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Duplicate Content Controlled Naturally Through Themes

Search Engine OptimizationWorried about all the fuss over duplicated content. WordPress, Duplicate Content, and Wrong SEO Plugins by Planet Ozh will help set you straight.

Keeping your site safe from the duplicate content issue, and more generally getting things optimized for search engines, should not be a plugin’s job, it must be your theme’s job, it must be coded and designed for it. Just like looking good, using good markup, being crossbrowser friendly, etc…

In reality, Google expects that a blog will have duplicated content. It’s how they are designed. Duplicated content will be found on the front page, category and tag pages, archives, search results, feeds, and a lot of places on your blog. It’s expected. If it weren’t there, it would be not be a blog.

While Ozh’s help is wonderful to minimize the amount of duplicated content naturally on your blog through the use of excerpts rather than full content on multi-post page views, let’s not forget that the original intension of this page rank penalization is targeted towards those who scrape your content, or against splogs who use redundant content to fill up a blog or website, using spam links and such scam evils.

Here are my tips for reducing the risk of penalty from duplicate content:

  1. Set multi-post views to excerpts, not full content, except on the front page and feeds if you wish.
  2. Take care when copying another blogger’s content to keep it within Copyright Law’s Fair Use restrictions to 10% of the content or 400 words. Write your own words around the content to differentiate the copied content from a duplication.
  3. NEVER use a feed scraper or automatic feed Plugin that replaces your content with the full or excerpted content from other blogs. If you must use incoming feeds, feature only titles and the first 100 or less words of the blog posts.

Other than that, relax. Remember, duplicated content within a blog is expected. Duplicated content between blogs is not and will be penalized.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.


  1. Posted July 1, 2007 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the tips, Lorelle! I’ll take a look at those plugins and see if they might compliment my existing SEO efforts. I think people are making a bigger deal out of the bugaboo of redundant content than is necessary. There is a difference between linking to something you wrote and complete duplication on an unrelated website without attribution (scraping). As you say, Google probably knows the difference. Linking is the nature of the web and Google certainly understands that. For what it’s worth, I have found the All in One SEO Pack plugin to be helpful (no affiliation with its creator).

  2. Posted July 1, 2007 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with you Lorelle. I’ve been blogging for over five years now and somehow managed to get caught up in this duplicate content nonsense. I installed a plugin that was supposed to stop this “new” phenomenon. I won’t mention any names on the plugins but they all offer the same thing.

    Within two weeks of installing the plugin I noticed a difference in my search engine referrals. A very negative difference.

    Thanks for writing this post.

  3. Posted July 1, 2007 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Is it the lesser of 10% of the content or 400 words that applies? I am currently working on my copyright policy and want to see if I can be as short and specific as possible…

  4. Posted July 1, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if this has been addressed before, but I was wondering, can you get penalized for using multiple categories for some of your blog posts? This notably puts your post in two or more separate categories, resulting in duplicate content. I don’t usually do this, but if there’s a possibility that Google might spank me over it I may stop doing it altogether. 🙂

  5. Posted July 1, 2007 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    Lincoln: using multiple categories will
    – multiply the overall number of pages on your sites: search engines prefer sites with 2000 pages over sites with 500 pages.
    – multiply the overall chance that a user finds your content: as I explain in the article linked here (thanks Lorelle) I do have a number of visits on my category pages.

    Good balance between one and too many categories is a matter of relevancy and of not disappointing a visitor, who will feel “spammed” if Google sent them to a page that was keyword stuffed but with no relevant content.

  6. Posted July 1, 2007 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Ozh: Thanks for jumping in with the answer. I’ve been on the road away from WIFI connections – the bane of my lifestyle. SIGH. And great information! Thank you!

    Jan: I’ve yet to find a solid opinion on this issue of Fair Use. The law states 10% but some blog posts are very long which could mean a thousand words, and others are very short (see Matt Mullenweg) so 10% would be less than one word, so to speak.

