Syndicating Your Own Content? Why don’t you just shoot yourself in the leg while doing it!

July 20, 2012

SEO

Beware! Google Panda is killing your website!

When you have written a great blog post you’d want to get the maximum audience for it, wouldn’t you? Naturally, you do some clever (or not so clever) promotion operations to get your post in front of as many readers as possible.

You can do some tweets on Twitter about it, and post it on your Facebook page for starters. Perhaps paste a link on your Google+ profile as well.

Some of the more advanced promotion mechanics include syndicating your posts to other websites and blogs. There are plenty of sites that offer you an option to feed your posts to them via your RSS feed. Or, you can share your posts via intelligent social sharing buttons. What I mean by ‘intelligent buttons’ is that they read additional information from you posts when you click the sharing button.

Sounds great doesn’t it? You can write an awesome article and it gets shares across multiple websites. How cool is that?

Not.

You think you are doing your blog a favour when you distribute your new posts to various other websites and social networks?

Think again!

Is the Google Penguin out to get you? Google Panda and it’s sidekick, the ruthless Penguin

These two guys are the latest algorithm updates to the Google search engine.

Google Panda, which was first announced early 2011 was designed to reduce rankings of such websites which Google calls ‘low-quality’. At the same time Panda increases rankings for high quality websites.

The Panda update has effectively boosted search positions of well established news websites that write their own original material, and of course social sites which are in huge demand anyway.

Panda was also designed to drop rankings for websites which have ‘too much’ advertising on them. Somehow that is not surprising is it? Google is obviously trying to curb independent online advertising in favour of their own AdWords product. Say goodbye to monetizing your website! ..and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Google Penguin was released in April 2012. The Penguin update is aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Penguin is mainly targeted to prevent unwanted Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques such as keyword stuffing, cloaking and especially participating in shady schemes which produce valuable baclinks to your website. Penguin also deals with unwanted syndication and duplicate content.

As you can see Penguin is now the official Hit Man for Google!

You can find Google Webmaster Guidelines here should you want to have a closer look; and I think you should if you are interested in the faith of your beloved site.

Syndicating and sharing your blog posts

Since the Panda and the blood thirsty Penguin updates went live it has become foolish to promote and share your own blog posts without thinking about it. Offhand you might think that the more places your posts appear the better. Not apparently so. Even though you do reach a wider audience for your articles temporarily you will lose out on Google Search Engine Result Pages (SERP’s).

You see, when you share your posts on other websites they will compete with your own original article in the SERP’s! They’re not supposed to, but they do. What is even worse they can be treated as duplicate content! Yes, you read that right!

For instance you could be syndicating your posts to your Facebook Notes; or you could be using the nifty little Networked Blogs app to feed them to all the Facebook Pages you manage. Additionally you could have your article appear on Digg, Quora boards, Scoop.it, Storify or highly read LinkedIn Groups.

Pretty soon you’ll notice that your original posts are starting to disappear from the Google SERP’s and instead you’ll see search results from these other websites.

WFT?! Is Google so stupid that it can’t recognize the original article from copies from later dates?

It seems so. Panda and its contract killer Penguin have just wasted your original post and left you only with the duplicate entries which are sitting on websites with a lot higher Google Page Rank than yours. (Ok, I’m assuming here that you are not Laughing Squid or Mashable that is!)

I will give you a few examples how this can happen and how to prevent it.

Social sharing to LinkedIn

If you are using LinkedIn as part of your online marketing, as you should, you could be sharing your new blog posts to your LinkedIn Company Page as well as to all the LinkedIn Groups you belong to. It’s a clever thing to do as LinkedIn is the biggest social network for business people with over 150 million users in 200 countries. You just have to make sure you do your sharing properly.

When people click on the LinkedIn sharing -button on your posts it will open up a custom window for that particular post.

Social sharing on LinkedIn

On that pop-up window you can see that the title and the description have already been filled in. If you have done your SEO home work these are the same Meta Title and Meta Description your blog post uses to be found on searches. These tags are two of the three most important factors on your page regarding SERP’s. If you share these onwards you will be creating a duplicate of them and thus a competitor to your original post in searches.

Bang! Your original post just died! LinkedIn has a Page Rank of 9 (out of 10) and they just took a slot above your Page Rank 3 website.

Ok, that was a bit too dramatic, but I think you got my point. Here’s what you can do instead:

Before you click that blue Share -button change the title and the description so that they are not exact duplicates of your respective Meta Tags. Use a slightly different title and write another description that will still let people know what your article is about. That shouldn’t be too hard, eh? This way your shared post is not in direct SERP competition with your original post. You can do this by clicking the Edit link next to the description box.

Here’s another example:

Social Sharing on Google+

Sharing on Google+ is very similar to sharing to LinkedIn. When you click on the red G+ button, again a small window pops up.

