The Truth About Duplicate Content
There have been several questions about a recent post I wrote, “How to post to multiple blogs” using Windows Live Writer. There are a few issues that have come up that I want to address, but first I want to talk a little bit about site content and how to use it.
You may have read about something called the “duplicate content penalty.” Sounds pretty dire doesn’t it?
In order to understand what it is, you need to remember back to the early days of this millenium when Google was just beginning its journey towards digital world domination. Back then, the search engine algorithms weren’t nearly as sophisticated as they are now, but since there hasalways been money in ranking #1, there have always been those whose sole focus was gaming the algorithm to attain it.
In the early days of search, optimization consisted solely of cramming as many keywords in the meta tags as you could think of and doing reciprocal links.
Google responded by putting next to no weight on the meta tags and instead shifted its focus to the content on the page.
People soon caught on and started not only cramming keywords within the content on the page until it was almost unintelligible, but they also created duplicates of those crap pages creating mega sites with worthless junk.
Do you remember this?
So Google’s response to people slapping up a bunch of the same content all over their site was to implement what is called the
“duplicate content penalty“
The duplicate content penalty is one where you site is penalized if it has multiple pages with the exact same content on your own site.
Now I haven’t done rigid testing to see how much of the same content you can have before the penalty hits you. I actually think that this has been dialed down in the past couple of years as the content scoring algorithm has gotten more sophisticated.
So what follows is strictly my own opinion based on what I’ve seen with my own sites as well as client sites:
How to Avoid the Duplicate Content Penalty
Always write unique content for your money site or anything you are trying to rank
If you have a blog and you don’t nofollow your archive or tags pages, make sure that what displays on them is just the excerpt. Actually, category and tags pages are an awesome way to create tons of aggregated posts. Every word doesn’t have to be unique. What you are doing on a tags page is mix and matching chunks of content, so the aggregated page for a tags page ends up being mostly unique from anything else.
Again, a lot of people disagree with this strategy, but that’s what I do.
Duplicate Content, RSS and Syndication
So if you want the content on your site to be unique, what about RSS feeds and content syndication? Should you block it?
Here’s the thing, if someone is intent on stealing your content they are going to do it whether you publish an RSS feed or not. If you write good content, just expect that at some point or another someone is going to steal it. That’s just the way it is.
Don’t lose sleep over it, just make sure that your web site is the kid sitting in the front row of Google’s classroom. Make sure you get Google’s attention because if the content is index on your site first, your site will be getting the credit.
Submit your site maps to Google, Bing and Yahoo. Submit your RSS feeds to all the major directories. Set up a Feedburner feed (another Google company,) bulk out your ping list in your WordPress installation, post notifications of new posts on Twitter and Facebook with a link back.
Get the content noticed on your site first!
The only time I worry about someone scraping my sites is if they are racking up bandwidth . . . and then I just block their IP address in my .htaccess file. For me, it really hasn’t been a huge issue.
Duplicate Content and Posting to Multiple Blogs
So back to the question of posting the same content to multiple blogs. While I’ve read of many people that do well with autoblogging (posting content to your site that has already been published somewhere else,) it’s never worked well for me.
So what is the point of posting to multiple blogs?
Let’s compare your content to celebrities. There are the A list celebrities like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston, etc. These A listers are the equivalent of the content that you put on your own money sites. You research it, spend time on it, include supporting documentation, you give it the very best that you have and really spotlight it.
Then you have the B List, these celebrities are “what’s hot now.” There is a lot of buzz about them, but it is yet to be seen whether they are a flash in the pan or have staying power. B list celebrities don’t get the top choice of roles, but they typically get a steady stream of offers.
This is the equivalent of the content that you would put on your tier 1 sites, or the first level of sites linking directly back to your money site. This might include the better article directories like Ezinearticles or Articlebase, 2.0 sites like blogs on WordPress or Squidoo lenses, Youtube videos, document sharing sites, or many satellite domains you have purchased.
Just as directors and studios don’t put a ton of effort into courting B List celebrities, you don’t put nearly as much time into creating content for these sites as you would your own. It may be a synopsis of a more detailed article on your own site, or one that has been rewritten, and maybe even a well spun article.
This is where tools that will post to multiple blogs start to become useful. For example SEO Link Robot has an article posting feature that will post to the top 10 article directories. If you typically do this manually, this can safe a significant amount of time.
Next comes the D listers. These celebrities are the hangers on, the ones that will do almost anything for the limelight. They aren’t picky. Think of your second and third tier sites as D Listers. You put the content you have out there. Maybe it’s one of the articles from the B List that you’ve spun the crap out of, or perhaps even PLR. This is what you use on the bookmark descriptions, maybe some updates on second string social networks, and blasting the third string article directories.
Duplicate Content and Backlinks
So why would you use all of this?
Let’s say you have a web site about growing corn in your backyard (chickens are big right now, why not corn.)
So on your own web site, you create articles going in depth about the history of corn, the different varieties, the best fertilizer, etc. You include tons of pictures, create videos, source your articles, etc.
But then you need backlinks to your web site, so you write a brief article about the best corn varieties, not as good as the one on your site, but decent. You submit that to the main article directories.
That gives you some backlinks on pages about growing corn, with anchor text on your keywords back to your site about corn, establishing your site’s relevance and authority. Since those main article directories are heavy hitters, your article will probably be indexed on each, it might not rank, but it will be indexed.
What? Not rank you say? This is the thing to remember:
You don’t care whether or not your article ranks on someone else’s site.
Trust me, Chris Knight is doing okay as it is.
You want your own site to rank.
That is the goal.
But you still need more oomph, so you spin that second article and blast it through Article Marketing Robot and it gets published maybe 500 to 600 directories. Is Google going to index all those articles that are basically saying the same thing, spun or not? No, and again, you shouldn’t care.
What you are doing is getting a bunch of sites to point back to your own site saying, “Hey, this is a site that REALLY knows about corn.” And that is what you want. You want Google to know that you are THE place to go if someone is interested in corn.
To rank for anything even remotely competitive, you need a bunch of other sites linking back to you saying that your site is “IT” when it comes to your niche. And hopefully, those sites linking to you are also known for your niche.
Yes, I do think relevance matters when it comes to backlinks, and that is where using tools to post to multiple blogs to create a layered backlink profile comes in. But more on that in another post.