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Should you be worried about Duplicate Content?

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Use the Canonical tag to correct duplicate content

What is duplicate content?

In a nutshell, duplicate content is content which exists at more than one URL at the same time, notice I said URL and not domain.  This generally happens in one of the following ways.

  1. Someone “borrows” text from another web site and posts it to their own with out significant modification.  Regardless of which site has the original content, when this is discovered by the search engines they will both be penalized.  Potentially by being dropped from the listings.  Obviously, this would be bad.
  2. You sell products online, and those products can be sorted into different categories, colors, groups – whatever.  These variations on the URL can create problems for your rankings since the search engines think each variation in the URL, regardless how minor, is a new page.
  3. Using session or other tracking codes in your URLS.  Believe it or not, this is still considered duplicate content.
  4. You run a blog and your posts are available from the home, archive, tag  and categories areas of your site.  By default, each of these areas will generate a unique URL for each post and even though they are all on the same domain, it’s still considered duplicate content.  While still bad, this is not as severe as having content on more than one domain and it is unlikely you would be penalized.  However, your rankings are probably being affected.  Because Google and the other engines will have to try to figure out which URL is the best to display, it requires them to look at other criteria as well, incoming links and internal links for example.  Sometimes they get it right, sometimes not.
  5. You run more than one site with very similar content hoping to get more links, visits and rankings.  Yes, the engines know you do this, and yes it is duplicate content.

Protect and Correct your content

There is nothing you can do to stop someone from stealing your content.  However, it helps to know that most of the time people (or robots) that do this are idiots and don’t bother updating the links.  If  you use full URL links, which include your domain it’s unlikely that the thief will notice.  By using full URLs, when someone follows a link on the duplicate site, it will go to yours.  Also, in the event you get banned from an engine, having those links will help you make a case for re-inclusion.

For e-commerce sites, or those using other dynamic URL parameters, help has recently arrived from the major search engines in the form the “canonical tag”.  This tag is a bit of code you insert within the non-viewable ares of your pages that tells the search engines which URL to consider the correct one.  It works likes this:

You may have the same content available for a blue colored “widget” at three different pages:
https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets?color=blue
https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets?style=printonly
https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets?sessionid=127896

By adding the canonical tag code to the pages, Google knows what URL is the best one to use and to include in it’s index.  The code tell the search engines what page is the right one might look like this:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.widgets.org/blue-widgets" />

If you are running a blog, particularly a WordPress powered blog, you are in luck.  There is a great plugin available called the “All in one SEO pack”.  Aside from its other useful SEO features, this tag allows you to define whether or not the various sections of your site are to be indexable by the engines.  The SEO pack even creates and inserts a properly formatted canonical tag into your posts for you.  It’s not rocket science, but do be careful and properly configure the all in one SEO plugin, or you could end up causing your rankings to go down instead of up.

If you run multiple, similar sites – just stop.  Seriously, stop, you are only hurting yourself.  In years past, it was thought that running multiple sites like this would create more rankings, all at the same strength – giving you greater visibility.  In fact, what this does is split your rank strength into multiple smaller pieces – reducing your viability.  To fix this you need to determine which site currently has the best ranking and consolidate all content to that one domain.  Then use 301 redirects on the old ones to send all traffic and rankings to just one place.

Should you be worried about duplicate content?

Yes. Yes, you should be worried, you should check your site and try and minimize your risks.  Thankfully, you now have the tool you need to conquer duplicate content.

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG (www.tgslc.org). In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Joe Loomer

    May 16, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Thanks Jack, I’m making a few of these mistakes right now – soon to be corrected….

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  2. Ken Brand

    May 16, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I didn’t know Jack about Google ranking and stuff like this. Now I do. This is extremely helpful and appreciated. THANK YOU.

  3. Greg Staker

    May 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Here is a great resource from Google on duplicate content.

    https://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66359

    A couple of key statements from the Google page:

    “If you find that another site is duplicating your content by scraping (misappropriating and republishing) it, it’s unlikely that this will negatively impact your site’s ranking in Google search results pages.”

    “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.”

    The key word from a Google standpoint appears to be “deceptive”. Are you dupicating content in order to manipulate the results.

  4. Jeremy

    May 16, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    “Regardless of which site has the original content, when this is discovered by the search engines they will both be penalized.”

