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What Happens When You Plagiarize Your Own Content?

A picture of What Happens When You Plagiarize Your Own Content? with The King Of Search

Last Updated on August 25, 2022 by SERP Kingz

Google’s obviously against site owners and publishers copying content from other sites.

But if you’ve wondered before whether Google is okay with you “plagiarizing” your own content—that is, to take content from your own site and publish it again with a couple elements changed—you’re in luck. 

Google recently answered this exact question.

And their answer is everyone’s favorite answer to everything:

It depends.

First of all, let’s get something straight—you can’t plagiarize your own content

Plagiarizing is stealing, and you can’t really steal from yourself—generally speaking. (You wouldn’t steal your own car, would you?)

A picture of What Happens When You Plagiarize Your Own Content? with The King Of Search

What’s really being talked about here is reusing your own content. Mincing words aside, let’s get right to the heart of this:

How Does Google Feel About You Reusing Content in Multiple Places?

From Google’s perspective, if you’re taking content from your own website and republishing it with some changes, that decision is “up to you.”

That may sound like a very wishy-washy response at first, but it’s actually kind of notable, because there’s a distinct lack of condemnation in Google’s response.

How do we know how Google feels about things? As always, John Mueller. During a recent Google SEO Office Hours session, Mueller popped in his trusty wired earbud (singular) and stepped up to answer every SEO question lobbed at him.

Around the 7:30 mark, he asked about whether or not Google was okay with publishers copying their own content for new articles/pages, and long story short: he indicated that it’s one of those SEO things that’s okay, except when it isn’t.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

My thoughts exactly.

He added: “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.”

In a way, what the asker of the question was referring to was what SEOs call “doorway pages.” 

A picture of What Happens When You Plagiarize Your Own Content? with The King Of Search

Doorway to Hell

Doorway pages are exactly what they sound like: they’re pages that exist solely for the purpose of funneling traffic to another page or website.

They don’t provide much (if any) value on their own, and they’re not meant to be read or interacted with. They’re just there to get you from Point A (the doorway page) to Point B (wherever it is you’re actually supposed to be going, according to the site owner).

Doorway pages are generally considered a bad thing from an SEO perspective. Why? Because they provide an extremely poor user experience, and everyone hates them accordingly.

That’s the main reason why Google wouldn’t be thrilled to see you have a bunch of new doorway pages on your website—because it would signal to Google that you care far more about driving traffic than you do about providing a good experience for their search engine users.

So, to answer the original question: yes, you can “plagiarize” your own content.

But you probably shouldn’t if there’s an alternative.

And how often is there not an alternative?

A picture of What Happens When You Plagiarize Your Own Content? with The King Of Search

It All Comes Down to Value (For Your Visitors, Not You)

If you’re still thinking about doing it, ask yourself this: is the content you’re looking to reuse adding value to your website? If not, then it’s probably not worth your time (or your visitors’ time) to keep it around.

I can definitely see a business or a site owner who isn’t SEO-savvy creating doorway pages unintentionally—though it would require some effort to do so.

Google isn’t likely to tank your SEO rankings over just a handful of pages that resemble doorway pages, though stranger things have happened.

Anyone remember when Google blacklisted BMW’s domains because they were using doorway pages?

No one’s safe from Google’s wrath—not even Google.

Mueller did acknowledge the possibility of accidental doorway page creation as well:

“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. (…) I would recommend focusing on making the primary content of your website a lot stronger instead.”

Once again, we come back to quality over quantity.

Remember when Mueller had to warn an SEO to not build out 1,300 city-based landing pages to try to rank for a keyword phrase + a city name? (Original tweet deleted, but here’s a link to the thread anyway so you can watch someone try to argue that 1300+ pages of the same content with a different city name can be “relevant” and “good” actually.”)

Still, the bottom line is that other than avoiding an accidental doorway page effect—according to Google—you don’t need to specifically worry about reusing your own content on multiple pages.

Just focus on creating high-quality content that provides real value to your visitors, and Google will take care of the rest.

And on those inevitable occasions where they fail to take care of the rest, you can always tweak things accordingly.

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