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Update on Duplicate Content Test

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Interestingly, two nights ago I was introduced to a local entrepreneur (in the Seattle, WA area) who has done consulting FOR Google on how to optimize their own algorithm. I discussed the topic of same-content syndication with him and he advised me not to do it.

He said that, particularly after the Farmer algorithm update, this could do more harm than good.

Needless to say, getting advice from a consultant for Google’s algorithm was enough to change my mind. I immediately emailed my VA from my iPhone and told her to stop submitting all my content to EzineArticles. She was able to undo all the submissions before they were approved, so they never went live on EZA’s Website.

I am still intrigued by this debate, however, as there’s no denying that IF you could syndicate your exact content for backlinks without worrying about negative side effects, you could save a HUGE amount of money on content creation expenses. So I’ve decided to conduct the test on a much smaller scale. Perhaps it was too ambitious of me to start with a 100+ page Website full of unique content for which I spent a lot of money and time creating.

I’ll conduct the test, but it’ll be with a smaller, 10-20 page Website. I need to do this to definitively answer my own question.

Over the last week I had a very intriguing conversation with Troy, one of the authors over at Article Submission Review. I have copied the conversation below because I think it’s an intelligent look at both sides of the duplicate content-syndication debate:

On March 2, 2011 Jayson wrote:
I’m struggling to understand one important aspect of this change. How does Google define “unique” content? Will a Website with 100 pages of original content be penalized if the Webmaster distributes all 100 pages of content through channels such as EZA and blog networks?

Obviously, the content would not be “unique” anymore as it would be syndicated to various Websites. But I can’t see Google penalizing the original site for that. I mean, if it were possible to negatively affect rankings with offsite tactics like that, SEO companies would all be like mercenaries torpedoing each other’s competitors down. Mike and Troy, what’s your take?

On March 8, 2011 Troy wrote:
Hi Jayson,
What Google was going after with the duplicate content was scrapers – people that scrape the content from one site (usually an article directory that syndicates the content) and then republishing it on their own site. This has long been a game of Adsense plays where people create these “auto blogs” that just feed scraped content into their site and try to make some Adsense revenue off them. The concept is to get 1000 sites that make you $10 or $15 a month, etc… To a large extent this tactic doesn’t work very well for a lot of reasons and it’s getting harder and harder since these algorithm changes.
There is another trend that we have seen personally on some Adsense sites that we have as well as elsewhere in the industry that is being observed where even though traffic has not necessary diminished Adsense revenue has. Though this is pure speculation on our part, we’re of the belief that they have likely tweaked the Adsense payouts with a “quality factor” that they apply to the site similar to the quality factor that Adwords uses.
Duplicate content will always exist on the Internet and there’s nothing wrong with it (what is a press release, for example, if not 100% duplicate content). The problem that they were trying to combat was it was getting too easy to game the system. People had scraper sites with crappy content that were outranking the original content they scraped!
Our advice is this. If you use EzineArticles or other article directories as part of your distribution channel, that’s fine. But don’t publish anything to them that comes from your site. Keep the two completely discreet from a content perspective. Put unique content on your site and use other content for SEO submissions. Many people do the following. They order an article and publish it on their site. Then later they spin it and republish it on a bunch of article directories, etc… It is our recommendation that you not follow that tact any longer. Keep your content unique and the SEO fodder separate – it’s just smart.
-Troy
On March 8, 2011 Jayson wrote:
Hi Troy,
Thanks for the detailed response. Since the algorithm update I’ve seen internet marketers everywhere giving the same advice: “Don’t syndicate the exact same content that’s on your Website.” However I haven’t yet seen a good reason why not to.
Obviously, there are huge costs involved with writing new content for SEO fodder, so if it’s OK to distribute your content completely unchanged as it appears on your Website, you can save a lot of money and arguably realize the same benefits.
My question is, why not syndicate your Website’s content? Of course, it’s important to make sure that Google has indexed your content on your own domain first. But, assuming that’s done, what can be the problem? I decided to do some investigation and ended up writing a 4000+ word blog post at my Website that examines all the evidence and data I can come up with. The post includes verbiage straight from Google regarding syndication.
I know you’re busy guys, but if you can make some time to read my post I think you’ll see that I have researched this topic pretty thoroughly, and nowhere have I found any evidence to back up what seems to be a widely perpetuated fallacy.
I am actually doing a giant test of my own; I just launched a Website with over 100 pages of completely fresh, unique, quality content, and I am in the process of syndicating that content as far and wide as I possibly can.
On March 10, 2011 Troy wrote:
Hi Jayson,
Nice post by the way (your blog post I mean). You put a lot of effort and research into that. So, without writing a 4000 word response, here’s my answer in a two paragraphs or less…
Basically you answered your own question in your post on your blog. Can you do it? Sure. Should you? I don’t think so. Here’s the thing, it really depends upon the site you are promoting. If it’s just a test site or an affiliate site that you’re still tinkering with to determine if you’re going to pursue it more aggressively, etc… then sure if it’ll save you a few bucks and you can’t afford to do it otherwise, sure, go ahead. But, our advice here is more geared towards small business owners and people making their full time income off of their site and my advice stands – protect your money site and protect your content. As your own research pointed out, syndicating the content from your site can facilitate other higher authority sites actually out ranking you with your own content. Personally that’s just not a risk we’re willing to take nor one we would advise readers to take.
Anyway, thanks for your very well thought out response and in-depth research… might make sense for you going after 50 sites, but ask yourself this. If you had just one site making $5k a month and depended on that sites income to feed the family and put the kids through college, which way would you go? I can assure you we don’t syndicate our content here or even spin it and syndicate it. We keep our site content unique and write separate SEO content and for *most* people that probably makes the best sense as well. The risks of devaluing your site’s authority and rankings simply outweigh the potential rewards of some cheaper links.
Take care,
Troy

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Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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  • scott

    Thanks for the post. I have read many on the topic since the Farmer/Panda update. I haven’t however heard anything about Google targeting scraped content that is posted onto autoblogs in the hope of gaining Adsense revenue, so this was pretty informative, I was kind of wandering whether the farmer/panda update was targeted at the SEO industry, this helped to reassure me a bit. Thanks again.

    ps. The italic font is a little hard to read

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