, and then post it somewhere else as well. Google doesn’t particularly like duplicate content. But then again, I have serious doubts about whether or not they care to do much about it. Instead, what Google is simply trying to avoid is, for example, if you searched for articles about red swingline staplers, you don’t want more than one search result that leads you to two identical articles. That’s not an ideal search experience. But Google doesn’t need to penalize you for posting your blog article in two different places. Instead Google simply chooses which version of your content to display, and then skips the other.

What are the options if you are afraid to duplicate your content?

Some SEO experts suggest that a duplicate posting is OK if you change a few things in your article so that it doesn’t get seen as a duplicate. Suggestions include:

  • Rewrite the title
  • Change paragraphs to bullets
  • Change advice into questions
  • Change images / ALT text
  • Mix and match content from a similar article
  • Rearrange the first and last paragraph
  • Switch from Maxwell House to real coffee

Other SEO experts suggest placing a link back to your original article and adding canonical tags (that’s tech-speak, sorry) in the code. It has been suggested that if you first post your article on your site and then quickly link to it from Google+, Google might actually index the article very quickly. The theory being if the post on your site is the first one found, Google may lend more weight to it. After that, you can post your content to a second site. For more detail about the suggestions, check out the lively discussion we had on LinkedIn.

What does Google say about duplicate content?

Let’s stop all this whining and shenanigans. Google themselves wrote an article about the topic. Here’s snippet from the article:

“If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.”

What does Jeff Bullas do?

Uncle Tobys VitaBrits Weeties cereal (the Australian version of Wheaties)

Jeff Bullas is a hugely popular blogger with 250,000 followers. That doesn’t make him an SEO expert, but I’m thinking he probably knows what he’s doing. Jeff duplicates his blog posts. I took a look at the last three articles he posted on his blog. He then duplicated those same articles on Business2Community.com .I compared the two versions to see if they were identical. On average, Jeff only changed five words in each article. That’s it. Just five words. In articles as long as his, changing five words hardly constitutes a rewrite, and thus I am betting Google sees these as duplicates. Is Jeff being penalized for his duplication? I sure doubt it. Is Jeff crying in his Uncle Tobys VitaBrits Weeties (the Australian version of Wheaties cereal) about how his SEO is in the dunny (Austrailian word for toilet)? Hell no he’s not.

What do I do?

I duplicate my content. Why? First of all, I want the content that I write to appear on my own blog. When I write an article, I want my readers to read it on my site. My social sharing links point readers back to my site. Readers share the link back to my site on their social networks. I want all that SEO pointing to my site. And I want my readers to find other articles on my site. And then, after all of that, I want a whole new set of eyeballs to see my content. That’s why I post it on another site. The other website contains my bio which links back to my blog. Since Google knows I own my blog, and my bio appears at the bottom of the duplicated content, Google can tell I’ve just re-posted the content. I’m not breaking the law. Interpol isn’t going to raid my swanky pad and confiscate my laptop and my fancy coffee. Instead, Google is just going to index the article on my blog and not index the article posted on the second site.

So what say you? Just how wrong do you think I am? Do you duplicate your content?

About Nate Goodman

Nathan Goodman is a freelance fiction writer and the bestselling author of The Special Agent Jana Baker Spy-Thriller Series. "A terrorist on the loose, a country in panic, and time is running out..." For a free copy visit the author's website.