Social sharing to Google+

As you can see the title and description are already filled in for you. Unfortunately you can’t change the title but you can delete the description and write a new one in the comment box.

Protecting your Blog’s RSS feed

There are literally thousands of websites out there who don’t bother to write their own content but instead steal it from other blogs, you and me. And what makes it worse is that we pretty much invite them to do so by providing RSS feed to our blogs. This is especially bad when their website isn’t even remotely related to yours. This can lead to what Google calls ‘Detected Unnatural Links’ and believe me you don’t want too many of those pointing to your site.

Luckily there is a way to prevent unauthorized and harmful syndication of your blog posts by simply modifying your robots.txt file. As I was hanging out in the Google Webmaster Forums the other night I received a short piece of code from a kind SEO programmer which should take care of this issue.

Click the download button if you want to take a look.

Download

I’m not a programmer so I have absolutely no idea what that code means, but feel free to use it at your own risk. (Works just fine on this blog)

Matt Cutts on duplicate content on Google

In this video Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team talks about duplicate content on your website. In reverse you can think about it as syndicating your content to other websites.

Now compare Matt’s video to the marketing video from Scoop.it

Hmmm? Marc and Guillaume, what do you guys think about that?

Social Media Revolver gets shared a lot on Scoop.it with over 1,100 backlinks and we decided to ask them about it.  This was their reply:

Scoop.it is a curation platform where users share links on their favorite topics. Indeed these are no-follow links because if they were not, Google would be suspicious about us and consider us as an automated hacking system. So there’s no risk for you at all towards Google. Seeing your content on Scoop.it shows how much our users appreciate it and their work can benefit to you by making your content more visible and by attracting a qualified audience to your website.”

What this means is that even though we get lots of incoming links from all kinds of Scoop.it pages (related to us, or not) we should be safe regarding Google. Traditional (do-follow) links from non-related pages could hurt our page ranking and search results, but as these are set as no-follow they are not harmful in that respect. Phew!

Has your website or blog been brutalized by the Google Panda or Penguin?

Let us know if you have experienced sudden loss of traffic or even received an ultimatum from Google about webspam or other funky stuff.

PS. Just to let you know that this problem is not even remotely as bad with Bing or Yahoo search engines. Especially Bing is fast becoming the search engine of choice for people who want reliable and accurate information from their searches. What is more Google has been criticised to favour its big corporate advertisers and eventually that leads to unrealiable and misleading search results.

Having said that, this blog is now probably doomed and will disappear from the Google index by midnight. Goodbye!

* * * *

[Images: Studio Fibonacci, Marvel, commons.wikimedia.org]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Kris Olin

Kris Olin is a web designer specialised in SEO, social media marketing, Facebook advertising and Internet promotion strategies. Kris has a masters degree in marketing, MSc (Econ.) and he has written the Facebook Advertising Guide. Follow Kris on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and .

View all posts by Kris Olin

20 Responses to “Syndicating Your Own Content? Why don’t you just shoot yourself in the leg while doing it!”

  1. John Garrett Says:

    Hey Kris, good work man!

    That’s a pretty good method to sidestep the duplicate content issue. I’m assuming Facebook isn’t an issue since it’s not indexed anyway, right?

    I like your explanation of the whole scenario, too. So many times you see people saying that there’s no such thing as a “duplicate content penalty”. Which is technically true, but as you show here, if there’s an exact duplicate, well *something* has to rank higher, and it’s gonna be the big boys with the PR9 sites and massive backlinks that do it.

    Do you think it would be possible for a WordPress plugin to “randomize” or otherwise reword/reorder your description/meta tags when someone shares from your site?

    We can’t really control what people do if they paste a link right into LinkedIn or G+, but maybe something like that could mitigate the damage of hundreds of shares on your SEO?

    Aside from that, thanks for sharing the tweet of that handsome devil at the bottom of your post. His wisdom is legendary! lol

    Reply

    • KrisOlin Says:

      Dude, unfortunately Facebook is not ‘not indexed’. I was feeding my posts to my agent’s FB page for awhile and they outranked my originals quite often. Also my own Facebook Page gained higher positions than the orig. post!

      You’re right that we can’t control how others are sharing our content, but at least we can take care of our own syndication methods. That WordPress randomizer would be a great plugin! Maybe we should lobby this to Joost, who is doing the awesome Yoast SEO plugin?

      Thanks for your comments, JG!

      Reply

  2. Tiggerito Says:

    You can protect yourself a bit with RSS feeds by making them use alternate titles and summaries to the one the page uses. 

    You can do similar with Facebook as it uses opengraph markup over meta data. So making the og text different means Facebook posts will use the alternate text.

    Many social buttons let you specify the title and description text to use. Another way to vary what gets posted around and broaden your target terms.

