Content syndication and SEO: Why reposting exact content across multiple websites is a bad practice and can result in penalties from Google.

By Nick Papagiannis, VP, Search Director

By now, nearly every marketer is aware of the benefits of website content and how it can increase engagement traffic and sales. Given the effectiveness of content, brands have been expanding their efforts around it for several years, with many brands repurposing content across their network of websites.

However, reposting duplicate content goes against Google’s quality guidelines and could pose some serious penalties. In fact, duplicative content across websites is a key feature that will trigger Google’s web spam filters which the search engine has applied since its early days. If you look at the latest guidelines by Google, you will find some strong language about it on their webmaster blog:

Avoid creating duplicate content

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar; when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.

Google tries hard to index and show pages with distinct information. [When] Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.

Since Google is vocal and adamant about avoiding duplicate content and the performance penalties that they may employ as a result of it, brands must be mindful of a few rules when syndicating content from one property to another domain or partner domain.

Rules for walking the fine line of content syndication and/or repurposing content for other sites.

For video content, try to keep everything on YouTube and only embed YouTube videos on to other sites. Do not post separate files of the video across sites. There are many benefits to having your YouTube video embedded. More embeds tend to result in higher search rankings of your video on YouTube. So, it’s actually a great tactic to try to get more websites to embed your YouTube video onto their website.

For articles and web copy, maintain a 30% differential across pages. For basic text content (articles, white papers, web pages), be sure to be extremely careful when syndicating out content. Do not simply take web copy and post it exactly the same on your website or your partner’s website. Be sure to maintain a 30% differential in content. This can be done by adding paragraphs breaking up the sections into subsections with different headings or simply modifying text to speak differently. Additionally, be sure your SEO tags are different as well.

For a free comparison tool while copywriting, I recommend Copyscapes comparison tool.

For images, consider naming them differently and using alt tags to differentiate images.

Many brands might not think about ranking well on image search results and potential duplicate content penalties but it’s still important to differentiate images when they’re shared across websites. Assuming copyrights are not an issue, sharing images across websites can be a benefit, especially if they are comprehensive, like infographics, decision trees or other images that offer utility. If embedding the image from its original website is not possible, be sure to have a different filename and image alt tags when you’re posting the image to your website, as well as a reference to the site for sharing. Ultimately, it’s best to also get permission from the author or website (if it’s not your website) as well, so they don’t report you to Google for copyright issues. More info here.

With content marketing an ever-more critical tool for effective performance marketing, it’s important that brands use the most efficacious promotion methods. Simply cutting and pasting duplicative content that runs astray of Google’s long-in-place rules could carry penalties that hurt your overall marketing goals.