Website content has long been considered the most important part of the ranking algorithm at Google. The search engine has itself stressed the value of original content. Matt Cutts has long threatened about the penalty that duplicate content can bring. Sites with original content tend to rank better than those with duplicate content. There are obviously more factors than just that.
At WebMasterWorld Forum, a member asked-
I have been given an opportunity to write articles for an online trade magazine. The first one was just published. It now shows up in the Google SERPS for my name. If I post a permanent copy of each article on my website, will this trigger a duplicate content penalty with Google?
The answers are pretty good, ranging from the popular view that Google might just ignore the same articles on your site OR the originator of the article usually picks up a natural progression of backlinks which the copied articles do not.
In reply to this Chrisboggs posted the results of test he had conducted. According to him,
These are both good arguments, and many feel that Google should "do the right thing" and rank the article that was first published higher. But what if your article is reprinted on a much more powerful site? Should Google still rank your site first?
I took a snippet of content that I wrote in 2004 and searched Google for it. Now this is a bit of a special case, since the site that I originally published the article for is actually banned at Google (Instantposition.com), but you will notice that the SEMPO site, which has much more "weight" is ranking #1 out of 2 for the snippet. I do believe that the article was actually published at SEMPO before I let my Malaysian buddy publish it on his site, so both factors would be "OK" by most people's feelings on the matter.
We often quote forum posts. I took a quote from Ben's post here in May and Googled it. I was happy to find Jill's forum occupying the justified first place, but was kind of bummed to see that other sites outranked SERountable, including Jim's blog quoting Ben's post referenced above! (***Note: added when I checked this post for links…now the SER post comes up #1…could it have been the one link from this very post that caused a jump of 6 positions? Obviously not, since it would take a crawl of this site for the link before that happened, unless the Google News feed somehow did something, woah this is strange…anyway the Highrankings site was ranked #1. OK Back again after checking a different browser, and Highrankigns is back to #1…very, very strange fluctuations in rankings. I was not logged-in to Google at the time that I last checked)