What is a Duplicate Content Penalty?
A duplicate content penalty occurs on the web when a search engine penalizes a website for having content that is highly similar (duplicates) the content found on another website. The penalty assessed may be a drop in the website's location in search results or a removal of the website from search results altogether. The ownership of the original content is assumed to belong to the website whose content was first indexed by the search engine.
How Do Search Engines Detect Duplicate Content?
Due to an increase in websites that are duplicated and submitted to search engines (thus increasing a website owner's chances of showing up in the rankings), search engines have been forced to develop sophisticated software and algorithms that will recognize duplicate sites. As search engine spiders or bots crawl the Web to look for unique content, they are also programmed to locate and report duplicate content.
How Do You Avoid Duplicate Content Penalties
Duplicate content penalties are easy to avoid if you provide original content to the search engines. If you find that your original content has been duplicated, submit a cease and desist to the copying website's owner requesting that your copy be removed from their website immediately. You may also want to send a letter stating that the content has been copied to the support staff of the major search engines. If the website owner refuses to comply with your request, look up their webhost or Internet Service Provider (ISP) using a site such as whois.net. Contact the webhost or ISP who will remove the content. Not following through and ensuring that the content is removed promptly could result in your site being penalized.