Google Algorithm Change – War Against Duplicate Content?

Google Algorithm Change – War Against Duplicate Content?

Posted by on Feb 11, 2011 in SEO

Google Algorithm Change – War Against Duplicate Content?

There’s been a huge algorithm change by Google a few days ago and it has affected hugely some of the sites. A couple of mine too…

The drop in traffic looks like this:

At first the drop looked so severe that I thought the servers where I host my site were down but I soon found out that my site was almost completely removed from Google’s index.

After some Googling I found the post from on describing what might have happened with the latest Google ranking changes.

It looks like Google is after duplicate content and is penalizing the sites with duplicate content.

In my case, the problem is that Google still cannot determine who the original author of the text is.

I have personally written the homepage of my site (did not outsource it!) and I still found over 100 copies of exact paragraphs taken from my site.

After some more detailed researching I found that many paragraphs from many other pages have been copied too.

So far it’s my best explanation for this drop in Google.

Have you experienced a drop in traffic too?

My first idea is that we’ll need to rewrite and change our main pages (especially the homepage) more often – as I think this is a much easier way than legally fighting cheaters all over the world.

Update: My best day of all time on Amazon 😉

Amazon earnings

Update 2: According to Matt Cutts, the penalties are not permanent. In fact, I’ve heard of the 3 month, 6 month and 1 year penalties so far in various forums and talking with other webmasters…

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Google Plus


  1. Ouch that sux,I’m really sorry about your sites. You’re right, they do seem to be gone in Google from what I’ve seen.

    I was hoping you wouldn’t get hit. All started from around December, a lot of people are getting hit these days…it’s not necessarily dupe content, it seems it’s something more serious than that…

    Check your Webmaster tools that you haven’t received a msg from Google on getting penalized. They don’t always send it but sometimes they do. Also check out the Webmaster forum, there is a major influx of people complaining the same, and you’ll soon understand what is going on…


  2. I didn’t experience such a drop in traffic these days on my site, in fact it grows a bit every day due to Valentine’s Day approaching and because copycats steal mainly photos from my site (I hope).

    In my opinion rewriting main pages will not be sustainable in the long term because copycats will always be ahead of content ‘tortoises’. I do hope however, that Google will soon come up with something like an ‘update of the page’ factor. It should be somehow taken into account when exactly did content of a particular page (let say 90% of it) from a particular website went alive…


  3. What is the definition of duplicate content?

    I thought duplicate content meant the same domain having identical content.
    If others copy/paste content and put it on their sites i’m not sure that is duplicate content.
    Think of when an article is submitted to an article directory and another publisher puts your article on their site. Is that duplicate content?
    If it is, that sort of defeats the purpose of article directories in the first place.


  4. I’m not really sure what is going on. I haven’t really had any drops on any of my niche sites. I did the same check for duplicate content on one site and found a lot of my home page text on other spammy sites. Maybe I haven’t been hit yet? I would think (hope) Google would be able to determine who the authority is.

    Tomaz, I’m also in one of your niches and I honestly have no clue why your site got whacked. I always thought of it as an authority site. I know you put a lot of time into the content. Could it be related to linking at all? Maybe they are devaluing certain types of links?


  5. Well, it’s early to tell what’s really going on. I’ll post something when I have any new information…


  6. Have you tried looking at your C2.0 submissions? Try mass copyscaping those URLs…


  7. That really bites. I’m sure Google means well,… but do they? You take the hit, while the black hats and copycats benefit. Hopefully Google will get it straightened out. There is obviously a flaw in their algorithm.

    About rewriting and changing our main pages:

    I’m always making modifications to my home page. I get a little nervous when I do sometimes because I’m on the first page of results for my main keyword.

    “To tweak or not to tweak?” I do it to try to improve the flow of it, and I haven’t really experienced a drawback for doing it.

    Sometimes my changes are minor with just changing around and editing a few words. Other times I will maneuver a whole paragraph or two.

    Just recently I added quite a few images and text with more navigation to my homepage. Why? 1)To give it more of a user friendly and stickier feel. 2)To test the improvement of my bounce rate.

