Will Google Penalize Your Site for Duplicate Content?

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Have you heard that any duplicate content is a Google no-no?

Are you worried that repeating the same sentences (or paragraphs) across your site will have dire Google consequences?

You’re not alone. I received this question last week…

Is there an acceptable percentage for duplicative content that I can set for each blog post?

I write a blog post for a small law firm once a week. When completed, I run all the blog posts that I write through two separate plagiarism filters to see what comes up as duplicative content and what the percentage is. I’m not sure if there is an acceptable percentage — say 10% or 12% — that I can set as a benchmark. I don’t want the attorney for whom I blog to get a Google penalty based on duplicative content.

Also, would that acceptable percentage include the call to action — “if you have a legal issue, call so-and-so at 000-0000 for a free consultation.”

Here’s the deal with duplicate content…

Back in the SEO old days, duplicate content was was as common as that horrible “Somebody That I Used to Know” song by Goyte back in 2012.

It was everywhere.

For instance, people would write one article about a general topic, swap out the keyphrases, and create multiple articles. The articles were exactly the same (or very similar) — but the keyphrase focus was different.

For instance, one “how to buy running shoes” article would be spun into multiple articles like:

  • “How to buy women’s running shoes”
  • “How to buy men’s running shoes”
  • “How to buy children’s running shoes”
  • “How to buy kids’ running shoes”

You still see this technique used for local landing pages. How many times have you seen something like a [plumbing in Bellingham, WA] page with the exact same copy as a [plumbing in Mount Vernon, WA] page?

And no, it’s not a smart technique. Google says creating doorway pages is bad, m’kay.

(As a side note, building local landing pages is an excellent strategy if you do it the right way. Here’s some additional information.)

But, what about if you use the same turn-of-phrase on multiple pages?

Or, if you have to include a legal disclaimer at the bottom of every page?

Or, if you have the same (or similar) calls-to-action on multiple pages?

Are you going to get slapped by a penalty by big G? Or see your site kicked out of the index?

No.

Here’s why…

Google understands that sites may have duplicate content issues because of legal requirements or content platform issues. Google even recommends workarounds for common scenarios (for instance, how to handle boilerplate copy.)

These issues aren’t ideal — and could mess up the SEO results you want — but they won’t get you in trouble.

At the same time, this is not a free pass to spam all over the place. Google’s not down with anything deceptive. In fact, Google states,

“Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”

It all boils down to intent.

So yes, it’s safe to have some “duplicate” content scattered throughout your pages. At least from Google’s perspective. 

Having said that, you may want to take a peek to see if some of your duplicate content is clunking with your target audience. You may find that mixing up your CTAs and changing some of your similar-sounding content could grab some conversion gains.

What do you think?

Have you heard that any content duplication — even just a few words — was a no-no? Leave a comment and let me know!

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