Duplicate content, duplicate content: what to do, what to do?

In the world of SEO, nothing remains the same for long. Algorithms, best practices and penalties seem to change on a continuum, making it increasingly difficult for individuals and organizations to maintain their online reputation and keep their SEO scores clear from infractions and slaps on the wrist.

For organizations lacking the resources to continuously churn out high quality content for their website and social channels, the quick and easy copy and paste methodology is a last ditch effort to stay relevant and maintain an online presence.

This begs the questions: what’s the deal with duplicate content?

First, a look at its definition. Google identifies duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.” Why does that matter? Because, Google explains, seeing “the same content repeated within a set of search results” is not a good user experience.

writingThe notion, however, that any use of duplicate content is inherently bad or will land you in Google jail is simply untrue. There are plenty of instances where Google won’t take action against a site unless the duplicate content is being used specifically to manipulate search results – or to blatantly lessen the credibility of a source. It’s a Google judgment call, in other words. Posting one blog post — verbatim — across multiple sites is technically okay, provided it’s not being done in attempt to game Google’s system.

Once Google makes the determination that your content is free and clear of any nasty Internet intentions the question can be raised: what happens to the “good” duplicate content? Let’s use this scenario:

Let’s say you post the same blog post to five different websites. Because Google doesn’t like showing multiple pieces of the same content, it’s forced to choose which version is most likely to be the original—or best (based on things like social sharing). As a result, one version of the blog post that’s linked to one domain may rank very highly, while the others linked to the remaining four domains may not rank at all.

The good news is that there is a solution to this. If it’s important that a content entry is linked with a particular domain (even if that same content is published on several other domains), you can use a Canonical tag to tell Google which content entry is the original, and thus, the best entry to include in results.

This method is the best means of housing content across multiple domains, though it’s certainly more advantageous to create original content whenever possible. Each online platform (website, blog, social media channel) has its nuances and user preferences, thus content posted uniquely for those target audiences will likely generate more meaningful engagement and interaction. Utilizing original content will also broaden your reach in search results for a given topic.

How Does PR Affect SEO?

The year was 2006. Pluto was still a planet, you didn’t own an iPhone, you were more likely to log on to MySpace than Facebook, and search engine optimization (SEO) meant squeezing as many keywords as possible into your content and getting backlinks by any means necessary. Scary, right?

Today, thinking that keyword density and lots of low-quality backlinks will get your site to appear at the top of Google’s search results is as reasonable as staying indoors for fear of contracting the Bird Flu (the “it” disease of 2006).

The rules of SEO have changed—especially over the past two years. Updates to search engine ranking algorithms like Google’s “Panda” and “Penguin” mean you can no longer think in terms of keywords and inbound links alone. What matters now is quality, relevance and audience engagement.

Or, as Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts explained:

“We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO—versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on a page, or whether they exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect in a particular area. It is an active area where we have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”

google-panda-penguin-updatesFor many SEO firms, these algorithm shifts have delivered a crushing blow. For Dittoe PR, it’s cause for celebration.

For years we had to sit back and watch as SEO firms gamed Google with blackhat link building schemes predicated on paid backlinks and blog networks that allowed them to distribute keyword stuffed “articles” to hundreds of sites to quickly generate hundreds of backlinks.

Even PR agencies got in on the Google-gaming action. They used wire services to distribute horribly written, albeit keyword dense, press releases knowing full well that human eyes would never read them—they just wanted the backlinks. Sadly, many PR agencies still charge clients hundreds of dollars per release to provide this “service,” even though those press release backlinks barely nudge the SEO needle.

While SEO is still very much a technical discipline—especially when it comes to on-site optimization—the bottom line is that content that is published but not read by living, breathing human beings, not just GoogleBots, achieves nothing—both in terms of human impressions and search engine traction.

When our clients are featured on ESPN or Mashable, they’re not only benefiting from extremely valuable backlinks; there’s also no risk that an algorithm update from Google is going to render those backlinks worthless. It’s a simple matter of quality vs. quantity that makes the difference between page No.1 of Google’s search results, and being buried in the double digits.

Search engine optimization in no longer a “website promotion strategy.” It’s a content strategy; one that’s based on producing compelling, targeted content for humans—not search engines—and promoting that content across national and local media outlets, trade publications, blogs and social media channels.

If you’d like to learn more about our firm and services, please feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Google Panda: Bad News for SEO Cheaters. Great News for PR Pros.

Unless you’re a search marketing expert, you probably don’t pay too much attention to any of the new algorithms released by Google. But if you’re working with an SEO firm or are heavily invested in any kind of search marketing, you should know a little bit about Google Panda—the company’s latest algorithm released specifically to target sites that are gaming the system through unnatural and artificial link building tactics.

During a panel at SXSW in early March, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, did more than hint at the intention of Google’s Panda rollout:

“We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO—versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on a page, or whether they exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect in a particular area. It is an active area where we have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”

On March 23, Google released Panda 3.4., announcing the update via Twitter:
So what’s the big deal? Well, if you’re not an SEO cheater, Panda 3.4 won’t do you any harm—it may even improve your rank since overly optimized sites will be taking a hit. But there are plenty of cheaters in the search marketing world who employ blackhat link building schemes such as creating paid backlinks from blogs without genuine content. In fact, there are entire blog networks that allow users to distribute their keyword stuffed “articles” to hundreds of different blogs to quickly (and unethically) generate hundreds of backlinks. If you need some help determining the legitimacy of your SEO efforts, Douglas Karr, CEO of DK New Media offers some great tips on how to discover an SEO cheater in your midst.

Essentially, GoogleBots used to scan website content to determine its relevance. So if you had a website about underwater basket weaving, Google would be looking for repeated use of the phrase “underwater basket weaving.” Sites with the most relevant keywords would then get ranked highly. But there wasn’t much Google could do to determine the quality of the content aside from counting the number of backlinks to those sites. As a result, link building schemes became all the rage.

With Panda, GoogleBots don’t just “scan” website content, they can practically read content. It’s no longer useful to have hundreds of backlinks from overly optimized sites; Google’s looking for the best—and only the best—to put on page one. Simply put, if your website isn’t up to that standard, it’s going to get removed.

This is really bad news for SEO cheaters and great news for PR pros. Focusing solely on the benefits of PR as they relate to SEO, the purpose of PR is to facilitate link building by creating genuine backlinks from sites that create high-quality content—national and local media outlets, trade publications, and blogs and other news outlets of considerable repute. When our clients are featured on CNN or Mashable, there’s no risk that an algorithm update from Google is going to render those backlinks worthless. It’s a simple matter of quality vs. quantity that will make the difference between page No.1 of Google’s search results, and being buried in the double digits.

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