    So far it’s been good for me as I haven’t experienced that kind of a drop in traffic. This seems to have worked for me thus far. Hope this helps someone else who may consider doing something similar.

    Ultimately though, as you (Tomaz) have already mentioned, it’s a bit early to know what’s really going on in regards for your sudden spike in pages being dropped and losing traffic.


  8. The same thing happened to one of my sites the first of Jan – 90% drop in traffic overnight. After I threw up 🙂 I did some research and found this page

    The passage that stuck out was this.

    “Minimize similar content: If you have many pages that are similar, consider expanding each page or consolidating the pages into one. For instance, if you have a travel site with separate pages for two cities, but the same information on both pages, you could either merge the pages into one page about both cities or you could expand each page to contain unique content about each city.”

    Who really knows how google defines “similar.”

    I ended up merging and deleting a bunch of pages that I thought might fit the definition of similar. This was a bit extreme and probably not recommended, especially for 1K+ page sites, but I think my site is better now because of it. Albeit with a lot less pages.

    My traffic bounced back to pre-drop levels after about 3 weeks. Whether it would have done this anyway with no action on my part, who knows.

    As for others copying your content Tomaz, the last paragraph of the article I cite above talks about what you can do about this.


  9. My sites took on some change in January. My photography site increased to PR4. My lawn mower review site also increased to PR1. Both have resulted in more traffic.

    I also have a vacuum cleaner review site. It had a great month for traffic in January, almost doubling and then took a hit from Google at the start of February. I am getting most of my traffic from the other search engines. Is it the niche I wonder? Also could it be the way some of the pages are linked? All my tier 3 pages for example are linked together in the right hand column with the same anchor text and description across all the pages. So there is some internal duplication.

    You can see what I mean here:

    and here:

    Both tier 3 pages.

    Although my website is in the same niche as one of Tomaz’s, it is only inspired by that theme, not copied in any way. All content is original and unique.

    @Tomaz: I think with the amount of incoming links to your website and the size and quality of it, Google will re-spider it in a couple of weeks and you will regain your previous rank and visitors.

    As Dr Ken says: Keep it real. Quality will prevail.


  10. Hi Tomaz,

    Sorry to hear about the loss man. I just checked your tennis site and it’s gone too. I can’t understand why because that site is really solid in terms of information and value.

    There’s been a lot going down lately at the webmaster forums with people’s sites getting penalized because of low quality or MFA type content, or rather a handful of pages that are like that.

    I can’t see why that is, with your tennis site. Why don’t you post it up on Webmaster forums and ask?

    From what I’ve seen, the folks at webmasters forum have always been able to answer the question as to why a site had been deindexed, penalized, or whatever.

    Let us know how you go with that tennis site. It is quite a concern…..



    Tomaz Reply:

    I did a lot of reading today (as you may have guessed) 😉 and it’s possible that my site(s) are simply a collateral damage or Google’s algorithm change.

    I have been lucky in some regards in the past and I may have been unlucky this time and Google’s algorithm change took my sites down together with the crappy ones that were targeted.

    This certainly won’t change over night so there’s will be some work to do…


  11. Google can be really annoying at times. The way we run our businesses, they really have us cornered. You would think they would work their algorithm to recognise sites with around 5 years maturity would be OK.


  12. I don’t believe your lost of ranking is due to duplicate content, because as Will pointed out the link about Google Duplicate content policy, your site’s ranking will not likely be affected if someone else scraps or republishes your content.

    This duplicate thing happens to many of my sites, and none of them got affected.

    Maybe you should try to de-optimize some of your pages, so that they look a bit more natural and don’t appear as though your site was made for Search. For example: removing redundant words in the links back to T2s and homepage. Just some thoughts….


  13. Just thinking of another possible reason – I have read before about link stagnation – meaning you site didn’t gain any links for a long period of time – and this appears unnatural to Google.

    Did you build links for those affected site lately?


