The million dollar question: When is duplicate content not considered duplicate content by major search engines?
Grounds for importance: Virtually identical pages are basically ignored by Google and are of little, if any, value in terms of promoting your brand, products & website through SEO.
Answer: Without dropping names, I’ve read studies conducted by name brand optimizers working with large (read: million page +) websites who have been successful “bypassing” Google’s duplicate content filters by merely altering punctuation. Personally, I believe that punctuation changes are a temporary fix as I don’t think it is too difficult for them to be ignored (if not already).
I typically recommend clients who are persistent on launching virtually identical sites (such as for affiliates or daughter companies) to strive for a bare minimum of one textual change for every ten words of content on a site. My more comfortable preference, however, would be two words out of ten.
At Sozo Firm, we’ve done many differentiation studies down through the years. A differentiation study is when multiple pages or multiple sites are built relying on practically identical templates and content. Content and coding is slightly modified (sometimes over time) and search results are regularly monitored to see how the sites perform.
I’ll throw you four similar site examples in a recent differentiation study:
WholesaleFlashDrives.net: This site performs exceptionally well; of course, a prime reason is due to the popularity of that search phrase. Even so, considering the relatively weak content (from a unique textual perspective) on the site, this site’s performance has pleasantly surprised me.
PreloadedFlashDrives.com: While the organic search traffic is meager on this phrase, this site, through the application of differentiation principles, has also pleasantly surprised me with its ranking in SERPs and ability to generate proposal requests.
PromotionalFlashDrives.us: This site has performed – apparently, at least – the worst of the initial three sites (wholesale, preloaded & promotional). While inbound links have a major factor, of course, the primary reason for this site’s minimal input into the client’s RFPs comes directly from the strong competitiveness of this search: “promotional flash drives.” There is fairly significant traffic on that phrase as well as several other stronger sites with aged organic positions.
Today, in continuation of this interesting differentiation study, we did two things. First, we launched a fourth altered copycat one pager site targeting the phrase computer flash drives coupled with the plan to further strengthen these one pager micro marketing sites by adding a second page of partially unique or altered textual content. Preloaded flash drives is the only one pager micro site so far to be expanded to the dual pager status.
Of course, there are many additional factors which are affecting this particular differentiation study which are not being addressed in this brief blog post. Some of those factors are directly attributed to inbound links to the above sites from other sites (including this blog post). Other factors are not discussed because, well, we’re an SEO company and, while we occasionally share some somewhat technical information, we just don’t want to spill the beans! But, having tossed those gray line waivers at you, please feel free to drop a comment or pop an email our way sharing your thoughts on what we’ve termed differentiation theory: how different must a duplicate website be before Google treats it as a non duplicate (or partially duplicate) website?