Update: After publishing this blog, Josh, our Content Marketing Manager, received an email from a contact, Chase, at NewsCred with a different perspective on duplicate content. We looked into some information he shared and included it below the original post.

Update 2: Following our first update, the original writer of this post, Kayla, followed up with some additional thoughts. Both updates can be found below the original post.

Note: The original title of this post was “Plagiarism vs. Duplicate Content & Why it Matters for SEO”

Original Post

Is “duplicate content” the same thing as “plagiarism”?

No, not necessarily.

Does the difference matter when it comes to SEO?

Yes, absolutely. If you’re not sure why, you could be hurting your duplicate content SEO strategy without realizing it. Keep reading to review what distinguishes these two terms from each other and how that difference should guide your SEO efforts.

Duplicate Content vs. Plagiarism

It’s simple, but important to remember.

Plagiarism is theft. It occurs specifically when a person takes content that was written and is owned by someone else, and then publishes it as their own work without crediting the original source. The thief may use a thesaurus to alter the content slightly, but the work as a whole is essentially the same.

Duplicate content, on the other hand, is a broader term used in relation to search engines. When a search engine sees that a piece of writing shows up on multiple web pages (either on different websites or within the same website), the search engine may flag that content as “duplicate content”. Sometimes this occurs due to plagiarism, but not always, because it occurs anytime two URLs share a significant amount of the same content, even if one person owns both pages.

Why The Difference Matters for SEO

Since the sin of plagiarism has been pounded into our heads throughout our education, this specific SEO issue is often what SEO do-it-yourselfers disproportionately fixate on when trying to manage and prevent duplicate content. Unfortunately, that fixation is one big SEO mistake (among others).

Duplicate Content Goes Beyond Plagiarism

If you know anything about doing SEO in 2015, you already know that duplicate content and SEO don’t mix. Google loves original content, so if one of your web pages is significantly similar to another, both pages risk getting dinged in the search results. And if you’re already trying to prevent those dings from happening, that’s great!

However, if your efforts to prevent duplicate content mostly involve looking out for websites that have stolen your content, you may be overlooking other types of duplicate content that can hurt your SEO just as well.

Additional Duplicate Content SEO Issues  

Luckily, there are ways to find all the different types of duplicate content related to your website. By integrating these tips and tools into your duplicate content SEO strategy, you can better please the search engines and improve your success in online marketing. Just make sure to attack plagiarism without forgetting the rest!

Kayla Eide is a contributor to the Connectivity blog. 

Update 10/1/15
Digital marketing is shifting as search engines, mobile phone capabilities and how people interact with the web change. One of the biggest keys to being a successful digital marketer is an interest in continually learning. As part of this process, it’s pretty common for people that live and breathe digital marketing to have totally different takes on the same topic. The Connectivity blog is a place where these conversations can take place. If you have a take you want to write about, shoot me an email at [email protected]

Quick Note: NewsCred and Connectivity do not currently work together beyond Chase and I emailing each other interesting content from time to time.

So, here’s the email Chase Neinken (Director of Sales at NewsCred) sent me after seeing our original blog:

Subject: You’re Killing Me Smalls!

You're killing me smalls gif

Hope all is well! Just read the duplicate content piece on your blog. I know the intent is not related to licensed content but I had to point this out because these articles are the ones that really hurt public perception!

Thought I’d pass on a bit more info in case anyone asks. I know you know this but I think it’s worth reiterating:


    1. “Let’s put this to bed once and for all, folks: There’s no such thing as a ‘duplicate content penalty.’” Google Webmaster Blog
    2. “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.” Google Webmaster Blog
    3. “I wouldn’t stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing.” Google’s Matt Cutts
    4. NewsCred Blog on The Duplicate Content Myth.


Here is another interesting article on the topic that Chase sent over: https://blog.ahrefs.com/duplicate-content-myth/

Chase and the content he shares make some interesting points. So much of the Internet is about content being shared, forwarded, retweeted and “liked.” It does seem a bit counterintuitive that on one hand marketers worry about duplicate content, and on the other hand, try to create content that goes viral. We want people to share our content as much as possible but at the same time worry about sharing or posting other content in fear of a duplicate content penalty. The logic doesn’t quite work.

Clearly, spammy content is always bad. Don’t create spammy content. Trying to trick search engines into giving your site a bunch of inbound traffic by re-publishing something popular online may be detrimental long term. But syndicating content that fits your brand can add some clear value. Google understands that a site that produces tons of great content about digital marketing is only adding value to a reader’s experience by sharing great digital marketing content written by other people. And Google cares A LOT about what kind of experience sites give to visitors. Just be sure to attribute content to its creator and you should be in good shape.

Update 2 – 10/2/015:

I’m really excited about this post because it’s fed into a deep dive of the topic. Following the update to this post, Kayla (the original writer of the post) wrote with some clarification and deeper details on her perspective. We’d love to hear any thoughts you may have on this topic in the comments section below.

So, here’s the message I received from Kayla. She makes some important points.

After reading Chase’s and Josh’s thoughtful comments, I wanted to respond with my thanks and a few additional thoughts of my own. They both made excellent points, so by briefly expanding on them, I’d like to tie their updates back into the original idea behind my post.

I should have clarified this originally and I’m glad Chase brought it up. While I suggested that sites could get “dinged” for publishing duplicate content, the risk in publishing duplicate content isn’t necessarily being officially penalized. It’s definitely important for readers to understand the distinction.

Although syndicating content doesn’t typically put you at risk for a penalty, it does put you at risk for achieving lower rankings for the original post. If this isn’t a concern to the publisher, it’s more than okay to syndicate. However, if it is a concern, the potential for the duplicated post to rank higher than the original post should be taken into consideration (as should the use of rel=canonical tags to prevent that from happening).

So to conclude, even though duplicating content in innocent ways isn’t common grounds for a penalty, it still could be a bad idea if you don’t know how to do it correctly (such as with tags). This is why it’s important to look beyond mere plagiarism when performing SEO and trying to maintain rankings, and to include syndicated content in your own discussions about duplicate content risks.

Thanks again to Chase and Josh for contributing. They turned the post into a fantastic discussion and I would love for anyone else reading to chime in.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

If you would like to guest blog for Connectivity, please email Josh at [email protected].

Josh is the Content Marketing Manager for Connectivity