  14. Actually I’ve been noticing this recent trend at the Google webmaster forums where people complain about their lost rankings and a lot of review sites as well as affiliate sites were hit. But like somebody else above me said, I don’t understand why your tennis site and blog were hit. I mean those have pages with solid, useful information that teach people, they’re definitely not pure affiliate review sites…*shakes head*


  15. Sorry to hear about your sites Tomaz. The same sort of thing happened to 3 of my review sites in early Jan. It is such a frustrating thing to happen. Probably the most frustrating aspect is that Google doesn’t tell you exactly what needs fixed, they just whack you one day. I made some changes and sent the reconsideration request a while back. They sent me a message saying they had looked at my sites, but no SERP ranking changes had happened. Anyway, I hope we can get this figured out – soon! Good luck to everyone dealing with this sort of thing.


  16. Google is getting better and better at recognizing unnatural and unethical linking practices. As long as you’re not guilty of this, I’m sure we’ll see you back up in the SERPS in no time 😉


  17. Hi Tomaz,

    Is all your sites (vacuum and tennis) affected? or just 2 of them?

    If all sites are affected, do you think they can somehow recongize all the sites belong to a single owner?


  18. I think it should be temporary for you Tomaz,
    your sites have many back links.
    Maybe add copyscape to all of your pages if people are using your content.

    Years back someone copied all the content of my site and made their own, then that one site was de-indexed, not fun. This is what caused me to add copyscape to all of my sites.

    I’ve read from Jerry West duplicate content can be caused from similar meta title tags.


  19. @Jeremy123

    How does copyscape prevent people from scraping/copying content from your site?
    As far as I understand it is just a graphic which you add to your pages; so is it more of a visual deterrent?


  20. Jerrick,

    Having more sites recognized under one owner has nothing to do with being penalized – as long as you have nothing to hide.

    Based on what I am discovering on various blogs I feel that my sites were flagged as webspam and dumped far below.

    Granted, some pages were not good and some were really good. But keep in mind that this is algorithm at work and not human opinion. (in most cases)

    I’ll keep investigating and post my findings after the conference in London.


  21. Boy is this a bummer. Personally to have my livelihood in the hands of one major search engine who at a whim can change the way they do business is really depressing. The more these things happen, the more I see why people like Gary Halbert and other marketers stressed that people need to do “offline” marketing to drive traffic to their websites.

    First it was the image stealing
    Now duplicate content; and if google can’t tell who had the content first then who can????

    I think this is a wakeup call to do more marketing on other platforms than the web; I can see why google is having some issues & it’s a matter of time, IMO, before facebook takes over.

    It’s just not right. Why should the original content creator have to be punished??
    This is wrong; I don’t care how you “shake it”. and it is what it is. So its now time to talk more about ways to drive traffic to your site without depending on Search.


  22. Darn.. I’m really sorry to hear about your sites Tomaz.. yikes! I hope you figure out what to do soon..

    I’ve been working on my site (a product review type) and was thinking about starting to monetize with Amazon and adsense. I have about 250 uniques per day.. but now with the recent Google algo change I’m afraid that they’re targeting affiliate and product review sites. Do you think I should I wait a bit or go ahead and monetize?


    Tomaz Reply:

    @vb: I don’t think monetizing with Adsense will have you penalized. It seems that it’s more the content which they can identify as low quality.

    Matt Cutts explained with the previous Mayday update that this is totally algorithmic. I assume most changes like this are…


  23. Tomaz, looks like you’ve been hit hard this time. I know that at least 4 of your high traffic sites have been penalized. (I even couldn’t find your site in top 10 for “exact site name” search)

    Did you have all of these sites regietered with Google Analytics and/or Webmaster tool? I highly suspect your sites were manually reviewed by someone from Google’s web-spam team and maybe they didn’t like something and decided to hand penalize all of them regardless of quality of each site.

    I read the SEObook training program before, and Aaron Wall once had all of his sites which are registered in Webmaster tool whacked completely in one-day, just because the Google team decided those sites were not good because they were built by an SEO expert – who knew how to make them rank in Google.


