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Avoiding Duplicate Content on the Web

Recently we made an important change regarding what articles are acceptable for submission to the Ruby Lane 'Get Paid to Blog' program, with respect to 'duplicate content'. This generated a number of questions and concerns from our shop owners, which we will address here. What is 'duplicate content'? Why do Google and other Search Engines deem it as unacceptable? And, why has Ruby Lane changed the blog submission requirements to only accept articles that have not been (and will not be) published anywhere else on the Internet? Here's why:

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."

The goal of a Google search is to provide its users with 'distinct information' - "a diverse cross-section of unique content". If content is duplicated across the web then it is highly likely the information will show up in a search return for a particular set of keywords or keyword phrases. The user is not interested in a list of links containing the exact same information verbatim - they are looking for unique information. To avoid duplicate content in a search result Google has designed programs to look for and flag duplicate content and may, if they deem necessary, block sites from being 'crawled' and information from being indexed for viewing in a search return. This can mean death to a website.

For the above reasons Ruby Lane now restricts the blog article submissions to 'new, never before published content'. It also means that it cannot be published anywhere else after it has been published on the blog. We must trust our shop owners to abide by the rule because we do not have the manpower to verify that each and every article is 'unique' content, nor can we police the Internet for duplicate content. If we receive a report that an article is duplicated elsewhere on the web we will contact the site and instruct them to remove it. This applies to articles published this year.

As for duplicate content with respect to item titles and descriptions and posting the item to multiple venues, blogs and social forums:

Using the same item title for multiple Ruby Lane shop items or on multiple venues is not an issue. Although you might consider leaving off the 'fluff' adjectives such as, stunning, beautiful, etc., because your titles should be keyword driven and Google limits the number of characters it indexes with respect to titles. But the use of 'fluff' words is not considered duplicate content. If you feel using 'fluff' words in your titles will attract a shopper's attention, then we suggest placing them at the end of your item titles.

Item descriptions: The first paragraph of a description should contain the important, known specifics about an item: what it is, color, size, style, condition, manufacturer, year made, etc. If you are listing a similar item with the same characteristics on Ruby Lane or another venue, it is not necessary to shuffle the words around to show the basic information in a different sequence. You can and should put the same basic item information in the description as in the title.

It is the 'story' part of the description that can cause you issues. For example, if you add historical information in your descriptions, such as information about a manufacturer, you do not want to 'duplicate' this description in a different item listing or on a different venue, blog, or social network where the pages are indexed by Google. Even if you reword it, it may still be viewed as duplicate content. Another example of what may be viewed as duplicate content is a personal story relating to an item, such as, "I found this in my Granny's attic. She had been a collector all her life. I was thrilled to make the discovery, etc."

If the intent of adding a 'story' to your description is to pack the description with descriptive keywords to manipulate search results, then you are spamming and this is not acceptable, so be careful with your story lines. So for anything that is a 'story', use it in only one of your item descriptions and at only one venue - one item description in one shop or the same item or similar item in a different shop/venue. The same holds true for blogs and social sites. Even if you 'massage' the story, it may not be enough.

For ideas on what a description should look like go to a large retailer site and see how they write titles and descriptions. And if you are still concerned about what is or is not duplicate content with respect to item titles and the basic, relevant information for an item, think about this: how many different ways can you describe an item that is sold everywhere, like a pair of Nike tennis shoes and how many different places sell a Nike tennis shoe. The descriptions are repeated over and over again across the Internet - basic, relevant information - and the basics are not viewed as duplicate content. It is the 'story' part of a description that you need to concern yourself with and whether it is a 'substantive block' of content. A very brief story or a sentence or two is not considered a 'substantive block' of content.

Google also states that, "you shouldn't worry about occasional snippets (quotes and otherwise) being flagged as duplicate content..." In the case of syndicated content, where a site has permission to publish your article in its original format remember Google will, "always show... the version 'they' think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you'd prefer."

Should you find that your original content has been 'scraped' (misappropriated and republished) you can report it to Google. File a DMCA request (http://support.google.com/bin/static.py?hl=en&ts=1114905&page=ts.cs) to claim ownership of the content and they will deal with the site.

Sources:

"Deftly Dealing with Duplicate Content." Google - Webmaster Centrol Blog. June 2012.

"Duplicate Content." Google - Webmaster Tools. Web . June 2012.

Cutts, Matt. "Google Penguin Update Don't Forget about Duplicate Content." WebProNews. May 2012. Web. June 2012.

Article Last Update: September 29, 2013