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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 Finance

Will China’s new digital currency really compete with the US Dollar?

(BUSINESS FINANCE) It isn’t the first time that China has tried to compete with the dollar, but the release of a digital currency has lead some economists to raise red flags.

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Man holding phone in one hand and credit card in other hand, handling digital currency.

For decades the US has been the world standard for foreign trade. As of 2019, 88% of all trades were being backed by that almighty dollar, making it the backbone of the world economy. However, China may be sneaking in something new for digital currency. 

In the last few months, over 100k people were “airdropped” cold hard digital currency. This currency came from People’s Bank of China (PBOC), who has created a digital manifestation of the Chinese yuan. This is planned to run concurrently with its paper and coin playmates. Upon initial inspection, they resemble the same structure as Bitcoin and Ethereum. But there’s a major difference here: The Chinese government is the one fronting the money.

The suspected plan behind this is that the government plans to tightly control the value of the digital yuan, which they are known to do with the paper one as well. This would create a unique item within the world of cryptocurrency. Personally, I don’t think that any of this is going to go anywhere soon. Too many people still need hard currency but it does open up a unique aspect of currency that has only just started since debit and credit cards. It gives the government the ability to spy on its cryptocurrency users. Being able to monitor transaction flows can reveal things like tax evasion and spending habits. There is even the possibility of experimenting with expiring cash.

But how does this affect the US? There’s a method that has been used by Americans since WWII called dollar weaponization.  The exchange domination allows the US government to monitor how the dollars move across the border. Along with that monitoring they are actually able to freeze people out of global financial products as well. It’s a phenomenal amount of power to hold. 

The concern for economists is that the price fixing capabilities of this new currency as well as its backer being an entire countries government could affect everything about the global financial system. Only time will tell how true that turns out to be.

There are a number of possibilities that could come up honestly and they could fall flat on their face unless they put their entire monetary worth behind it. Only time will tell but some economists are already calling for DigiDollars from the American government. Another step into the future.

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Social Media

New Pinterest code of conduct pushes for mindful posting

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media sites have struggled with harmful content, but Pinterest is using their new code of conduct to encourage better, not just reprimands.

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Pinterest icon on phone with 2 notifications, indicating new code of conduct.

It appears that at least one social media site has made a decision on how to move forward with the basis of their platform. Pinterest has created a brand-new code of conduct for their users. Giving them a set of rules to follow which to some may be a little restricting, but I’m not mad about it. In a public statement, they told the world their message:

“We’re on a journey to build a globally inclusive platform where Pinners around the world can discover ideas that feel personalized, relevant, and reflective of who they are.”

The revamp of their system includes 3 separate changes revolving around the rules of the platform. All of them are complete with examples and full sets of rules. The list is summed up as:

  • Pinterest Creator Code
  • Pinterest Comment Moderation Tools
  • Pinterest Creator Fund

For the Creator Code, Pinterest had this to say: “The Creator Code is a mandatory set of guidelines that lives within our product intended to educate and build community around making inclusive and compassionate content”. The rules are as follows:

  • Be Kind
  • Check my Facts
  • Be aware of triggers
  • Practice Inclusion
  • Do no harm

The list of rules provides some details on the pop-up as well, with notes like “make sure content doesn’t insult,” “make sure information is accurate,” etc. The main goal of this ‘agreement’, according to Pinterest, is not to reprimand offending people but to practice a proactive and empowering social environment. Other social websites have been shoe-horned into reprimanding instead of being proactive against abuse, and it has been met with mixed results. Facebook itself is getting a great deal of flack about their new algorithm that picks out individual words and bans people for progressively longer periods without any form of context.

Comment Moderation is a new set of tools that Pinterest is hoping will encourage a more positive experience between users and content creators. It’s just like putting the carrot before the donkey to get him to move the cart.

  • Positivity Reminders
  • Moderation Tools
  • Featured Comments
  • New Spam Prevention Signals

Sticking to the positivity considerations here seems to be the goal. They seem to be focusing on reminding people to be good and encouraging them to stay that way. Again, proactive, not reactive.

