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What You Don’t Know About Duplicate Content Can Kill You

How to deal with duplicate content right now

How to deal with duplicate content right now

All of us create and duplicate our own content unintentionally. Content can be fully or partially scraped by others. Duplicate content can cause your pages to not rank well on search engines, be removed from search results and even lead to legal complications.

Here’s my advice on how to identify and deal with duplicate content.

What is duplicate content?

Google Webmasters (now Google Search Console) defines duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

Search engines do a great job of showing the best possible content in response to a search query and of identifying the original content source as well. Adhering to Webmasters guidelines will make it easier for search engines to understand what page holds the original content and help it rank accordingly. Having too much duplicate content on your site will lead to loss in rankings and organic traffic. Having other sites duplicate your content could have your content eliminated from search results, especially if the other sites have greater authority, higher number of links pointing to their sites and they have provided no link attribution indicating yours is the original content.

Needless to say, when dealing with Hispanic SEO, it is quite easy to generate duplicate content in two different languages or by geo-targeting. I have covered some of these issues in my International SEO article.

The first thing to understand are the different types of duplicate content: deliberate or malicious, and non-malicious.

Non-malicious duplicate content could happen on discussion forums that may generate a separate desktop and mobile page, in online stores’ product definition that may be repeated on several different and distinct pages, in comment pagination, in lack of definition for the preferred domain, and even when offering printer-only versions of your website pages. This type of duplicate content is not penalized by Google, although I highly recommend avoiding it as much as possible. What you don’t consider malicious, search engines may.

Malicious or deliberate duplicated content occurs when a website owner attempts to manipulate search results to rank better or increase traffic. This is penalized by Google with removal from search results.

Google Panda and duplicate content. Discover how to deal with duplicate content right now.

Google Panda and duplicate content

The most malicious duplicate content of them all: Content scraping

Let’s say you are researching a topic you want to write about and happen upon a wonderfully written piece of content. Who hasn’t? What to do? What to do? As long as you do not scrape the article and you do provide proper attribution, you may cite it. Providing proper attribution will allow you to avoid being accused of plagiarism. Plagiarism is passing someone else’s work off as your own. This is different from copyright infringement, that is using someone else’s protected work by Copyright law without permission which exposes you to being taken to civil or criminal court. Is it really worth it?

Even better yet, ask the content owner for permission. This is very easy to do. Usually there’s an email, a contact form, or a Twitter handle where you can simply write: “Hey! I love your content. Can I properly cite it? What type of attribution would be acceptable to you?” What do you think can come out of this? A resounding yes and the likelihood that they will share your content on their own network. Pretty nifty, huh?

How can I properly cite somebody else’s content and why?

You may think that writing the source alone provides clear attribution, but look at your article again. Does it read as if it’s yours and at the very end, there’s a footnote with the source? Then the attribution is not clear.

Another benefit of proper attribution is the respect earned from your own readers who will see you as an honest content developer. A third benefit is the appreciation of the person you have cited. Who knows? They may invite you to guest blog one day.

Are you afraid that your readers will exit your site to read the source instead? Then make your content even more engaging. Provide more value. When was the last time you were reading a great article who cited somebody else with a link and you clicked on it? Probably not recently. The number of people who will leave your site because of a citation/attribution is minimal and is important to remember that people will leave your site eventually, anyway.

My recommendation for proper attribution of content is to enclose the text in quotes, indicate within the paragraph who said it and add a link to the source. There is no need to link to the source every time you mention them but you should mention them each time you are citing something they said. Therefore, it is clear you are not misappropriating content and passing it off as yours.

How to provide proper attribution to content from others

How to provide proper attribution

If you decide to reword content but still share someone else’s original concept, add the name of the source to the paragraph and link it to the source page from there. Here’s an example:

Example of proper attribution. How to deal with duplicate content

Another example of attribution

Still worried that people might leave your site or that you will lose Google juice if you adhere to these practices? Let me assure you, you will get the exact opposite.

Penalization for duplicate content may not be too severe right now but wait a couple of years and try to save your site from another “Panda.” As far as people leaving your site, think about yourself, do you click on every link a page offers or do you keep on reading the article? If you are still afraid, improve your content, provide greater value to your reader and get rid of your fears.

If you decide to copy the whole article (and I strongly advise that you do not, especially if it’s one of my articles), I highly recommend citing the source at the very beginning and at the end. And, for your own protection as well as respect to the person that wrote the article, canonicalize the URL by pointing to the original URL. Then you can offer the content to your readers while letting search engines know which is the original article. Don’t know what “canonicalize” means? Don’t worry. Keep reading.

