Many merchants who run affiliate programs make available content for their affiliates to use on affiliate sites. A common question / concern asked of AMWSO is if this content is being distributed to all affiliates, and multiple affiliates are using the content, will this incur a search engine penalty? It’s a question asked of us both from the merchant perspective, as they redistribute content on their own pages, and also from the affiliate perspective, since the affiliates want to use that content.
First, having a page considered as a duplicate does not earn you a penalty in the search engines. Search engines aim to retrieve the best result for any given search, so if a page is considered a duplicate, it is simply filtered out of the results for that particular search query. Your site and domain do not receive any penalty once this happens. To quote from one source written by SEO expert Jill Whalen:
Reprinting someone’s article on your site is not going to cause a penalty. At best, your page with the article will show up in a search related to it; at worst, it won’t. No big deal either way.
If you are really concerned about duplicate content, and your objective is to get those pages with the content ranking in the search engines, then Webconfs.com provides an excellent article with tips how to get around the duplicate filters. Steps suggested are as simple as writing a brief editorial around the content, or simply changing the page structure around.
For the merchants out there, don’t let the fear of duplicate content filters dissuade you from providing valuable content for your affiliates. After all, these affiliates are working to drive that traffic to your site in the end.