Duplicate content penalty. Ever heard of it? This penalty is applied by Google and possibly other search engines when content found on your website is largely the same as what is found elsewhere on your website or on other websites throughout the internet.
Search engine spam has been common ever since search engines were first invented. Search engine spam refers to the practice of making changes to your site that gets you listed high in search engines at the expense of readability by humans. Years ago, you could get ranked high on a search phrase by simply repeating it as many times as you can in a record. The primitive search engines of yesteryear ranked the value of a keyword by simply counting the amount of times a term appeared on a page. Today’s search engines are considerably more complex.
Google has been waging war against all sorts of search engine spam and especially against duplicate content in a variety of forms. There are two main kinds of duplicate content that Google is concerned about.
The first is a web site which simply lists the exact same webpage hundreds or thousands of times with only a few words changed. This is normally done to achieve high ranking on a broad assortment of keywords. It is most often utilized to get ranked high on a whole bunch of keywords unrelated to your site but can sometimes be done by a website that’s on topic but only offering duplicate content.
The second sort of duplicate content that Google is concerned about revolves around affiliate programs. It’s been common practice for high traffic sites to set up an affiliate program. Affiliate programs themselves do not worry Google. What it does not like however, is to get an affiliate program to have a template and then offer it to its base of affiliates to use. Some of the high traffic sites wind up with thousands upon thousands of duplicate websites all promoting the same things and, according to Google, not offering any real value to the online community. A website offering this sort of cookie cutter site can easily find themselves de-listed by Google as occurred to Template Monster some time back.
The third sort of duplicate content is just not included in the Google index. This is content that’s found elsewhere on the internet at large. Google and the other big search engines are interested in collecting and cataloging as much quality, unique content as possible for human ingestion. To this end, they seem to lessen the amount of duplicate content that they let in their catalog. This is the reason why creating a new site and just filling it with third part content will rarely if ever lead to high rankings in the Google index.
The solution? Do not rely on duplicate content as your primary way of driving traffic to your website. If you avoid all duplicate content? Of course not. What type of duplicate content is okay? Answering this question is another article in itself.