<head>
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://domain.com/original-content-page/” />
</head>

If you have a WordPress site and have the Yoast SEO plugin installed, add the URL to the canonical field.

Has somebody scraped my articles?

There are several ways to find out if your content has been scraped. A Google search, is usually my very first check, but you can create a Google Alert out of that search to be alerted when somebody infringes your copyright or scrapes your site. Another great tool is Copyscape. Their free version will allow you to identify if your content has been duplicated on other sites.

Notice of infringing content removed by Google

Infringing content removed by Google

Here’s a result for one of my articles, copied in its entirety by the first site. Yes, I have requested they take it down. I sent them an email and copied their hosting company. Did they? No, and a month passed by. What are your rights then? Submit a request reporting them to Google thanks to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act). Does it work? Check it out on your own. 😉 A short time after  I reported them, the page does not show up on search anymore and there’s a very nice footnote from Google about it.

The notice also gets posted to the Chilling Effects database. Chilling Effects is a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard University and collects notices of copyright infringement from the web.

Have I given you a great reason not to infringe copyright and to quote, provide proper citations and use lots of “according to…” and loving links instead? Good. Nothing that is not yours should read as if it was yours.

Karma’s a Bitch

How does scraping somebody else’s content affect my life? Simple: infringing copyright is a crime and you may end up in civil court. Have you scraped content and would like to find out if Google has filtered you out? Add “&filter=0” at the end of the search query.

Content scraping SEO penalties

Content scraping SEO penalties

Non-malicious duplicate content and how to address it

We all have duplicate content… duplicated by ourselves!!! Some of these types of duplicate content are very common. One of the most common types are the printer-friendly pages. You know, those pages that pop up without any page formatting so people can print the page? If not properly addressed, these are exact copies of the original content. Always make sure that your printer-friendly page does NOT get indexed on search engines.

Do you understand URLs?

A rose by any other name is a rose. This is a great analogy to understand URLs or Unique Resource Locators. The URL is the true address of a page and it’s where search engines can find the content you have so painstakingly developed.

In real life, every home has an address that’s unique to that home. We can append modifiers to it, like “the last one on the block” or “the one with the blue door” but people know how to resolve these directions and end up on the same address. The problem is that search engines need a bit more direction than that. Let me show you some examples of URLs that we know are the same but search engines understand them as different:

http://domain.com and http://domain.com/index.php

http://domain.com/articlename and http://domain.com/articlename?sessionid=1234

http://domain.com/product and http://domain.com/product/?ref=name

http://domain.com and http://www.domain.com

http://domain.com and http://domain.com/

http://domain.com and https://domain.com

http://domain.com/categoryb/producta and http://domain.com/categoryb/producta

Session ID’s, URL parameters, page printer-friendly versions and even a backslash at the end of an address are interpreted as a different URL by search engines, if proper directions have not been given. To complicate matters more, think about those pages that can be displayed under a couple of categories, if the category is part of the URL. For example, an article that can be found under social media and SEO. There are many more situations where this type of content duplication occurs as this is not an exhaustive list.

Canonicali…. what???

Here’s comes the concept of canonicalization. A tongue twister on its own (try to conjugate the verb really fast!), it ends up being much forgotten by developers and SEOs alike. Not an easy concept unless you have some technical knowledge but I’ll try my best.

Canonicalizing a URL is the equivalent of adding signals for search engines that state, no matter what the address looks like, if this content is the one displayed, then this is the address of the original and indexable content because it’s the original version.

The good news for those on large platforms like WordPress, Shopify, Drupal, Joomla, there are plugins and apps that can help with it. Otherwise, you need to add the canonical tag to the head section of the page. This indicates to search engines which is the original version of the page.

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.domain.com/original-product-content/dateposted” />

Canonicalization is key on learning how to deal with duplicate content. A word of caution: do not use canonicalization when a re-direct is needed and search engines may choose to ignore your canonical tag.

What are canonical url tags? Find out!

What are canonical url tags?

And the duplicate content saga continues

URLs are not the only way of unintentionally creating duplicate content. Repeating paragraphs all over your site to emphasize a concept is a great way to tell the search engine that you don’t know which page is the most relevant for it.

Another great way of generating duplicate content is adding your bio to all of your article footers, even though so many website owners feel proud to see their bio there. Do you think it’s a good idea to disseminate the bio that is on your site to everybody that requests your bio? Absolutely not. I make it a point to create a different bio for publishing on other sites. Some of them a bit more alike than others, but definitely different than the one I publish on my site. This is why it really upsets me when somebody scrapes my website bio to add to the sites where I collaborate. Yes, it’s a shortcut and you may think nothing of it. But if somebody is collaborating with you for free, shouldn’t you just ask for them to also provide you with the bio they want published?

