Will Google Punish You for Copying (or “Plagiarizing”) Your Own Content?

Updated: October 17, 2022
google self-plagiarism

Need content for your business? Find top writers on WriterAccess!

We’re all familiar with the famous quote, “good artists copy, great artists steal”. But what you might not know is that, in the Content Marketing world, some steal from themselves. 

And, apparently, there’s nothing wrong with it. 

According to Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller, publishers that reuse parts of their own content to create new pieces, very similar to each other, won’t be punished by the platform. 

Still, there are a couple of details that you must be aware of before safely hitting the “Ctrl+C” on your keyboard. Let’s check them out?

Google’s view on using your own content again

During the Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout from May 8, Mueller answered the following question:

“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?”

The first thing Mueller did was make it clear that if you’re reusing your own content, that’s not the same as “plagiarism”, which means actually taking content from another website and publishing it as your own.

With that being out of the way, his official statement was:

“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.”

Should you publish multiple variations of the same content?

Now you know you won’t be penalized. But is copying yourself the best practice out there for your content strategy?

Well, it’s definitely not ideal.

High-quality content, that is original and optimized for search engines, is a big deal for your SEO and it influences how close you can get to the top of the SERPs. 

When you reuse content, you’re not creating something unique and relevant for your audience. 

Yes, copying can save time and money, but it also generates a bunch of pages with no value. Poor pages that Google will associate with your brand.

And that’s not something that will benefit your SEO plan in the long run. So don’t expect every variation of content you post to rank well.

Mueller reinforces this argument in the next section of his answer:

“My assumption is that 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 some 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 from a purely practical point of view, that’s kind of up to you. But my recommendation is really to make fewer articles that are actually really good.”

The case of doorway pages

Before addressing the last part of Mueller’s answer, here’s some context.

Doorways are pages created to rank for similar search queries. They have no real value and serve only to take the user to the same destination. 

For example, let’s say you want better results for your main page focused on tuxedo jackets. Then you create 20 different pages targeting search phrases like:

  • Tuxedo jackets in Texas
  • Tuxedo jackets in Austin
  • Tuxedo jackets in Dallas

Their sole purpose is to rank high, acting as doorways to your main page. This, of course, is cheating and can lead to penalties.

And how does it all relate to the central topic of this post? Well, you can end up creating doorway pages by accident if you’re intensely copying your own content. 

So be advised and read Muller’s final recommendation carefully:

[Creating doorway pages] 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 really 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 diluting the content of your website like that, I would recommend focusing on making the primary content of your website a lot stronger.

[…] So, if you’re asking, is Google okay with [copying your own content], 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.”

Wrap Up: What was the lesson learned?

Resist the urge to cut and paste. It may be tempting to do it during a busy routine, but your audience deserves more.

We get the questioning of how Google would react to copied content, though. 

There are so many rules in SEO that it’s not uncommon to think of content in terms of how Google might respond. 

But don’t forget that Google’s response is based on how much value your page is providing to your visitors.

And that will only happen if you have defined a smart content strategy for your site.

Want a little help with this process? Take our quick assessment and discover what you need to make your content strategy rock!


Human Crafted Content

Find top content freelancers on WriterAccess.

Human Crafted Content

Find top content freelancers on WriterAccess.

Subscribe to our blog

Sign up to receive Rock Content blog posts

Rock Content WriterAccess - Start a Free Trial

Order badass content with WriterAccess. Just as we do.

Find +15,000 skilled freelance writers, editors, content strategists, translators, designers and more for hire.

Want to receive more brilliant content like this for free?

Sign up to receive our content by email and be a member of the Rock Content Community!

Talk to an expert and enhance your company’s marketing results.

Rock Content offers solutions for producing high-quality content, increasing organic traffic, building interactive experiences, and improving conversions that will transform the outcomes of your company or agency. Let’s talk.