    I have found this statement NOT to be true every time, more often than not, the site with the higher authority will outrank the lesser authority site.

    *****
    AG, nice to see you guys get your permalinks straight.

  5. Jack Leblond

    May 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    Worried about duplicate content? https://bit.ly/18VB2e You should be.

  6. Sue Adler

    May 17, 2009 at 11:09 am

    So if we should be worried about duplicate content, isnt idx indexing duplicate content?

    Are you saying that the listing agent who writes original content on his/her site would be penalized for duplicate content if all of the random agents anywhere in that MLS have indexed idx on their sites?

  7. Jack Leblond

    May 18, 2009 at 9:55 am

    @Joe – Once a sailor, always a sailor. What “mistakes” are you making?

    @Ken – Thanks! Glad you found this useful.

    @Greg – I find the key phrase to be “if you find”. If you find it, report it. If Google finds it, depends on who finds and what mood they are in. If they take the time to determine who originated it, no worries. But having proper links embedded will certainly help.

    @Jeremy – Not many of the “rules” for Google are true EVERY time ;-D. Let’s hope the right site has the higher authority then.

    @Sue – Because of the way they are coded, IDX listings are frequently not included in Google’s index. As such, not a concern when it comes to duplication. Those that are indexed probably are treated just like product listings from retail stores. This is one of the reasons you NEED to have your listings in other areas of your site besides the IDX. If you have questions, feel free to email me.

  8. Louise Scoggins

    May 18, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Jack, great post! I have had problems with duplicate content in the past on one of my websites with 2 different agents / websites in my area. Literally they “copied and paste” verbiage I had personally written on some of my “city” pages…no kidding it was word for word. Luckily my webmaster (also my husband) frequently checks our sites for duplicate content and we were able to get the issues resolved by sending a few terse emails to the offending site. Thanks for bringing this issue to other agent’s attention!

  9. Jack Leblond

    May 18, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Worried about duplicate content? https://kl.am/iJ8

  10. Fred Romano

    May 21, 2009 at 7:21 am

    Regarding this topic from Google…

    https://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/duplicate-content-due-to-scrapers.html

    “I’d like to point out that in the majority of cases, having duplicate content does not have negative effects on your site’s presence in the Google index. It simply gets filtered out.

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Business Entrepreneur

Business advice from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind

(OPINION) Leadership comes from years of refining your practice, and great leadership comes dedication and focus, but Babe Ruth would add more to that…

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All good leaders pull from a variety of inspirational sources to create their formula for success, even from unlikely sources like an overweight baseball legend. Babe Ruth was a winner in his day without steroids and without the paparazzi and while he wasn’t a business leader, he hustled every day to be the best.

Today, we share with you a quote from Babe Ruth that all leaders should mind when operating business because this simple concept is one of the hardest to remember. “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games,” Babe Ruth said. Let that settle in. Are you resting your laurels on yesterday’s home runs?

Are you puffing your chest because last year’s sales were high or because your net worth was higher in 2008 than anyone else’s in your circle or because you won a prestigious award in 2007?

It’s very common to consider past accomplishments as part of your identity, there’s nothing wrong with that, but sometimes relying on yesterday’s home runs stunts a leader’s intellectual growth – once you think you’re at the top of your game, sure you keep working, but are you really focused on today’s game?

The cliche of keep your eye on the ball would also be relevant here, because if you’re in the outfield dreaming about last week’s home run, you’re not in the game today with everyone else.

What steps are you taking to focus on today’s game? Maybe the image below should be your desktop or smartphone wallpaper as a reminder to focus?

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Opinion Editorials

How to encourage your childrens’ entrepreneurship

(EDITORIAL) To encourage entrepreneurship for our children, we focus on providing them with direct evidence that they can do and be anything they want (excepting the six year old, who currently wants to be a cat).

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children and entrepreneurship

When I walk in the door most days, the routine’s predictable. Drop my briefcase, check the mail, and by this point I’ve received an invitation to go to my daughters’ store. What’s for sale invariably changes from day-to-day — sometimes it’s a pet store, or a bespoke clothier, or a coffee shop — but I’m always amazed at the level of thinking about multiple aspects of business ownership that they put into their play.