Now, let’s tackle content syndication. We all want to see our content shared all over the web. Hey! Let’s plaster it everywhere, what do we care? NOT! When you syndicate your content you are creating copies of it, exact duplicates. Mmmm.. which one is the original one that should be indexed by search engines? I wonder. Back to canonicalization? But how can you control other people pointing at your URL? Do they even know how to do that? Maybe you can ask for their article to carry a no-index tag. And maybe you should only syndicate a particular, different version of your article. Add a slight spin to it and syndicate.

Duplicate titles, descriptions and snippets are another great way to generate duplicate content. Think about it for a minute. If I show you two articles with the same title and description, which one will you choose? They must be the same, correct? But search engines add other factors in order to determine that they are one and the same like the URLs, and thus consider the page to be its own duplicate.

If you have a Google Search Console account, you can identify most of these pieces of duplicate content under Search Appearance >> HTML improvements.

What Duplicate Content Boils Down To

Going back to the physical address analogy, there could be many ways for someone to indicate how to get to the same house, but search engines are not people and they will think each unique description is a different house altogether.

Generating confusion for search engines is not where you want to be. First, because search engines will display only one of your “many pages” as they are identical in content and the search engine has a hard time determining which one is the most relevant. Second, people may link to the different URLs and this reduces the authority of your page.

I suggest you begin by addressing a list of duplicate content with the implementation of canonical tags, using 301 re-directs when needed, linking back to the original content, utilizing Google’s URL parameters tool and Bing’s Ignore Parameters Tool, improving your URL structure and avoiding the creation of duplicate content whenever possible.

I hope this has been a helpful little guide on how to address duplicate content. It is no means exhaustive. There are many other amazing SEOs that have written about it in much more depth. But feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I’ll do my best to address them as best I can.

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Why Your Hispanic Content Marketing Strategy is Not Working

Why Your Hispanic Content Marketing Strategy is Not Working

Why Your Hispanic Content Marketing Strategy is Not Working

You are investing in a Hispanic content marketing strategy and it’s not paying off? Maybe it’s time to find out if you are committing one of the cardinal sins of Hispanic content marketing.

We are seeing a lot more interest in the Hispanic market.

First, because  Hispanics are a market that is growing disproportionately. One in 3 babies born in the U.S. today is Hispanic. By 2050, Hispanics will constitute a full 30 percent of the U.S. population. “By 2044, the United States is projected to become a plurality nation. While the non-Hispanic White alone population will still be the largest, no race or ethnic group is projected to have greater than a 50 percent share of the nation’s total. The child population within the United States is even more diverse and is projected to experience the majority- minority crossover in 2020, just 5 years into the future.” Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

Second, because the Hispanic market has reached 1.5 trillion dollars in spending power.

Third, because Hispanics don’t just speak “Spanish” anymore. 😉 (Please, understand that Hispanics have been speaking both English and Spanish for a long time. It just seems that only recently companies have realized about it).

Coincidentally, this last reason is one of the main causes for failure of most Hispanic Content marketing efforts. Let’s analyze the most important ones but before diving into it, let’s review what a content marketing strategy is all about.

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Source: Content Marketing Institute

Therefore, Hispanic content marketing must appeal to the U.S.-Hispanic audience and not only to Spanish-speaking Hispanics.

We all know the first rule for Content Marketing: Talk to your customer, in your customer’s language about what your customer loves. So, do you truly understand what this customer loves? And which one of these Hispanic content marketing cardinal sins are you committing?

1Brands confuse Hispanic content marketing with Spanish content marketing

Have you ever seen an American suddenly begin to speak Spanish as its primary or dominant language? Brands need to pay attention to the demographics. Approximately 86 percent of Hispanics under the age of 18 are born in the U.S. and 95 percent of Millennials are U.S. born,

Therefore, not all content should be in Spanish. As a matter of fact, there is a growing segment of the Hispanic population that doesn’t speak Spanish at all. This audience has such a wide range of acculturation levels that go from speaking only Spanish to only English. Thinking that you are targeting Hispanics with a Spanish-only content marketing strategy is a delusion.

If you are interested in truly understanding acculturation levels, I recommend you read this article: Understanding Hispanic Market Segmentation and Acculturation.

2Not using English-language Hispanic targeted content.

