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Google's new method to detect duplicate content

Google doesn't like duplicate content. The reason for that is that the top 10 search results should offer users a choice of different web pages.

Google's new patent application on near duplicate content describes a new method how Google tries to keep its users from finding redundant content in the result pages.

Content may be duplicated for a variety of reasons

There are many reasons why content is duplicated on more than one page, or why documents are very similar:

  1. The content of a web page is available in different formats: web page, printable page, PDF, mobile phone page, etc.
  2. The content of a web page is syndicated, for example news articles or blog posts.
  3. The content management system (CMS) displays the same content in different locations. For example, an item might be listed in a "Size" category and in a "Color" category.
  4. The website owner offers mirrors to make sure that a website does not slow down when many people want to access the same page at the same time.
  5. Someone stole the contents of a web page to reproduce it on other websites.

To avoid showing the same content more than once in the search results, search engines try to detect these duplicate pages.

What's in the patent application?

The patent application describes how Google tries to detect duplicate or near duplicate content at different web addresses. It seems that Google might combine several existing methods for detecting new duplicate content to identify more duplicates on the Internet.

The new patent application shows that Google is serious about detecting duplicate content issues. This new patent application is only the latest step in Google's attempts to detect duplicate content. For example, previous steps can be found here (PDF) and here.

What does Google do when it detects duplicate content?

It's hard to tell what Google will do when they find duplicate pages. There are many instances where duplicated content is used for a legitimate purpose.

If Google only removes the duplicate pages from the search results for a certain query that might be okay. If Google penalized duplicate pages by removing them completely from the index, Google might risk not being relevant for very specific queries and it also might penalize the wrong pages.

It's likely that Google will pick the web page with the best reputation and the best inbound links for the search results if it finds more than one page with the same content.

What does this mean for your website?

If you want to get high rankings, it is easier to do so with unique content. Try to use as much original content as possible on your web pages.

If your website must use the same content as another website, make sure that your website has better inbound links than the other websites that carry the same content.

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March 2008 search engine articles