  24. Hey Derek,

    True, but there are also gazzilion copycat sites in other topics built on the same principle which often use the same words (sentences, parts of sentences or even paragraphs) as I do – so it’s quite possible that Google sees my site as duplicate content or simply assigns me into the same category of low quality sites.


  25. Tomaz,

    I like the new site design for your vacuum site. With such a large change, perhaps Google put it on a temporary “check it out” hold. Hopefully it’ll bounce back shortly.


  26. Tomaz

    Similar thing happened to me last December….My site went down in first week of December and exactly 3 months after that happened in first week of March it bounced back….but an important point is I didn’t do any work on the site in that period…I was too upset….i just focused my time on my other websites…so i think it might just be a temporary thing that happens to many sites and then because the websites are full of good content and linked by quality websites they get back to their original positions…This has to be a temporary phase even for your websites.


  27. Thanks Tomaz… I figured I can’t go wrong with adsense.. but what about Amazon affiliate links? Almost every page of my site recommends 2-3 products..


  28. From reading Ken’s latest blog post, it looks like Google are getting tough. Especially with backlinks and low quality content.

    If you use a three way system to exchange links with another website to avoid giving a recip. link they don’t like this.

    Also my thinking is that they don’t like alot of C2 submissions. They are usually low quality writing.


  29. I hope your sites come back Tomaz, I think they should, good back links means a good vote for the content on your site, plus your sites are aged.

    @Mark, I would think Google likes c2 submissions,
    it shows interaction with your visitors just like a blog comment


  30. Tomaz, sorry to hear about this shocking development.

    My question is, since your online businesses are more established, is there no one you can talk to at Google?

    It’s scary that your livelihood can be snatched out from beneath you and there’s absolutely no recourse available.

    My initial thought would be to wait for a bit and see if your situation sorts itself out before making drastic changes…but for how long?

    @vb I started developing content in December and once I reached 15 pages I monetized with both adsense and affiliate marketing.

    My traffic has been steadily rising and there have been no shocking drops.

    Tomaz, please keep us informed of your situation. I hope it improves soon, Tony


  31. Hi Tomaz

    I agree with you about the dupe content thing – for the most part your site is being relegated to the “we omitted 31 other results due to the similar nature” section, which confirms that Google thinks it’s dupe content.

    My suggestion is to update or rewrite all your content, and PING Google the moment the content goes live. They need to cache it first before any of the other sites can have a chance to republish it – that’s your biggest issue at the moment, they are beating you to the punch.

    There definitely needs to be a clearer way to “date” content though, so the originator is always credited with the work…..

    Good luck



  32. Here is what at the copyscape for your main page:

    #CopyCat 1

    The comparison below was created by Copyscape, which checked 410 words of pasted text.

    The page below has 187 words matching 46% of the text, as highlighted by Copyscape:

    Site 1 (I removed the URLs – Tomaz)

    #CopyCat 2

    The page below has 284 words matching 69% of the text, as highlighted by Copyscape:

    Site 2

    #CopyCat 3

    The page below has 145 words matching 35% of the text, as highlighted by Copyscape:

    Site 3


  33. Tomaz, I’m so sorry that this happened to your sites. That’s terrible.

    I just noticed an article in New York Times about “corrective measures” that Google took in response to abuses by J.C. Penney — the timing (February 9) coincides exactly with the change in your rankings, so I’m wondering if it’s related. Here’s the article:

    I agree with Tony — if your sites’ drop is an unintended consequence of a general Google change, I hope there’s someone at Google who can help you since you have such high-quality sites that offer genuine information.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you.



  34. @ Jeff

    Surely we don’t have to rewrite the majority of pages on our sites periodically to avoid getting punished for duplicated content?

    I mean I typically spend (probably like everyone else) hours writing a very good quality article – if I had to go round rewriting these after a few months I am never going to move forward.

    Is there a way we can protect ourselves from other sites stealing content?

    opinions would be appreciated


  35. To be honest, I don’t believe duplicate content was the reason for penalization.

    After all, sites like and get copied all the time, and many times the copycats don’t give the links back – but hey, those sites are still ranking like never before!