Hispanic Content Marketing Cardinal Sins. Spanish content marketing vs Hispanic Content Marketing

Hispanic Content Marketing Cardinal Sins

I will also include here thinking that your English content strategy will take care of Hispanic consumers.

General market content strategies always target a segment of the population. Maybe it’s soccer moms, maybe it’s newlyweds, maybe it’s golfers. For a successful content marketing strategy, brands have marketing personas in mind. Why this concept disappears when it comes down to the Hispanic consumers, baffles me. Just like you don’t write your content for all audiences your English language Hispanic targeted content needs to be developed via marketing persona and and understanding of culture codes.

The addition of proper research and culture codes will enable a deeper understanding of the motivations for this particular segment. Blanketing Hispanics with labels such as “brand-loyal” doesn’t really apply when targeting Hispanic Millennials.

Another example is the Hispanic relationship to “Money” that varies with levels of acculturation. For more on how to use to craft messages that resonate with this audience, read the Hispanic culture code for money article.

Brands may be offering the same products or services but they need to be communicated in different ways.

3Using cultural clichés when developing Hispanic content

Assuming that all Latinos relate to or search for Latino cuisine images is the equivalent of going after the general market with apple pie and burger photos because we assume it’s relevant to the culture.

Ignoring customer insights or professional research is the same as putting yourself in the path to failure, willingly. Do not choose a Hispanic content marketing campaign because it has personal significance to your VP of marketing or to your Hispanic employees. A single opinion does not speak for the whole audience. Back it up with market research.

4Not considering mobile viewability or shareability first

Gifographic with the first rule of Content Marketing

Did you know this rule? Inspirado en Social Mood 😉

Hispanics do over-index in mobile. Not just when they are young and U.S.-born but also when they are recent arrivals. One of the main reasons for the high incidence of digital Latinos is the lack of telecom infrastructure in Latin America that led to a huge adoption of mobile devices and the use of SMS or text messages due to its lower cost.

Hispanic will be viewing your content on mobile devices and ignoring this fact is the same as placing advertisement where your target audience cannot see it.

Because Hispanics over index on Social Media as well, making sure your content can be shared on mobile it’s a must.

Hispanic market content needs to be searchable, engaging and shareable.

5You are ignoring analytics

Data analysis speaks volumes on the online world. And for Hispanic content marketing to be successful, analyzing results and responding to the analysis of the results, is key. Unfortunately I have rarely seen gap analysis performed, no matter what the market. Seasoned Hispanic inbound marketing professionals can help you understand your content’s current state and develop more where you’re missing out while keeping it aligned with your buyer’s needs. Content has to convert. Data analysis and conversion rate optimization needs to happen so you can adjust your content and its calls to action to improve results.

6Not having a documented Hispanic content marketing strategy

All strategies have to be documented and your Hispanic content marketing strategy is no exception. Without a written strategy, you are just winging it. There’s no goals, nothing to measure your results against. Basically, no way of knowing if you are on the right track. Do not miss out on Hispanic marketing personas, and not knowing your customers deeply. In the end, that’s who you are developing content for.

7You’re just afraid of failure

You need to invest time, budget and resources in this market and if you do, you will be rewarded with incredible results. The companies producing the most content for the Hispanic market are the same companies finding the most success in building long-term relationships with US Hispanics. Great examples of these companies are: T-mobile, Procter & gamble, Walmart, Target, and Toyota. AT&T, with its mobile movement – upwardly mobile campaign showed us how relating to U.S.-born Hispanics is possible. Sprint is making the U.S. Hispanic market a much bigger priority this year. Not enough budget to plan, prepare specific content, promote on social media channels, and analyze its results, will definitely lead to failure. The rewards for executing a solid Hispanic content marketing strategy are long lasting and will far surpass your expectations.

Basically, Hispanic content marketing not only drives positive brand engagement but, because the market over indexes other demographics on mobile and social media, it does it with much higher success rate than with non-Hispanics.

If you are lukewarm about it or go after it pinching pennies, you will not have the results of this growing and ever-present market.

Every day more and more content is produced. A trend that will stay with us for a long time. For your content to be found and consumed it has to be more engaging, have more quality and satisfy the market’s needs. Relevancy is key, and with a growing Hispanic market you cannot afford to waste time and money with mistakes on your Hispanic content marketing strategy.

My advice is to partner with a Hispanic inbound agency that is bilingual, bicultural and passionate about understanding cultures. One that spends hours studying and analyzing their similarities and differences between the cultures, because understanding only one culture is understanding none.

And remember the mantra: Create. Curate. Optimize. Convert.

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