I even have a little bit of a problem with how you’re phrasing the second question, “if I publish uncopyrighted content,” at least in the United States whoever writes stuff it’s copyrighted. You don’t have to go to the Copyright Office and officially get the word. Here it is. Here’s my proof that it’s copyrighted. Within the United States as soon as you write it, you basically have copyrighted it, as I understand it. I am an engineer. I’m not a lawyer, so your mileage may vary. But whenever you’re saying, if I publish uncopyrighted content on my site, and the way that you’re phrasing it is it’s coming in via different sources and sites, via a word press plugin, it kind of sounds like I run a keyword rich site and I’m not going to tell you the url, so the answer to that question is it’s certainly possible that there could be penalties.
Usually Google doesn’t want to see a bunch of re-warmed-over affiliate feeds or RSS feeds or content scraped from other places. We want to see added value for the users. We want to see some reason why a user would select that page rather than just stumbling on that page because it’s in the search results, and not really having a good experience. So that’s the answer to the second part of your question. So let’s go back to the first part of your question, does Google see automatically generated content as a bad thing? Well, it can be. Given the context of the second part of your question it very well, probably might be.
For example, Google’s web results are automatically generated. I think those are pretty helpful. The world seems to agree. A lot of people come to Google every day to do web searches. But we still, even though we automatically generate pages. We block them in robots.txt so that other search engines and other people don’t crawl them and it doesn’t pollute up their search results. So here’s the analogy that I would use with hand-made content versus automatically generated content.
If you’ve ever watched a TV show called America’s Funniest Home Videos what you see is these people are always kind of accidentally hitting themselves and falling over and they’re on pogo sticks and trampolines and they always crash into things and hit trees and fall in the water, all that sort of stuff. But there’s a theme, I’ve noticed as a connoisseur of America’s Funniest Home Videos and the theme is this: if it’s just them they usually can only hurt themselves so much. If you’re under your own power, like you’re riding your own bike or you’re jumping off onto a rope or something like that, that’s your own power. You can usually only do so much damage.
It’s when you have automatically generated power, you have a car, you have a motorcycle that people really start to get injured. So it’s kind of funny, whenever people like bounce around on a bed and they fall over on their head, they normally seem to be OK because there’s only a finite amount of damage they can do under their own power.
So does automatically generated content have to be a bad thing? No it doesn’t. But in many cases it can be powerful enough that if you’re not careful, if you’re not keeping an eye on it, you can shoot yourself in the foot a lot faster than you could do if you were trying to chisel yourself in the foot where you’d stop after it started to hurt. Hope that helps and hope that gives you a little bit of ideas about ways to generate content and ways not to generate content.
by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team