Should You Plagiarise Your Own Content? Google Answers.

4 min read

In Google’s Office-hours Hangout recorded on 6 May 2022, Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller discussed whether plagiarising own content has any negative repercussions on a website when it comes to search results. In a question posed by one of the viewers, who wanted to know Google’s stand on plagiarising one’s own content, John was quick to point out the misuse of the word ‘plagiarise’ and differentiate between plagiarising and reusing (parts or whole) your own content. In short, you can’t really plagiarise your own content. What you can do is copy it. That being said, should you still do it? More importantly, would you still do it? Let’s look at the full picture of the discussion and see what insights John has to share with us.

Self-plagiarise. Should you? Would you?

Here is what the viewer asked.

“Is Google okay with publishers plagiarizing their own content? For example, I wrote an affiliate article suggesting something for mom. Can I copy the content of that article to write more articles for maybe a sister or a wife or an aunt or a grandmother?”

John was quick to point out that the word ‘plagiarise’ was being misused given the context and nature of the query and the problem that needed clarity. He said.

“So… I don’t know like what the full definition of plagiarizing is. But it seems like if you’re reusing your own content that’s not really plagiarizing, well at least the way that I understand it. From Google’s point of view, if you’re taking content from your own website and publishing that again with some elements of the page changed, that’s essentially up to you.”

Above all, value ‘value’.

Whether or not you are using parts (or whole) of the content that is penned and published by you is quite irrelevant. The more important question to ask is whether or not the new piece of content is adding to the value you delivered for your site visitors or taking away from it for simply being, more or less, a rehash of your best work. As in the end, it all comes down to whether Google sees any real value in the value you are providing to your visitors. And that is what will decide where that piece of content ranks on the search results.

Muller continued.

“And it’s something where my assumption is in many cases you’re not providing a lot of value by just copying the existing article and changing some of the words on it. So my feeling is, from a strategic point of view, probably you would be better suited writing something unique and compelling for those topics or to create one article that covers kind of these different variations.

So that’s something kind of like from a strategic point of view that I would recommend. But purely from a policy point of view, I don’t think there’s anything specifically in the way of you taking individual articles and then making …a handful of copies of that.

So that’s something where like from …purely a practical point of view, that’s kind of up to you. But my recommendation is really kind of make fewer articles that are actually really good.”

Unintentionally creating Doorway Pages will backfire.

John also added that actively copying your content and creating different pages may involuntarily lead to creating doorway pages, something that goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. As per Google’s Search Central Official Documentation, “Doorways are sites or pages created to rank for specific, similar search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.”  Creating many doorway pages, intentionally or unintentionally, could lead to a manual penalty being imposed on your website.

“The one extreme case here that can pop up if you’re like really intensely copying your own content is that you end up creating doorway pages. And that is essentially taking one piece of content and creating lots and lots of variations just with different words in it and that’s something that would be against our webmaster guidelines.

So that’s something I would watch out for and also that’s something where you’re creating a ton of lower quality …I would almost say junk pages for your website which is essentially just like fluff that doesn’t provide any unique value overall. And instead of kind of diluting the content of your website like that I would recommend focusing on making the primary content of your website a lot stronger instead.

So that’s kind of my recommendation there. So if you’re asking, is Google okay with it, well it’s like you can do whatever you want on your website but that doesn’t mean that Google is going to value it.” concluded John.

The fact that content really is the most valuable asset for every website; it doesn’t really make sense to take the easy way out of creating some valuable content for your visitors. So, even if you are to reuse your old content, which is okay on principle, do it judiciously and don’t go overboard. Watch John Mueller’s full response to question at the 07:34 minute mark and may be also stick around for the rest of the discussion for some other valuable insights.

Source: Search Engine Journal

Mohit Behl
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