Google’s Matt Cutts: Duplicate Content Won’t Hurt You, Unless It Is Spammy

google-cutts-dup-contentDuplicate content is a huge topic in the search engine optimization (SEO) space; heck, we even have a category devoted to the topic. But should we worry about it? Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, said he wouldn’t stress about it — that is, unless it is spammy duplicate content.

In a video posted today, Matt Cutts answers, “How does required duplicate content (terms and conditions, etc.) affect search?”

Matt Cutts said twice that you should not stress about it, in the worse non-spammy case, Google may just ignore the duplicate content. Matt said in the video, “I wouldn’t stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing.”

Google has said time and time again, duplicate content issues are rarely a penalty. It is more about Google knowing which page they should rank and which page they should not. Google doesn’t want to show the same content to searchers for the same query; they do like to diversify the results to their searchers.

To learn more on this topic, see our duplicate content section.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | SEO: Duplicate Content

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh

    In other news, Panda is now useless. Who /really/ follows his LITERAL advice anymore?

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com incrediblehelp

    X won’t hurt you unless it is Y. This is getting funny.

  • Lisa Hosman

    It always seems like Google is talking in technicalities – I think by penalty, people are really asking whether or not duplicate content will hurt their rankings. This is the part where it seems to cause issues: “It is more about Google knowing which page they should rank and which page they should not.” If you confuse the spider with a couple of duplicate pages, neither page will rank as well as it would have without the duplicate issues. They even talk about it in their recommendations for mobile sites that serve the same content on a different URL: “If they are treated separately, both desktop and mobile URLs are shown
    in desktop search results, and their positions may be lower than they
    would otherwise be.” So yes, technically no “penalty” – but it could cause your search rankings to be lower. The true answer being, Yes.. duplicate content can hurt you.

  • Etienne Clergue

    One day it’s black, one day it’s white…..it is always difficult to know what’s going to hurt your SEO efforts and rankings, so as a rule of thumb I’d always advise clients to avoid duplicate content.

    It is very easy for google to come up with statements saying something is safe, but as we all know the rules and algorithms could change tomorrow, so better stay safe!

  • http://www.concept-i.dk/ Thomas Rosenstand

    I honestly don’t listen to him that much anymore. The discrepancies between what Matt and Google says and the reality in the SERP has become way too big.

  • http://www.affenstunde.com/ James Barnes

    What’s most interesting is the example Cutts gives: ‘legal boilerplate’. Does Google assume it’s OK for us to copy/paste TnCs?

    Not that helpful as Q&As go..

  • Zaheer Ahmad

    I think this is what his job is. Manipulating the answers into a
    myth. Find the duplicate and then think if its gonna hurt you or not!

  • khemraj

    I really don’t believe what matt says. You’ll always find it difficult to digest. Why there are always dependencies in what Google and Matt says.

    Google says, do not copy content. Matt says you can

    Google says, should not have low quality links, matt says I may ignore a few links if rest are quality

    I’ve personally seen a website get penalized just because of 5 – 6 low quality links, which are not even developed by us.

    I’ve seen EMDs ranking on top that too with highly irrelevant content for the search keyword

    I’ve seen websites doing black hat are ranking on top, even reported but no action taken, I even tweeted to matt

    I’ve seen websites got penalized just because their brand name is popular search keyword and penalized because of EMD

  • Amit Jha

    The answer may not be completely true but they should definitely take
    this into consideration, as web marketers we all know on many occasions we have to copy some standard format (e.g. Terms & Conditions as pointed in the question).

  • Bilal Sarwari

    A misleading statement, why not to give full details, how to use duplicate content? Duplicate contents are allowed but what are necessary terms ?

  • Phil Gregory

    The issue I have with this statement is that it’s so vague. Duplicate content is ok now? Yes for TnC which, in reality no-one give a crap about or even looks at, we DONT really want TnC indexing anyway. What about product descriptions in Ecommerce sites, where you have 100 different variations of a sink bolt? Leeway on that would be useful, but is it worth risking? Not to me.

  • Krishna

    Is that WWWW on your T-Shirt ??? hahahaha….

  • abecaglia

    SEO is all about learning, implementing, testing, monitoring, amending, implementing again and so on…it’s never been about “let’s listen to Google Guru Matt Cutts” and implement…

  • Ken

    All this is to confuse people and make them think twice. They just want to minimize all the seo.

  • DaveKeys

    condescending.

  • http://www.linchpinseo.com/ Bill Ross

    This is being taken way out of context – and being blown way out of proportion!

    If you watch the video he is not talking about “duplicate content” in
    the sense that SEO’s (or website owners) think about it. He is only
    talking about stuff like boiler plate content that is required on every
    page of certain types of sites – this is really no different than saying,
    “if I have the same footer on every page will it hurt my SEO?”.