The social platform’s last change is to create a Pinterest Creator Fund. Their aim is to provide training, create strategy consulting, and financial support. Pinterest has also stated that they are going to be aiming these funds specifically at underrepresented communities. They even claim to be committing themselves to a quota of 50% of their Creators. While I find this commendable, it also comes off a little heavy handed. I would personally wait to see how they go about this. If they are ignoring good and decent Creators based purely on them being in a represented group, then I would find this a bad use of their time. However, if they are actively going out and looking for underrepresented Creators while still bringing in good Creators that are in represented groups, then I’m all for this.

Being the change you want to see in the world is something I personally feel we should all strive towards. Whether or not you produced positive change depends on your own goals… so on and so forth. In my own opinion, Pinterest and their new code of conduct is creating a better positive experience here and striving to remind people to be better than they were with each post. It’s a bold move and ultimately could be a spectacular outcome. Only time will tell how their creators and users will respond. Best of luck to them.

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Tech News

Chatbots: Are they still useful, or ready to be retired?

(TECH NEWS) Chatbots have proven themselves to be equally problematic as they are helpful – is it time to let them go the way of the floppy disk?

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Man texting chatbots leaning against a brick wall.

All chatbots must die. I’d like to say it was fun while it lasted, but was it really?

I understand the appeal, truly. It’s a well established 21st century business mantra for all the side hustlers and serial entrepreneurs out there: “Automation is the key to scaling.” If we can save time, labor, and therefore money by automating systems, that means we have more time to build our brands and sell our goods and services.

Automation makes sense in many ways, but not all automation tools were created equal. While many tools for automation are extremely effective and useful, chatbots have been problematic from the start. Tools for email marketing, social media, internal team communication, and project management are a few examples of automation that have helped many a startup or other small business kick things into high gear quickly, so that they can spend time wooing clients and raising capital. They definitely have their place in the world of business.

However promising or intriguing chatbots seemed when they were shiny and new, they have lost their luster. If we have seen any life lesson in 2020, it is that humans are uniquely adept at finding ways to make a mess of things.

The artificial intelligence of most chatbots has to be loaded, over time, into the system, by humans. We try to come up with every possible customer-business interaction to respond to with the aim of being helpful. However, language is dynamic, interactive, with near infinite combinations, not to mention dialects, misspellings, and slang.

It would take an unrealistic amount of time to be able to program a chatbot to compute, much less reply to, all possible interactions. If you don’t believe me, consider your voice-activated phone bot or autocorrect spelling. It doesn’t take a whole lot to run those trains off the rails, at least temporarily. There will always be someone trying to confuse the bots, to get a terse, funny, or nonsensical answer, too.

Chatbots can work well when you are asking straightforward questions about a single topic. Even then, they can fall short. A report by AI Multiple showed that some chatbots were manipulated into expressing agreement with racist, violent, or unpatriotic (to China, where they were created) ideas. Others, like CNN and WSJ, had problems helping people unsubscribe from their messages.

Funny, shocking, or simply unhelpful answers abound in the world of chatbot fails. People are bound to make it messy, either accidentally or on purpose.

In general, it feels like the time has come to put chatbots out to pasture. Here are some helpful questions from azumbrunnen.me to help you decide when it’s worth keeping yours.

  1. Is the case simple enough to work on chatbot? Chatbots are good with direct and short statements and requests, generally. However, considering that Comcast’s research shows at least 1,700 ways to say “I want to pay my bill,” according to Netomi, the definition of “simple enough” is not so simple.
  2. Is your Natural Language Processor capable and sophisticated enough? Pre-scripted chatbots are often the ones to fail more quickly than chatbots built with an NLP. It will take a solid NLP to deal with the intricacies of conversational human language.
  3. Are your users in chat based environments? If so, then it could be useful, as you are meeting your customers where they are. Otherwise, if chatbots pop up whenever someone visits your website or Facebook page, it can really stress them out or turn them off.

I personally treat most chatbots like moles in a digital whack-a-mole game. The race is on to close every popup as quickly as possible, including chatbots. I understand that from time to time, in certain, clearly defined and specific scenarios, having a chatbot field the first few questions can help direct the customer to the correct person to resolve their problems or direct them to FAQs.

They are difficult to program within the expansiveness of the human mind and human language, though, and a lot of people find them terribly annoying. It’s time to move on.

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