Spam or Not? Duplicate Content, Different Domains, Different Language

May 9th, 2007

Hi Folks,

A little while back I asked the following question on the Google Webmasters help forum:-

Is it OK to duplicate content in a different language?

Nobody could really give me a solid answer at the time. At the risk of setting off a new wave of ‘language spamming’, it seems it is. The following pronouncement from Matt Cutts (Google) seems to confirm it.

Matt: Having content from two different domains isn’t risky if they are in different languages (for example, Chinese and English), but if you have the exact same content on two different domains, it’s better to use a permanent redirect from the duplicate domains to a single preferred domain. (see this interview with Matt Cutts for the full length version.

Language Spamming ??

What do you people think about that? To me, it’s a very significant admission of a potential major future web-spam weakness, given the availability of (relatively accurate) online translation tools like Babel-Fish etc. It also presents enormous SEO possibilities for crawlers / spammers.

Apart from the obvious inferences, I have a few others:-

  • Can Googlebot ‘understand’ foreign language words in an english site?
  • If so, what effect do these foreign language words have upon a site’s ‘relevance score’…
  • hmmm…



それは別の言語の内容を重複させることは良いか ?


Ist es OKAY, Inhalt in einer anderen Sprache zu kopieren?

¿Es ACEPTABLE duplicar el contenido en una diversa lengua?


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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Chris Hunt  |  May 9th, 2007 at 7:40 pm

    Don’t be silly.

    As always, the rule for putting content on a site is to think of the needs of people, not of search engines. If it meets the needs of people for you to address them in their own language – which clearly it does – then it’s not something that engines will penalise you for, even if it were practical to do so.

  • 2. DuckMan  |  May 9th, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    Hi Chris – I think you may have missed my point – I guess that can happen when the writer is being deliberately vague.

    Think more deeply.

    I’m not talking about my site, and the list at the bottom is not meant to summarise my concerns – they are added thoughts. The foreign language captions below the main article are me poking fun.

    I’m talking about the content scrapers and relevance.

    Read this


  • 3. Craig  |  June 19th, 2007 at 7:41 am

    For a while I ran an auto-translation system on one of my sites although I took it off a short time later because people for whom English was not their native language, the English version was easier to understand than their native language.

    As you can imagine though, this translation system was touted for its Search Engine “friendliness” although it would have been more apt to say, “ability to spam search engines because they can’t read”.

    I haven’t tried Google’s latest translation system yet but I do know that the translations from babelfish would be laughable if people didn’t actually know it was little better than a random word generator.

    It is sort of amusing though to translate the same text back and forth over and over again and see what kind of crazy text one can come up with.

    All that said, I actually saw a number of SEO’ers using the same system, although none of them used it for very long. Actually the system itself worked very well, it is the translation that is terrible.

  • 4. DuckMan  |  June 19th, 2007 at 8:17 am

    I hear you, Craig.

    Probably the most promising system I’ve seen recently is this one which I read about recently in wired magazine – it really looks promising.

    Having said that, if you’re running a made 4 adsense site, who really gives a shit if the text is readable to a human – all you need to do is make sure that it makes sense to Google and doesn’t trigger spam filters (not hard) and get listed – if it doesn’t make any sense to the reader – all the better – there should (hopefully) be some well targetted adsense ads that they’ll have virtually no choice but to click on to escape the meaningless drivel.



  • 5. Craig  |  June 19th, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Spare me, “The idea dates from the late 1980s and early 1990s, when researchers at IBM stopped relying on grammar rules and began experimenting with sets of already-translated work known as parallel text.”

    Wow!! They discovered the Rosetta Stone!

    Give IBM a cookie for discovering something that has been known for over 1,800 years! :-()

    What’s next, the wheel, fire? 🙂

    Back on topic though, I think that machine translations will effectively become the same as duplicate content in that there will be almost no incentive for anyone to link to it, other than other spammers.

    And, if there are no incentives to link to a random text generator, that means that the pages that people actually are likely to link to will have to support all the other translations single handedly.

    What I learned in my little experiment was that the alternate languages ranked no where near their original language counter part on their respective Google locals and about all it seemed to accomplish was making more of my original language pages supplemental.

    I say if someone is fool enough to believe what they hear about a machine translation boosting a site’s rankings without actually being able to read the resulting translations to know how bad they are, that just means more open positions at the top of the rankings for me!

    So yeah, I think machine translations are great and EVERYONE should use them, except me. 🙂


  • 6. Vincent  |  May 7th, 2009 at 8:38 am

    hey, interesting topic

    actually i’m gonna set up a new site for our company and this topic really does concern me

    so i f we have a new site with a new domain and languages (english included also), would google consider our 2nd site as a spam also?

    and do u know how it’ll effect our old english site ranks?


  • 7. al  |  January 31st, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    The spanish version has no sense:

    This is correct:

    ¿Es ACEPTABLE duplicar el contenido en una LENGUA DIFERENTE?.

    The automatic translations could be always detectable.

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