There are several myths about duplicate content and SEO, in general, circulating the web. Many believe their sites will be penalized by creating and sharing content that is the same or extremely similar. According to Google, duplicate content “generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), duplicate content is talked about more times than not. The big question is whether or not it has a negative, positive, or neutral effect on a site’s SEO. Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, said he wouldn’t worry too much about this unless it is “spammy” content.

“I wouldn’t stress about this unless the content that you have duplicated is spammy or keyword stuffing,” Cutts said.

Google has also said on several occasions that duplicate content is hardly ever if at all, penalized. What matters to them, as a search engine, is whether or not they should rank the page up or not. Google simply does not share the same thing twice to those searching for clear sources or answers regarding one query. Instead, they aim to present searchers with diverse results. For some reason, this concept seems to greatly confuse or worry new content creators and junior SEO specialists. This tends to happen due to people misunderstanding the penalties Google does place on a site’s content.

Google designed algorithms which prevent duplicate content from affecting webmasters. These formulas place various versions of similar content together, and then the best URL in the group is selected to be displayed. Having or sharing similar content will not impact a site negatively unless the intent behind it is to manipulate search results.

Spammy content, however, does create a problem. Google’s complex algorithm determines what is manipulative. Instead of worrying about what is and is not considered spam, simply follow a few basic rules for good content: use 301s, be consistent, use top-level domains, syndicate carefully, minimize boilerplate repetition, avoid publishing stubs, understand your CMS, and minimize similar content.

Keep in mind that if your content is deceptive, spammy, or uses poor practices, your site can be removed from a search engine’s search results. Basically, there is NO penalty for having the same content on several URLs, whether it is on your website or shared with others. However, search engines might just select ONE of those links or URLs to be ranked for findability and keywords.

Many times, Google will aim for selecting the original source, but that is also not guaranteed. The worst that can happen is you may end up with a syndicated piece of content ranking higher than the original. This might not be ideal for your findability, but it should also not be confused with a penalty!