    The web has created a standard of 400 words or 10% flexibility to take into account the size of the content. It puts more emphasis on “fair” than on “use”. “What do you think is fair?” That kind of thing. A standard is a legal term for something that is done long enough and by enough people that it becomes an acceptable way of doing things but it’s not the law.

    In a court of law, the 10% rule will win because it is established in law.

    That doesn’t help you, but that’s the best I can do without a lawyer standing over my shoulder. 😀

  7. Posted July 2, 2007 at 3:49 am | Permalink

    I prefer using the robots.txt to restrict access to certain areas of my blog to prevent crawlers from getting everywhere and ultimately flag content as duplicate since WordPress really have many features like category/month,etc archives, full post v/s excerpt which results in duplicate content.

  8. Posted July 2, 2007 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle for the tip. Actually this was exactly what I did for my own blog theme – preventing the exact same content from appearing in two URLs by switching between excerpts and full posts.

    Anyway, I think we shouldn’t worry too much about duplicate content – my gut feel is that the Google will be able to work it out that it is a blog and they don’t expect everyone to be SEO trained, so duplicate content rules should be relaxed within the blog.

    But of course, there are cases of blog pages dropped to supplemental results.

  9. Posted July 2, 2007 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the insight Ozh! Now to go create 2000 pages of content. 😀

  10. Posted July 3, 2007 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle. I may go with a Creative Commons license if I can figure out how to use it.

    BTW. One thing I am really missing here is a possibility to subscribe to alerts by email when a new comment is made. I almost forgot that I commented here as I sometimes comment in more blogs during a day. If it isn’t preventing it you should really consider it as it is pretty good.

  11. Posted July 3, 2007 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Creative Commons licenses are simple and easy. Just go to the site and I think they have a simple question and answer program that helps you to determine what license you need for which usage of your content. As you will hear on the podcast, the Creative Commons license is nice, and the latest versions are better, but they do not replace Copyright Law. Your content is automatically copyrighted, but it helps to have a copyright policy and statement on your blog posts, like I have, and it helps even more to register your content, which is discussed throughly by Plagiarism Today.

    As for the Subscribe to Comments WordPress Plugin, this is a blog and we cannot have WordPress Plugins. If you want to monitor comments, you can do so by blog post comment feed (RSS feed for this post) or for the comments for the entire blog (Entire Blog Comments Feed).

  12. Posted August 22, 2007 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the info. Lorelle, I’m always using stuff on my financial blog that I get from other sources (otherwise I could never write anything, as I can’t just make it up!) I always try to reword or rewrite it and add some of my own thoughts but I’ve often wondered about the duplicate content aspect. What about article directories like Goarticle – do you know if that leads to problems with duplicate content?

  13. Posted August 22, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m not familiar with Goarticle. Is is a splog or does it get permission for reprinting articles? If it is a “trusted site”, then it shouldn’t have problems. If it is an aggregator which publishes full content, it should do so with permissions. If not, then it can be classified as a splog and therefore, can hurt your page ranking under the issues of duplicate content, to my understanding.

  14. Posted October 10, 2007 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you for introducing the event of Japan. I am very glad.

  15. Posted December 9, 2007 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, the results that I’ve seen with my plugin have been remarkable in terms of eliminating duplicate content issues.

    What I wanted to do was make each page view of a particular page unique.

    If each page view were unique, it wouldn’t matter if someone stole a copy from the blog, because they would only steal one of many different versions of the page. When the search engine bot visits the page, it finds an alternate version from the one that was stolen, and hence doesn’t consider it a duplicate.

    Same goes for the same post content that appears on different pages on the blog.

    It takes some work, but it definitely works.

  16. Ruzan
    Posted March 3, 2009 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    recently someone from google yelled on me because of duplicate content, blaming me in plagiarism. this content he believed to be ‘copied’ was from my tags, categories pages. so i don’t think i should relax. google does a very weak job while checking for duplications.

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