Guest Post: Keys for Preventing Multi-Platform Duplicate Content Problems

Duplicate content has long been a concern for marketers looking to improve their Google rankings, but now Twitter has announced new restrictions on how users may automate tweets as well. Users can no longer tweet the same content from multiple accounts, but can only tweet from one account and have other accounts retweet it, and must avoid bulk tweeting or tweeting that is aggressive or high volume. The new policy applies both to duplicate tweets sent at once or scheduled in advance. Apps are still allowed to post content from other platforms to Twitter, but can only do so to one account.

These changes underscore how duplicate content has become an issue for companies that use multiple platforms to distribute marketing material. Here are some keys to avoid running into duplicate content issues when doing cross-platform marketing.

Understand What Duplicate Content Is and Isn’t

Google defines duplicate content as significant content chunks distributed across one or multiple websites that either totally copy other content or significantly resemble it. Twitter’s new rules similarly define duplicate tweets as being either identical or essentially similar.

Google draws a distinction between duplicate content that is malicious versus non-malicious. Google sees malicious duplicate content as designed to game search engine results or generate higher traffic by copying the same content on more than one page or site. Tactics Google considers malicious include scraping content, auto-generating content, duplicating content that has already been published on another page or site, link schemes, use of irrelevant keywords, hiding text, and sneaky redirects.

Google sees this type of malicious duplicate content as distinct from non-malicious duplicate content that has a legitimate purpose. For example, some sites have different versions for mobile and desktop readers. Some news sites and blogs provide a printer-only version of their site that includes an entire article on one page without ads. E-commerce sites may post multiple URLs that lead to the same product page.

Know How Search Engines and Social Media Handle Duplicate Content

Google and other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing handle malicious duplicate content differently than non-malicious content. When Google reviews a report about malicious duplicate content, Google’s reviewers may demote the content, remove it, or take other actions. Upon taking action, Google sends a notice to the site’s webmaster, who is then given an opportunity to fix the problem and submit a reconsideration request. Twitter appears to be following a similar procedure.

Google takes a different approach to duplicate content deemed non-malicious. An estimated 25 to 30 percent of content is actually duplicate, which is normal and does not draw a penalty from Google. But if Google’s robots detect multiple versions of the same content on a site or on different sites, they must still determine which one to prioritize when listing search results. They do this by following an algorithm that compares different versions of the content, indexes the first version crawled, and removes other versions from results listings. Other search engines use a similar practice to filter results. Presumably Twitter will take a similar approach.

Follow Best Practices to Avoid Duplicate Content

You can avoid most duplicate content issues by following best practices. Most fundamentally, avoid any SEO tactics that Google, Twitter, or other platforms define as malicious, as elaborated above. If your receive a duplicate content notice, instruct your webmaster to take appropriate measures to fix it so you can submit a request for reconsideration.

For non-malicious content, focus on developing original content. If you use content from other sites, include something extra that adds unique value, such as your own commentary or a top 10 listing. If you have product descriptions, instead of borrowing the manufacturer’s description as most sites do, modify descriptions to make them unique to you. If you syndicate some of your content to other platforms, publish it on your own platform first so that you get indexed first.

For content that is featured on multiple places on your site, you can tell search engines not to index secondary versions by using your robots.txt file. For blogs, select your settings to avoid indexing archives for dates and categories. For pages that have been moved from their original URL, use 301 redirects to let search engines know which version to index.

If you host product pages on multiple platforms, you should use ecommerce product page best practices to avoid duplicate content issues. Create unique versions of your landing pages and product pages instead of using the same version everywhere. To save time logging into each of your online profiles, use a content management platform that allows you to manage all your online properties from a single interface. A content management interface also makes it easier to track your content’s performance across multiple platforms so you can track and correct duplicate content issues.

Knowing how search engines and social sites handle duplicate content can help you avoid running into issues. Following these guidelines for avoiding malicious content and managing non-malicious content will help you keep your online properties from getting flagged and keep you competitive in search engine results.

 

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.
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