  • Dave

    That’s the reason why the sites that are copying content are ranking ahead of the original content site.

    This is happening with my site, my site don’t show up for my original content in double quotes but only the 5-9 sites that have copied our content. My site show up only after i click on link at the last results of Google search page that hide duplicate results. Google is showing the original content site as a duplicate one while those who had copied are original ones.

    Great Work Google Search Team!!!!

  • ryantoms

    This title is very misleading and not what Matt is saying at all. He specifically refers to text found in terms and conditions. He also refers to text that websites have to insert such as guidelines put in place by the likes of the FSA.

  • gregory smith

    As always, great share Barry..

  • http://www.seoppcsmm.com/ Asif Anwar

    I do feel that Matt Cutts sometimes tells something that may not get SEOs jumping into assuming something from his comments. And some of the comments are pretty diplomatic. But, I do beleive him in this.

    Because, the best way to see if the content is duplicate, is by searching in Google with some phrases from the article. And when I do that, I do see multiple search result. If Duplicate Content Filter is so strong then Google would have shown only one result.

    Again, another fact is, Google sometimes make algorithm updates based on what the time demands. But, it might take much more time to get a foolproof solution. And when they come with it, they do some rollback. e.g. in recent Panda update many have reported that their site have gained traffic. But, it’s really tough to track as there are so many factors and signals.

  • http://mattfieldingseo.co.uk/ Matt Fielding

    you can partially manage this with a canonical tag pointing at your own URL – then any scraper sites would unknowingly paste your code including c tags to your page. not an ideal fix but it will help.

  • http://mattfieldingseo.co.uk/ Matt Fielding

    Duplicating product descriptions doesn’t add any value, so I wouldn’t expect it to rank just based on this, anyway. Google will look at the unique content on a page to partially determine it’s ranking – that’s how I understand it anyway. Give search engines a REASON to rank your content above someone else’s.

  • Hugh McCabe

    This is good to know. Thanks!

  • Saday Kumar

    This is really very manipulating statement given by Matt. Once he is saying that Google hates duplicate content(It is good), secondly He is saying that Google also don’t like Spammy, keyword stuffed content (again good), now he is saying that Google don’t bother about the duplicate content. I am still thinking, What is this?? What Matt wants to do actually.

  • Content Writer

    “I’ve seen EMDs ranking on top that too with highly irrelevant content for the search keyword”.. How badly do I agree with you on this!!

    After the EMD update, I myself thought that the sites injecting the keywords into their domain names and aggressively treading with the same old SEO campaigns would be punched hard but it never happened.. I discussed the issue in few forums and they said that the site I was referring to had unique content, hence the exact matching domain update did not affect them! This evoked a genuine doubt about the worth of EMD filter, at all!
    There are so many discrepancies in what they preach and how the algorithm updates actually affect our sites!!

  • Content Writer

    This means X and Y are happily married couple but Y is actually not married with X!! Beat that!!

  • http://www.intensevibes.com/ IntenseVibes

    Not exactly. Certain RSS or scraping is done text only. I know of a blog plug that actually strips all links and HTML.

  • http://mattfieldingseo.co.uk/ Matt Fielding

    So the above would still partially manage the problem then, yes? Unless every scraper is using that plugin or similar?

  • Phil Gregory

    i get what you mean but I’m saying that duplicate descriptions happen all the time ….companies oftentimes just import a product spreadsheet into their ecommerce site and thus have a great rake of duplicate content. Sites can be penalised for this, and its not good. Google would do well to ease up on this. I agree with the REASON to rank.

  • http://mattfieldingseo.co.uk/ Matt Fielding

    I don’t think anyone’s being penalised, they just won’t see any benefit from it (which they shouldn’t). A lot of people assume cross-domain duplicate content to be the same as duplicate content on the same site, which has been addressed plenty of times – the distinction is important.

  • Jules

    Ok got the stuff on duplicate content. I want to know where Matt got his black tee shirt, I want one so bad! Does anyone know?

  • Jules

    Ok got the stuff on duplicate content. I want to know where Matt got his black tee shirt, I want one so bad! Does anyone know?

  • Mi Truenorthvision

    Slightly aside of topic, but it seems rather exhausted anyway, I´m trying to find out if there´s any similarities when uploading videos to Youtube, as someone warned me, but couldn´t explain exactly what I need to be aware of.

    I´m a small video producer, and my clients want to host their own videos on their own Youtube page, but I obviously want to show them on my Youtube page too.
    I upload the video to mine with a slightly different name to avoid confusion.
    Avoiding the same key words, as I´m not interested in taking business from them, but still getting hits for producer credits is a fine balance. I assume Google wouldn´t be able read the actual video content and see that it´s the same film, but just see the URL and the keywords…? Any advice welcome as I´m quite new to this.

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