Stop being kiddish... The ultimate bliss of shooting yourself in the head while attempting to avoid a duplicate content penalty...
I've done a great deal of research on the so-called duplicate content penalty. In fact, I hope to put it all together sometime soon and supply it as an ebook. The idea is simple: people believe that search engines (most notably Google, of course) don't like the same material on page after page and penalize, in some way, those who use regurgitated content with lower SERPs.
The idea of a duplicate content "penalty" is sufficiently frightening to some that they have adjusted the way they handle previously-published and private label content.
I found a great example of how one person is tweaking content in order to decrease the risk of the duplicate content filter.
A blog at http://webtraffic.btrafficnews.info offers a free article by Chris Taylor. It's a fairly innocuous piece about the tendency for people to wrongly believe there are a few SEO secrets out there that will guarantee high traffic. The actual article, for our purposes, isn't really important. What is interesting is how http://webtraffic.btrafficnews.info decided to tweak it.
Instead of just running the freely distributed article with Taylor's backlink-loaded resource box in place "as is," the site decided to publish "The Ultimate Web Traffic Myth" with inserted editorial comments. This ongoing commentary is done in italics, distinguishing it from the article itself.
If you take a look at the article, you'll notice that the commentary is bogus. The publisher used a software program that take a wee bit of information, I am guessing, and then inserts paragraphs at certain intervals that appear (sort of) to be editorial in nature. Here are a few gems from this little dup content-avoidance tool:
What is your belief about the adequacy of this piece of information?
It gave ultimate bliss to those who were on the lookout of web traffic. For a couple of them it was futile in nature.
All right. Stop being kiddish, comprehend it diligently to get model material which will augment your intellectual capabilities. If you go on reading further, we assure that your interest in this would intensify.
Wow. That's putrid. It's silly, obviously mechanized, etc.
It also makes the article almost impossible to actually read. Compare the tweaked version with an unadulterated version of the same article at Zeromillion.com. That robo-commentary really crushes readability, huh?So, what would lead someone to to take free content that may or may not be particularly awesome in the first place and then screw it up like mad? Well, clearly, the blog running the mucked up version exists only to serve some SEO function. It appears to operate as part of a network of otherwise non-monetized blogs whose primary role is to create some sort of eventual linking value for sites that do produce money directly, I am guessing. The operators of this blog (a) believe that there is a dup content penalty and (b) don't really give a hoot about content quality so long as the blog serves its "greater purpose."
I'm not going to argue with the strategy, either. If the only reason you want content is to build feeder sites for the search engines without any regard to human visitors, you might as well just yank free articles from the directories like that and the inclusion of the foolish robotic commentary probably isn't going to do you any real harm.
However, I do think the whole thing illustrates one of the chief weaknesses of relying upon free content for those sites who do care about their visitors (which, by the way, appear to be the sites that will be making the most money over time). If you bend over backwards to avoid a real or imagined duplicate content filter and rely upon these "mechanized" solutions, you are shooting yourself in the head. It's an unmitigated disaster.
Even the better programs that do this sort of thing are fairly lousy--I should know--Once upon a time, I wrote the base text for one of the more popular ones.
Alternatives? Push on without fear of a duplicate content filter. This is probably a workable short-term solution, based on my research. It probably won't work out in the long run, though.
Or, you could purchase original content from a freelance content writer. Depending upon your business model, that might be the best investment you can possibly make. It may also not fit very well with your scheme--it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish and why. Buying new content may not make sense in terms of cost for some people. If you are building "true value" sites, it's usually a good deal, though.
Finally, you could hire someone to do your tweaks. You flip the text files to your writer. Your writer provides enough commentary to meet your standards with respect to dup content issues. The price is dramatically less than it would be buying all new material and you still retain readability. If you hire the right writer, you can even provided real added value to your visitors (which is probably a stronger justification than the duplicate content penalty or filter).
So, if you are building junkers, I hope you find your ultimate bliss as you stop being kiddish! If you want to build quality, drop your favorite content writer a line.