    It’s most likely something to do with links or other techniques that new Google update might have considered as spam signal.


  36. My traffic is down too. It is unbelievable. My average traffic now is like I had last April..I lost ranking for my main keyword, the best 25-30 pages are gone. (They used to be well under 30 and now they are not even in the first 300). I am too upset and too frustrated to do anything.

    I feel your pain Tomaz!! I have many C2’s (short ones)..Can that be a problem? I’m too upset to think straight…


  37. Viv, from what I checked with (it’s a penalty checker, but it’s not always accurate, so please take it with a grain of salt), your site doesn’t have a penalty. Most probably it’s just a regular shuffle as Ken was also saying in one of his articles. For Tomaz’s sites, I checked all and they have either a -30, -60 or ‘very severe penalty’.

    The reason I think he indeed has a penalty is because all of his sites (but this one blog) went down the same time. That’s a flag right there. If only one went down, I would have said it’s just the Google shuffle, like in your case. I mean remember David from the sea glass site, his site was down also for a few months and now he’s back on page 1 again 🙂

    Also if you google (without quotes): living with small a cup breasts, you’re up there #1. I know this is not your keyword but it’s a sign that you haven’t been penalized, you’re just doing the (sad) google dance…


  38. Sorry to hear about your sites Tomaz. Hope that your sites get back on track. I always read your blog but rarely leave comments.

    My sites are affected a little bit. The traffics and clicks on Feb seem like reduced by at least 20%. Not sure the reason. But, I don’t think it was because of the google algorithm. May be it is just the market trend. Feb – Low month.

    This might a wakeup call for us NOT to focus entirely on online business. I began spending my time on offline business already.


  39. Marika: Thank you for showing me this penalty checker site. So maybe there is hope for me (?), although I can’t see any lights at the end of the tunnel just yet…

    Tomaz: Why does your Amazon update earnings seem so familiar.. ? ;). My record was -2,95/day. When it rains, it pours, I guess.

    I wish you a very fast recovery!!


  40. Hmm…how come the Amazon earnings is negative with 4 items shipped?


  41. I am really looking forward to figure out what caused it as I know you are one of the most legitimate webmasters on the net and if this can happen to you then it can happen to anyone!


  42. Marika–

    I checked out that tool you recommended from SEOmoves…and I don’t think it’s accurate.

    I’ve got a domain it claims is banned, but that site hasn’t seen its Google traffic drop at all. In fact, the Google traffic is up during the past month.


  43. Hello Guys.

    I am raina and i work with google.
    I am also a fan of tomaz. He just does not know yet.

    Tomaz, its all right in a matter of weeks it will be ok.

    The fault is from us, we are correcting what need to.

    Please add more content and solid back links now. Its like giving drip to a dying man.

    The rest we will handle. As you know many white hat guys are affected.

    I speak as a friend and not an employee of google.

    I cant divulge details to you, but all will be fine soon.


  44. Sounds like you have a guardian angel. I wonder do I have any fans like that?


  45. @Raina – if so that would be really nice! We wish the best for Tomaz he has given all of us invaluable info that has changed our lives.


  46. Jeremy, I did say “(it’s a penalty checker, but it’s not always accurate, so please take it with a grain of salt),” in my previous post. Also showed a better way of checking manually if your site is really penalized.


  47. Rumor has it that Facebook is getting into the search engine business to compete against Google. I suspect FB will take a huge bite out of those using Google since traffic on both sites seems to be pretty close to having the same numbers of daily users.

    From my perspective, Google may need to reconsider its ways since it sounds like it will eventually come back to bite them. If enough web sites keep getting slammed with Google’s constant algorithm changes, it may be enough to push web site owners to start encouraging people to use an alternate search engine.

    FB has the resources to do it since there are close to 500,000,000 people now using it. About 250,000,000 – 300,000,000 use it daily. Google gets about 300,000,000 users a day.

