In all things that we do online, we should do them with intention, do them with consideration and be mindful of the repercussions of our words and the effect of our content on our readers.
Guest Posting and Duplicate Content ~ Advice for all bloggers!
If you’re wondering why duplicate content is bad for bloggers, or why duplicate content is bad for SEO, this is a case study based on my own personal experience. This post goes on to explain to you how you can unwittingly come to host duplicate content, and what you can do to fix the problem if you discover after publishing that you are hosting duplicate content on your website.
What is Guest Posting
Guest Posting is a well-established way of increasing your Domain Authority as a blogger. It is also a good way to get an organisation or blog promoted to a new audience. In this instance, it was the latter of those that I found myself in a very uncomfortable and scary situation.
I agreed to publish an article on my blog which was done out of goodwill on my part because I loved the ethos of the organisation who asked me to work with them. I went above and beyond for this post, ensuring that I did everything I could to help raise awareness of their fantastic initiative. Due to the technical nature of what they do, I asked them to provide me with the wording in the form of a Guest Post.
Long story short, the post went out.
Blog Post Promotion
As is the nature of blog post promotion I scheduled a number of tweets to go out promoting the post. Whilst scrolling through my Twitter feed three days later, I came across a tweet by the organisation I was currently promoting. They were sharing another guest post of theirs that had been published on someone else’s website. Call it a sixth sense, call it curiosity, but I clicked the link to read the article.
What I discovered was word for word, the same content that was appearing on my blog. I felt the blood drain from my face.
This might sound overdramatic to many people. However to me, the phrases “duplicate content” and “Copywrite infringement”, “penalised rankings” were racing through my mind.
I called the organisation to explain my distress. They suggested they ask the other organisation to delay posting their post for a month. I explained how that would make no difference as there would still be duplicate content in a month’s time. I was quite upset but they didn’t understand the problem. They apologised but didn’t offer any way of rectifying the situation.
I didn’t panic. Okay, that’s a lie. I was panicking. I decided NOT to over-react, but instead to seek advice from a number of lovely ladies who are far more technically experienced than I am when it comes to these matters. However, they did not allay my fears. What I needed to do was to fix the duplicate content issue.
How To Fix The Issue Of Duplicate Content
They all agreed that this was very bad for my site. There were two options open to me to try to protect my site from being penalised by Google for hosting duplicate content:
- Delete the post and redirect the URL to another post of mine.
- Edit the post to ensure that the content in no way resembled the other post.
Option 1: Delete the post & Redirect the URL.
I didn’t want to do this. The main reason being that there was a Giveaway attached to the post which my readers had already been entering in good faith. I didn’t want to have to retract all of that as it would damage my credibility with my readers, followers and those who had entered the Giveaway.
Secondly, I had also done a number of social media posts, tweets, pins etc. Which, once they are out there on the net, it’s hard to ensure that it will all work out correctly with the URL redirect. I just felt it would be messy.
Option 2: Edit the entire post
Since I am a copyeditor this seemed like the easiest option for me. It also meant that I was definitely in complete control of protecting my own site. At the end of the day, the only way to protect your own site, is to take responsibility for the content on it. At least by editing the document myself, I was able to ensure that there would be no duplicate content.
The only downside to this was my disappointment and frustration at the situation, nevermind the hours lost in the work I’d already done. As I said though, this seemed like the path of least resistance for me.
Why Had They Done That?
From their perspective, they had simply provided information about their organisation to two different sites. Effectively it’s exactly the same information to why not, right? Companies send out Press Releases all the time. For every website that then copies and pastes that press release onto their own website, you’re effectively publishing duplicate content onto the web. For them, it was simply time management. The two sites they fed the information to were completely different and not in competition with each other. No harm done, right?
Why is Duplicate Content An Issue For Google
Whilst you can’t actually be penalised by Google, and by that, I mean that it’s not an offence that they can prosecute anyone for, it is still not good for the sites concerned.
The problem is that effectively Google can’t tell which content is the one to rank, which one is the authority to refer people to when the topic is searched for. It basically it dilutes the search results for both sites involved.
In this case, it wasn’t a copyright offence either as no one copied the information from anyone else. Both websites were given the same information. The technical term for this is copied content. This, in Google’s eyes, is a far more serious issue than duplicate content because of the implication that copied content has been copied and published without the original owner/creator’s permission. Check out this post by HOBO for more clarification on this issue.
How to Avoid Duplicate Content When Accepting Guest Posts
I learnt a number of lessons through all of this. The number one lesson learnt is that I myself am ultimately responsible for ensuring my site is free of duplicate content. Going forward I will be asking anyone who sends me material as a Guest Post to confirm in writing that not only is in original content, but that it won’t be given to any other websites, or appear on the owner’s site in any way shape or form, ever.
However, just to be sure, it’s good practice to add an personalised introduction and conclusion paragraph to your guest post.
How To Check For Duplicate Content
There are a number of ways you can check for Duplicate Content. The one I used is SEO Review Tools Duplicate Content Checker. It searches your own website to make sure there is no duplicate content on there, as well as to check if the content you are searching for appears on any other domains as well.
There are a number of others you can use. All you need to do is google “how to check for duplicate content” or google duplicate content checker.
Here is another really useful article that covers the topic of Duplicate Content in detail.
Sharing Your Own Content on Multiple Sites.
There is an exception to sharing duplicate content and not being penalised, and that is with a canonical link. What this is, is basically a piece of code that you add to the HTML of your link which tells Google that this content is not the original content and that it should rank the original content over this one in the search results.
This would be used if you had previously published content on your website and then want to share it with another site as well – cross-domain duplicate content. For example, a parent blogger writes an article on their blog. They then share it to a parenting platform such as Scary Mommy, Huffpost or Parenty. They then publish your post using a canonical link.
Despite what happened, Guest Posting is still a good way to improve your site’s domain authority and to get your work read by different audiences. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness of how duplicate content can arise, and what you can do to protect yourself from a situation where you might be the host of duplicate content unbeknown to you. These things do happen, but we need to protect not only our own sites, but those that we might be guest posting for too.
I hope this article has been useful to you. If you learnt something, please share this post to raise awareness and to hopefully help avoid situations such as these in the future. Please pin the image below too.
I do feel it’s important to add that guest posting does require you to understand the rules of no-follow and do-follow links. For more information about that, please do investigate further and always, know your own worth and know what your backlink is worth as a blogger!
If you’d like to understand this complex topic more, please do get in touch. I’d be happy to explain it further in a 1-2-1 session.