Will you have a mass search engine disaster on your hands if you duplicate content on the web?

Many people write an article and then like to post it in a number of places, why not, if you can spread it around then you can reach lots more people and get more chance of being seen… right?

Well, sort of. If you post an article on more than one website and do not change any of the content, the likelihood is that it may not help your visibility on search engines and could even damage it (depending on what your end goal is) as Google doesn’t know which article is the relevant one to show in the search results – the more links you have in different places, the more you confuse the issue.

However, Google’s little robots are very clever creatures and they will try to work out if the content you have posted is deceptive, i.e. done specifically to boost search engine results. If it sees it as non-deceptive (in other words, you’re not an SEO firm trying to trick Google into ranking your site higher) then you’ll most likely be fine.

Basically Google wants to show relevant results for the people searching and if your article is showing up in 6 places it only wants to show it once, so it makes an informed choice on which link to show and will usually go with a website that has the highest likelihood of being the best one for information. The algorithm will look at links on the page, the authority of the website it’s published on and other factors, before choosing which it believes to be of the most relevance to the searcher.

The main thing you need to be careful of is to check how you’re coming up on the search engines, as you may find that if you posted your article on a highly visited website, that may show up higher than your own in the results. This is probably fine for most people, but if you’re trying to build your own presence on Google this is worth considering.

So what is the solution?

Put simply – don’t try to fool Google and be careful who you hire to do SEO for you. There are some great and reliable firms out there, but there are also a load of non-reputable ones who could well damage your site.

Do your homework and only use someone who has been recommended to you and ranks highly in search engines themselves. You’ll often find these days that the best internet marketing firms focus on training you what to do so you can work on building your own presence online and so get your search engine boost more organically (which Google loves).

If you want to use an article in more than one place, consider where would be best and I would suggest changing at least 20% of the content to be different in each place you post it. This will not only help you but also the website you’re posting it on.

By posting relevant, interesting and unique content you will be more likely to be found in multiple places and it’s worth spending a few more minutes tweaking an article to make it unique than just copy and paste like crazy across the world wide web and risk only showing up once. The most important bits to change would be the main title, the intro paragraph and of course some of your keywords.

For the full run down from Google themselves you can look here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66359 and find all the info you need to make sure that you are compliant.

This article is also very useful: http://yoast.com/articles/duplicate-content/

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