    Only time will tell if rumors come to fruition.


  48. Tomaz,

    Let me know if you need me to lend you few bucks to get by 🙂

    I haven’t noticed anything on my sites and I’m shocked that Google has seemingly dropped your best property. Still there in Yahoo, so something scary is going on.

    I hope you can get this worked out. Maybe it’s just a temporary and unrelated glitch. Let’s hope.


  49. Did you find out something new Tomaz?

    4 of my sites have seen 90% traffic drop since 20th of February 2011.

    I can only think of two possible reasons:

    1) Algorithmic changes that accidentally picked up some on-site optimization patterns common among SBI review sites.

    (I know for sure that for example, my sites have very different link profiles compared to yours, so link profiles should be eliminated from equation)

    2) Manual human review and penalization (all four of my sites got traffic dropped the same day – and all were registered with webmaster tool as well as Google analytics)

    I would rather believe it’s Algorithmic change, because so far I’ve read Google webmaster guideline several times and I’m not aware of any incidences where I violated the guidelines.

    At moment I can’t be bothered doing anything about it really… and maybe just wait to see what happens in the next few days.


  50. I am NOT good at researching this stuff but I took some of my urls that have dropped in traffic recently and started popping them into Copyscape.

    I’m not even sure what is going on here but I found a page that came up as a duplicate of my content and clicked on the link. Here is the page I got:

    Looks like just a page of ads right? Well do a “View Source” and notice that there is hidden content all over the page. My content! My exact words!

    The whole bottom part of this page looks blank but really I think it’s full of hidden content. Am I right?

    I don’t know how you battle these guys. Apparently Google can’t figure out who published it first so they think I am the thief and dropped my traffic. I’m still getting great traffic from Bing and Yahoo but not so much from Google anymore on these keywords.


  51. @Nick: it is Algorithmic for sure. I have about 20 websites that show the Feb7th/8th drop off. It’s funny as well because at the start of February things looked like they were recovering from previous google slams………right when you think things might be going your way………..SLAP!;)

    All my content on all my sites is original. All the sites in my niche ranking page one are of low value. These ranking changes do not seem to be ever rewarding the right websites……..IMO.


  52. @Kevin: I’ve noticed something else:

    I have several 5 page mini websites (all original and quality content with original ideas) which used to rank for their domain name on the first page.

    Now these sites have been pushed to page 4 – and all of them were registered under the same webmaster tool account as with 4 sites I mentioned above, but were not using analytics.

    Big lesson learned this time – avoid webmaster tool, or make sure you have a separate account for each site (and clear cookies, change IP, etc…)

    This is what I knew before after reading the SEObook training material, but never thought it would hit me one day, kept thinking that because I was the white hat guy it would never hit me – how naive!


  53. @Nick – I haven’t read the SEO book training material (what is it?) but was wondering why, before these drops, it was advising you not to use webmaster tool. Also, don’t you have to be registered in order to submit your site to Google?

    Thanks so much.


  54. Hey Tomaz,

    We showed a similar drop in traffic and especially in are SERP rankings for our major keywords. This couldn’t come at a worse time for us as we’re headed into the biggest part of our year come March. Hoping this is a temporary algorithm issue and that the earlier posting from RAINA is accurate. My sister works at Google (in a different area), so I’ll be prodding her for some answers. If you have any updates, please keep us posted. Thanks for sharing your pain and I’m hoping it’s very short-lived…for all of us.


  55. Tomaz,

    Are you sure that the content you outsourced isn’t duplicate?

    That is one advantage of writing your own content: you know that it is original.

    Yours truly,



    Tomaz Reply:

    Hi Dan,

    There’s a much bigger thing going on at the moment. Google has penalized tons of good sites. Check the discussion at the WebmasterWorld forum


  56. @Maya: SEObook material used to be sold seperately, but now its part if the monthly membership. I simpl registered for 1 month to read all the info.

    And No, if you do not use SBI, you can install xml sitemap generator and it will ping to search engines and blogs with a single click of a button – no need for any kind of registration.


Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *