Duplicate Content

J Walker (a.k.a Cricket) 

I fully understand that words I am about to write may offend some people to the point of anger. I have to be able to look in the mirror every day though and know that I have stood by my convictions and did what was right.

Above all, I cannot ever risk the chance of a member coming to me and saying, “If you knew that could possibly get me banned, why didn’t you tell me?” I must know in my heart that I did everything in my power to give them enough information to reach a decision.

What this means is that I am going to hit these very touchy topics head on, with no hold barred candor, no matter the repercussions.

When I try to explain the duplicate content filters to someone, they frequently respond in one of two ways.

– Yeah, but what if . . . {insert reason for them thinking that their specific situation is different.}

– Yeah but, what about . . . {insert the name of another successful company they see doing this.}

There are no “what ifs” to the issue of duplicate content.

It does not matter if we are talking about affiliate programs, linking programs, or articles provided throughout the net.

It does not matter if we are talking about a gambling site or a legitimate charity.

The content is either duplicate content or it is not.

We are not talking about the APPEARANCE of the page.

We are talking specifically about the actual content – the text.

How do you decide if a page is duplicate content?

Do you have a page on your site that the content is substantially the same as the content on another page, either on your site, another site you own, or someone else’s site? If so, you are risking a duplicate content filter or ban from the major search engines. It is as simple as that.

Changing a few words around is not going to change anything. Look specifically at the pages and decide if the pages are more alike than different. If they are more alike than different, once again, you are risking a duplicate content filter or ban from the major search engines. I do not know how to be any more clear than that.

In terms of whom you choose to link to: This is extremely simple. Why have you chosen to link to them? Ask yourself if you would send your mother or your best friend to do business with this company. If your answer is no, you are likely linking for the wrong reasons.

Google is very clear about this concept.

They start the Google Information for Webmasters page with the following statement:

“Following these guidelines will help Google find, index, and rank your site. Even if you choose not to implement any of these suggestions, we strongly encourage you to pay very close attention to the “Quality Guidelines,” which outline some of the illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index. Once a site has been removed, it will no longer show up in results on Google.com or on any of Google’s partner sites.”

They make the following clear statements:

– Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

– Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.

– Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.

– Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines, or other “cookie cutter” approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

Google goes on to say the following:

“Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles listed above will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.”

Nowhere in the guidelines does it say anything along the lines of, “You only need to follow these guidelines if . . . ”

Nowhere in the guidelines does it say anything along of the lines of, if you see others doing this, that means it is okay.

The truth is that over the last 6-12 months many of you have watched Google and Yahoo actively beginning to enforce these quality guidelines. I know of multiple good companies watching five years of their hard work going right down the drain because they decided to do something that their hearts knew was wrong.

Unfortunately, when you are trying to get your sites re-listed in the search engines, the excuse that “everyone else was doing it” starts sounding lame, even in your own ears.

In the end, I want you to understand where I stand in all of this . . .

Do what you know is right.

Don’t look for shortcuts.

Take the time to build a solid online business that you can depend on both now and in the future, by following solid ethical methods, step by step.


J. Cricket Walker

Small Business Marketing Consultant and SEO Training Specialist
Copyright © 2007 J. Walker of GNC Web Creations All Rights Reserved