Letting Someone Copy Your Online Content? Read This.

July 2, 2014
Avoid duplicate content issues by syndicating properly

Recently I stumbled across what I thought was a case of plagiarism: one of our client’s blog articles was posted verbatim on someone else’s site. While we quickly discovered that our client knows the other party and gave permission to repost, it was not done properly and brought up some potential duplicate content and SEO concerns.

What is duplicate content?

According to Google, “Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”

Duplicate content is most often a by-product of having a website with similar content sprinkled around, but it can also be malicious and/or spammy — something for which Google could punish our client or the other party if the search engine suspects foul play.

Generally one occurrence of a situation like this doesn’t spell doom for a website, but letting it go unchecked is tempting the fates.

How to share content the right way

This situation prompted a conversation with the client about the potential dangers of making this distribution too big a habit, as well as the sharing of the Google-approved way to do this, called syndicating.

Eric Enge at Search Engine Land has a great article on syndicating content that highlights the best way to syndicate safely: the rel=canonical tag.

Adding this tag to the page that links back to your original content tells Google that your content came first and is therefore authoritative — minimizing the chances of the syndicated content showing up higher in search results than yours, as well as the likelihood that Google will ding you for spammy tactics.

Take control of your content

It is your responsibility as a business to make sure that anyone syndicating your content is doing so properly.

In our client’s case it was as simple as sending a link with a rel=canonical tag to their acquaintance and asking they use it to link back to the original content. The client will also need to do this every time they allow someone else to syndicate their content in the future.

What if you don’t know who is syndicating your content, or — worse — know someone who is doing so without your permission?

Is someone stealing my content?

Also known as “scraping,” this occurs when another website uses part or all of your content in their own digital space.

There are a few ways to find out if anyone is stealing your content; take note of any major occurrences and get in touch with the offender with your request they use a rel=canonical tag.

Someone is ignoring my request

If you have tried contacting a website or company about their use of your content and gotten no response, it may be possible to file an infringement complaint with Google.

This can be a lengthy and red tape-choked process, though, so research carefully before submitting a complaint.

Final thoughts

There’s no need to panic if you come across the occasional incidence of scraping, or worry too much about duplicate content problems if you syndicate the occasional blog post.

Google has gotten a lot smarter in recent years, and often interprets duplicate content problems correctly without assistance.

That said, if you’re serious about protecting your content and getting the benefits of strategic syndication, it’s better to plan ahead than be caught unawares.

[Image: David Goehring, cropped/resized]