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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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Tech News

Calendly just dropped an automated scheduling feature you NEED to try

(TECHNOLOGY) Calendly added a new automated scheduling feature, Routing Forms, with a twist. If typical scheduling hasn’t been your thing, try this.

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Calendly Routing Forms

Routing Forms, a new feature of Calendly, is a way to screen and qualify meeting participants to schedule customers with the right person.

Calendly is a popular scheduling system that has been getting rave reviews for quite some time. The American Genius promoted it in 2015 as a way to avoid email tags when setting appointments. Millions of people around the world use Calendly for business to streamline scheduling between customers, clients, and teams. A new feature, Routing Forms, can help get customers to get to the right person or resources.

How Routing Forms works

Routing Forms integrates with Calendly by asking screening questions of someone who wants to schedule a meeting with you or your team. Calendly uses that information to send the person to the right person to meet with or to the resources the person needs. This can help your business prioritize scheduling with qualified customers and by getting the customer to the right person the first time. It saves time for everyone and offers a better customer experience. According to Calendly’s website, Routing Forms eliminates missed opportunities and booking delays that are common with manual follow-up. Routing Forms can be embedded into your website for a streamlined customer experience.

Automated scheduling helps you connect – but is there a price?

Calendly bills itself as a way to “take the work out of connecting with others so you can accomplish more.” Routing Forms is a great way to integrate scheduling while qualifying customers to “get more business with less work.” But the debate over automated scheduling continues. There are opponents who believe that automated scheduling is rude. Keep in mind how your audience will perceive your scheduling questions. Not everyone likes automated scheduling and wants to use it. Always offer another way to get a meeting with a representative.

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Opinion Editorials

Dopamine detox to rewire your brain from internet addiction (it’s common!)

(EDITORIAL) So, you’re addicted to the internet. Whether your drug of choice is scrolling, posting, or interacting – it’s time for a dopamine detox.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Ah, smartphones. The best friend we can carry around in our pockets. This small device that’s nearly glued to our hands gives us instant access to many worlds.

It’s exciting to see what’s up on Instagram, take up to six stabs at Wordle, and scroll recipes you’ll never make on Pinterest. It’s also a place where we can share the highlights of our life and, in return, get validation through likes.

With that validation comes a small rush of dopamine, something we’ve all become accustomed – and some of us addicted – to.

While I’m not addicted to posting, I would say I have an addiction to scrolling. I can’t make it through a 50-minute episode of “Dexter” without picking up my phone to check an app or two.

And there is that dopamine rush with it, where you feel like you’re the most up-to-date you’ve ever been. But what about when this becomes too much and we’re overloaded with information and feel bogged down by the constant updates?

First, we need to understand what dopamine is.

It’s a neurotransmitter that works in two spots in the brain: first, its production helps us begin movement and speech. Second, we feel it when we receive or expect a reward. It even creates a kind of “high” similar to what’s found in nicotine and cocaine.

So, if we expect these dopamine hits from social media and we don’t get those results, the dopamine crashes to the ground creating burnout.

Well, this can cause burnout. And, while tempting, the solution isn’t as easy as just deleting all of your social media and walking away clean. Additionally, “take a break” features are too easy to swipe away.

So what can you do?

Mana Ionescu at Lightspan Digital recommends a Dopamine Detox.

While breaking an addiction takes longer than a day, Ionescu recommends starting there and tailoring it to your needs.

Here is what she describes is necessary for a detox:

  1. Turn off all notifications on your phone. ALL of them. You will be looking at your phone every 10 minutes as it is. You won’t miss anything. We lose endless hours of productivity because of those pings.
  2. Tell people to call you if it’s urgent. And teach them the difference between urgent and important. So do keep call notifications on.
  3. Stop over-messaging. The more you message, the more you’ll get responses.
  4. Shed the pressure to respond right away to messages that don’t need a response right away.
  5. Take detox days. Nothing but calls, confirming meetings, and using the GPS is allowed on those days.
  6. Put your phone on sleep mode at night. You can, at least on iPhone, set permissions so that certain phone numbers can get through, in case you’re worried about mom.
  7. If you’re dating, remember that texting is for laughing, flirting, and confirming plans. Please pick up the phone and talk to that person to get to know them. I will not take you seriously if you just keep texting.
  8. And yes, we all know the game, whoever looks at their phone first over dinner picks up the bill.

This won’t be easy, but your brain will likely thank you in the long run. And, when you’re back online, hit up the comments and let us know how the detox went!

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Business Entrepreneur

Scammers are out to prey on MLM victims and small businesses

(ENTREPRENEUR) MLM pyramid schemes are already predatory enough, but for victims trying to get out of the cycle, scammers are waiting on the sidelines.

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Thieves Young Living MLM Oil

Predatory, scam, rip-off, shady, trap… all of these may be words that rightfully come to mind when I mention pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing campaigns, or “MLM.”

It probably conjures images of annoying messages from the one gullible high school friend you haven’t quite had the heart to unfriend on Facebook. Perhaps you know someone who got put through the wringer themselves. The one thing victims of these predatory marketing schemes have in common is being in the hole of a lot of money. Usually money the victims can’t afford, since these scams prey on the economically vulnerable. Truly, there are few things more universally detestable than MLM pyramid schemes… but I found one.

Did you know there is an entire secondary scammer market to recycle victims of MLMs?

A new spin on the idea of ambulance chasers, there is an entire demographic of scammers out there that trawl social media such as Facebook and Reddit to find recently victimized people looking for a way out of the pyramid-shaped hole they’ve found themselves in, offer services to these victims to “assist” them in recovering lost investments or liquidating their almost valueless inventory, and then ghosting the victims – taking them for their non-existent money a second time. They often pose as legal representation or consumer relief of one flavor or another.

Here is an example posted on the subreddit r/antiMLM:

That website doesn’t exist. That is not a real law firm. The premise is a scam looking to make a sucker twice out of the same victim. One commenter using the user name ‘lemontest’ shared the following account:

After my relative got scammed by a company that promised to help her set up a drop-shipping business, another business magically appeared that promised to get her money back. She gave them money and never heard from them again. I’m sure there’s a lot of money to be made selling contact lists of people who fall for get rich quick schemes.

How incredibly filthy toxic is that? Be vigilant out there, the scammers are creative.

If you (asking for a friend of course) or anyone else you know has fallen victim to any online scam, I recommend this light-hearted, and a little bit cheeky, recovery guide found on the Federal Trade Commission website and authored by Jon M. Taylor, MBA, Ph.D. of the Consumer Awareness Institute.

Any stories to share about MLMs or other comments? I’d love to hear from you.

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