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Question: Is this considered duplicate content? On the face of it, the content is not duplicate. It's entirely new and written from scratch. But...it does seem that this is an attempt to monopolize the serps for a given niche. So, does google consider this ethical behavior? I noticed one niche in which one webmaster had 17 sites devoted to the same topic. A bit ridiculous, but google didn't seem to have a problem with it.
I'm not sure how I feel on the matter myself. For example, if you have a popular high ranking site on cars and then develop an excellent car blog that also becomes highly ranked, you may end up with the two sites landing at the top of the serps side by side. This could be construed as strong arming the competition...or it could be simply be viewed as one webmaster providing additional good content in his or her chosen niche.
I guess the question is, how does google view this? And how will google view this in the future.
In my opinion, this constitutues spamming. Why? because these 16 semi-clones, while not being duplicate content, are "stealing the limelight" from other sites that might otherwise be found on page one and two of the serps and which might provide useful information to users. However, as we all know, many users will not go beyond page two of a search.
So, you would think that google might possibly frown upon such behavior. However, issues like this are seldom ever black and white or cut and dry. As I stated in my example, I could imagine coming across a content niche in which an individual had several sites that were generally devoted to the same topic and for which the content overlapped, but which also provided new and completely original content per each website.
I could further imagine that this could be wholly beneficial to users as long as each site contributed to user's desires. Example: you have a site about cars in general and you have five other sites, one devoted to custom car interiors, one devoted to aftermarket addons, one devoted to garage equipment (like cherrypickers), etc, etc. Let's say each of those sites had helpful tips sections on car repairs (all originally written for each site) and in the serps for "car repairs", you consistently found pages from each of these sites showing up in the serps...
In such a scenario, these multiple sites (offering similar but not duplicate content) might be very beneficial to users IN THAT they would be providing exactly the type of information that users are looking for. But there's also that other issue which includes the following questions:
1. is the guy with these multiple sites crowding out other sites? (answer: possibly yes).
2. is the guy with these multiple sites benefiting users? (answer: possibly yes).
3. is the guy with these multiple sites spamming the serps? (answer: possibly yes).
and the 64,000 question----->
4. does google view this as duplicate content? (answer: who the heck knows)
And this, of course, leads me back to the question with which I started (I think, getting hard to remember at this point after this very long post): does google regard multiple sites on the same topic as "duplicate content" or is duplicate content simply exactly that: d-u-p-l-i-c-a-t-e content.
I doubt any of us really know. Personally, I think webmasters (other than the ones who are clogging serps with MAF sites and pure crap) should simply put up their sites, not worry about it, and let google sort it out.
TOTALLY irrelevant--unless a Google engineer takes a look at the site/s. Google's algo, or any algo for that matter, doesn't care why you did it, it's all math.
This is something I shy away from. One man's spam is another man's ham.
re: "Both sites are equally useful"-----this is why I think this is NOT a black/white issue. A webmaster CAN have multiple sites on the same topic and STILL enhance a niche for the benefit of users...even if the reality is that most webmasters would be more likely to churn out spam-clones in an attempt to dominate a niche.
But think about this. You have a site that is at the top of your serps. You create a blog that is an adjunct to your site and it gets popular enough to land right alongside your regular site in the sersps. Isn't this the same thing? And I doubt anyone would have a problem with it.
One man's spam is another man's ham.
Well, without seeing the sites in question none of us (apart from yourself) are really in a position to say whether we think they represent duplicate content, and so it was hasty of me to say they were spam.
I was thinking of examples I've seen where the top results include multiple variations of the same site, with the words rearranged and the content scrambled a little. I definitely think that that's spam, because it's not an attempt to provide more content for the user but to monopolise the search results and it therefore provides less real choice for the user.
Your example of a site with an accompanying blog is more ambiguous, and again we'd have to see examples (something we can't do on this forum). If the blog just rehashed content (even rewritten content) from the website then I'd suspect the aim is again to reduce choice for the user. But if the site and blog genuinely offered different perspectives then I wouldn't think that that was spam. It would depend on whether I thought it offered a real alternative.