For example, I’m typically offered coupons and combination deals on whatever my purchases might be, which means that we get to have rich conversations about the purpose of such incentives and how they affect both customer perception of their brand and their profit margin.

Now, as they’re both under ten years old, many of these conversations don’t cause their games to stop for an introductory economics lesson, but I want them to keep these discussions in mind as their play expands. The world in which they’re growing up is a very different place from that which their parents did, and the possibilities they can embrace literally did not exist a generation ago.

So, too, the challenges that they’ll face. While the number of career fields and the jobs within them that are fully accessible to women are growing exponentially, the globalization of the economy and the shift towards a gig workforce means that they’ll have to compete against not only the remnants of outdated gender expectations, but also considerably larger numbers of people to do so, and with less stability in their career paths once they arrive.

To encourage the entrepreneurial spirit within our girls we, like many parents, focus on providing them with direct evidence that they can do and be anything they want (excepting the six year old, who currently wants to be a cat).

It’s been well said that what one can see, one can be. A 2012 MIT report found that in Indian villages where women held positions of responsibility and authority in local government, levels of aspiration and access to education rose by 25 percent and 4 percent, respectively. The amount of hours they had to devote to completing domestic chores dropped by nearly 25 percent.

It’s important to us to have our daughters see successful women in all walks of life to let them know that they are limited only in their passions and imagination, and should never settle for anything that they don’t want.

It’s also important for us to show them examples of young entrepreneurship whenever possible as well. In a 2015 analysis of Federal Reserve Bank data, the Wall Street Journal found that the percentage of adults under the age of 30 who had ownership stakes in private companies had fallen 70 per cent over the past 24 years. This illustrates the myth of the swashbuckling 20-something entrepreneur, along with the underlying challenges to business ownership.

By being realists about the challenges as well as idealistic about the possibilities, we want to keep alive the spirit that makes them excited to open a combination fish store and haberdashery in their playroom today, with the anticipation of changing the world through their professional passions tomorrow.

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Opinion Editorials

Is “Cuddle a Coworker” ever an acceptable team building exercise?

(EDITORIAL) In today’s “oh hell no” news, one company’s foray into conflict resolution has us heated. In the #MeToo era, Coworker Cuddling is just plain stupid.

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cuddle a coworker

Nowadays, it seems that companies are taking a more active role in employee engagement and activity. This often consists of team building exercises.

I’ve heard of offices conducting these exercises in forms of activities like “Minute to Win It” and team outings. Hell, even trust falls. But, I’ve never been as shocked, disturbed, and confused at a team building exercise as I was earlier today.

Why, you ask? Because I just learned that “cuddle a coworker” is apparently a thing.

And, if you’re first response wasn’t “what the…,” you probably won’t like the rest of this story.

My initial assumption was that this had to be a deleted scene from an episode of The Office. When I dug a little deeper, I found out that this was something implemented by Team Tactics.

Apparently this “exercise” is where groups of 4 to 20 people can get into a tent (say it with me, “what the…”) and have the option to cuddle. They also have different positions available in which to cuddle.

This team building exercise lasts for the entire workday (how?) and is based on science which shows that cuddling, specifically skin to skin contact, can encourage the release of Oxytocin and Serotonin. The tent used, referred to as a “relaxation tent,” is designed to reduce stress and encourage team bonding.

Each relaxation tent is based on Moroccan and Indian relaxation practices, which includes incense, oil lamp lighting, large bean bags, and relaxation beds. Sure, they’re in the UK, but the culture isn’t different enough to make much of a difference in this #MeToo era.

Regardless, the team building event begins with employees airing their grievances about negative traits of co-workers, and bringing up issues that they’d like to discuss. This is all designed to clear the air, and eventually will make way for “conflict resolution cuddling.”

Conflict. Resolution. Cuddling.

“Team building is at the centre of our business, and we’re always looking for new ways to help employees across the UK become more connected with their colleagues,” said Tina Benson, managing director at Team Tactics.“We know it’s something completely new and it might not be for everyone, but the science is already there – we’re just putting it to the test!”

I, for one, have never passed Tony in HR and thought, “Man, the way he chews his food is super annoying. But, I bet if we cuddled it out, I could get past his flaws.”

What are your thoughts on this… interesting concept?

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