    My system lets me specify three types of titles and 2 descriptions. Getting the external syndicated copies to use the alternate versions means they compete more with each other and less with the main page.

    Reply

    • KrisOlin Says:

      This is good info Tiggerito! Setting up alternate titles and descriptions would be a smart thing to do. How do you set up your RSS alternate titles? Can you just do it in your Feedburner?

      Reply

      • Tiggerito Says:

        Mine is a fully custom website so I can do what I want :-)

        For systems like WordPress it would be a little tricky. Some php skills would be needed.

        Reply

  3. Abel Says:

    It’s scary to think how powerful Google has become and how they can hurt the little people out there. Of course if they end up hurting enough people, they will start loosing their power as we would just migrate to a different search engine.

    Reply

    • KrisOlin Says:

      Google is really scary, Abel! They are on a mission to manage all the available information in the world. Google is like the modern times Library of Alexandria.

      It’s tolerable if they remain in the hands of Larry and Sergey, but as they are a public company they can be bought and sold just like any other. As soon an ultra-capitalistic company, such as Walmart, Samsung or Carrefour buys them there will be trouble!

      Are you still on Google? Or have you moved on to Bing as well?

      Reply

      • Abel Says:

         I am still on Google, but I would move to Bing if they become too corrupt.

        Its kind of funny, if you make a search on Google for  ,”is google” It gives you possible terms you might be searching for such as:

        is google God?
        is google making us stupid?
        is google terminator’s skynet?

        Reply

  4. freerangecontent Says:

    Kris, You can syndicate content safely if you use Repost.Us.  It uses an embed code to deliver the content so the full article text never appears on the syndicating site.  The embed code contains the title of the article linked to the original (another inbound link) and the first 250 characters of the article.  The actual article body is loaded by javascript when the user views it so google doesn’t see it (if they do start running scripts as they have indicated they will then they will also notice that the embed script generate canonical and noindex headers).

    The other nice thing about using an embed to deliver content is the person syndicating it can’t edit our attribution and links.  John (ceo of Repost.us)

    Reply

    • KrisOlin Says:

      John, sounds like an interesting service. However, whenever I see something like “so google doesn’t see it” it makes me think about black hats.
      How exactly do you benefit the publishers if audience can read their entire article on other people’s websites?

      Reply

      • freerangecontent Says:

        I think the black hat idea arrises when you are trying to game stuff into the index, we’re trying to keep it out.    We’re not hiding anything from google, they just don’t run our embed code, if they did they would get the same result as everybody else (ie no cloaking) and they would see noindex and canonical tags.

        As to why a publisher would do this: there are a couple of good reasons- the average click through from an embedded article to the originating site is 5.7% (we add related content links for publishers) so it drives traffic.   We also allow publishers to put ads into content so even if the reader doesn’t click back they got an ad impression.   We deliver the publishers analytics tags with the content so publishers get stats from the embeds.

        Checkout http://followthegames.net/  It’s a demo site we built with Olympics coverage – every article on that site is embedded.   Or for another example look at this Christian Science monitor article embedded on RawStory http://s.tt/1iwOS

        Reply

  5. Jen Mathews Says:

    HI Kris – ironically, I found this article through Alltop. :) 

    Reply

    • KrisOlin Says:

      Jen, I just talked to AllTop and it was probably me who put that feed there long time ago! It’s a double egde sword here. On the other hand AllTop brought you here to my blog and on the other it can be treated as duplicate content on Google.

      They have even put this blog at the top of their Social Media Marketing page, which is quite priviledged. http://social-media-marketing.alltop.com/ I suppose that is where you found us also?
      So far I’m keeping the feed there, but I’ve cut it down so that the Meta Description is not showing anymore. They might kick us out because of that, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

      Thanks for noticing, Jen! Please feel free to subscribe to our Newsletter on the right if you want to follow what’s happening on the Wild World of Social Media :)

      Reply

    • Peg Fitzpatrick Says:

      I was going to post the same thing, Jen!

      Reply

      • KrisOlin Says:

        Peg @PegFitzpatrick:disqus and Jen @twitter-30723561:disqus , as you might have guessed I have been cleaning up my syndication from the web lately, but so far I’ve made an exception with Alltop.

        It seems to drive traffic, as we have witnessed :) and as long as they allow me to list my posts WITHOUT the Meta Description I’m going to keep it there.

        Reply

  6. Freddie Bros Says:

    I am getting addicted to your site and well written posts! I learn so much and I can say, OMG i have done so many mistakes with duplicate content in my blog and social media sharing…

    Now I am really scared of Google and I feel like my techno-lifestyle blog for women will never see the Google’s light :(
    Freddie Bros recently posted…Facebook New Look for iPhone & iPadMy Profile

    Reply

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge