After my “Should you worry about SEO” post yesterday a reader asked about Googles Duplicate Content penalty. He was worried about cross-posting his articles and also spammers ripping off his content. I know this is a problem many bloggers, especially freelance writers, are concerned about.
Another concern was the effect on his PageRank. Let’s clear that one up first. Don’t worry about pagerank. The only time PageRank matters is when selling links, etc. Look further than the green on a toolbar, it only has financial value because other people perceive it has value. One or two duplicated articles will not impact PR by too much.
So PageRank might not be a worry duplicate content could still drag down your ranking in the search results. Usually if Google finds two identical pages it will only display the first and most authoritative page to be indexed. This is why it is rare for all but a couple of those article syndication sites to rank higher than the authors own site.
What usually happens is the first page to be indexed is the one on the site Google prefers anyway, or perhaps the one that gets the best links. All the others will be ignored or put into supplemental results to avoid filling the search results with the same content.
To avoid this you need to not post identical content yourself if you can help it. If you want to distribute articles for republication or syndication provide modified content for this purpose. The more different you can make it the better.
As far as all the spammy aggregation sites, don’t sweat it. They only get poor quality links so don’t tend to out-rank the original. There are solutions to even this, such as DMCA notices.
Just another reason to create unique, original, valuable content!