Archive for August, 2009

Duplicate Content Penalty, RSS and Splogs

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Here’s a topic I’ve wanted to tackle for quite some time and it’s something that comes up quite a bit in the blogging community.  Consider the frustration expressed by real estate blogger Jay Thompson –

I grow weary of stealing my blog content.

Let’s see how long they take to steal this. Posted at 7:09Pm Friday , Sept 28.

Question: How long did it take them to scrape and steal this post?
Answer: 29 minutes….

First of all, let’s talk about how this is done.  Do spam blogs (splogs) have special bots that crawl around our sites?  No.  As a blog author, I have enabled RSS or really simple syndication.  That means followers of this site who use newsreaders can see my posts.  It also means sites that generate content dynamically can pull in my content and shape it any way they want.  RSS is an automated way to submit your content all over the web.  It’s one of the first things I enabled when I started this blog and any blog for that matter.

Why do these sites take content?  They post ads that pull from the content posted on their site.  This practice is annoying because if you have trackbacks enabled, it can clutter up your comment section.  WordPress is now keeping trackbacks separate from comments so it’s not that big of a worry.

What’s a trackback? – When you link to a specific post in a blog, it will generate a brief description of what you wrote as well as a link back to your own site.  Instead of linking to Jay’s main page at, I linked to a specific page which will generate a trackback to me if he has the feature enabled.  I’m not sure he does 😉  You can see specific examples of trackbacks if you click on an individual post on this site and then go to the comments.  Trackbacks appear in their own tab.

Let’s go back to why Jay was so annoyed.  He didn’t see any value in getting that link and he wasn’t properly credited as the author.  He’s got a great screen shot of the offending splog.  I commented on his post that it didn’t really matter because an inbound link is an inbound link.  That’s only partially true.  A quality inbound link is one that comes from a site that has Page Rank, is relevant to your site and has been around for a while.  Splogs typically don’t have Page Rank and haven’t been around very long, but the way they’re structured is often relevant.  For a new blog, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to get these types of links.  They send the spiders to your site and they may even send real visitors.

Besides the annoyance of having to turn off or delete trackbacks, the biggest concern bloggers have is these splogs will outrank them on search engines and even reduce their own rankings on the results pages.  This duplicate content penalty is an unjustified fear.  Let’s take a look.  Jay’s post was called, “RealEstateMindSet.Info Steals Blog Content.”  Type those words into Google and what do you get?  Jay’s site is number one and two.  A couple splogs turn up and there’s a result from another search engine.  RealEstateMindSet.Info isn’t even around any more.

I know you’re thinking that’s just one example.  It could be a fluke!  Let’s look at another example.  Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago and syndicated using RSS.  Here are the search engine results

  1. Ten careers for high school seniors who hate school

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    Ten Careers For High School Seniors Who Hate School

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  5. Ten careers for high school seniors who hate school

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How did my optimized page wind up number one out of all these pages that appear to have the exact same content?  Remember my last post about the importance of page titles?  Look at these SERPs and you’ll see only one result has our keyphrase in the title, description and URL.  Two others have similar structures, but they’re not exactly the same.  With those differences in descriptions and the metatags we don’t see in the SERPs, it’s obvious the spider’s don’t consider these to be duplicate pages.  When you throw in some of the other ranking algorithm features like age, it becomes apparant that a blog post copied by a splog will never be outranked and never be penalized.

As a blog author, you have little control over how your syndicated content is used.  A splog may not link back to you.  It may not properly credit you as the author.  There are two things you can control on your RSS feeds and this is how I deal with splogs.

1.  Don’t post your full feed.  If you only publish a portion of it, you’ll never have to worry about duplicate content penalties.  Secondly, a splog will typically link back to the original source just in case a human visitor shows up.

2.  Do link back to your own site somewhere in the post.  RSS feeds are verbatim.  If you’re not posting your full feed, it’s helpful to include that link towards the beginning of the post because that’s what usually gets excerpted.

Blog authors can feel confident in utilizing RSS feeds to gain readers and search engine rankings because splogs will never out rank the original post.  By following the tips in this article, you can maximize the automated power of RSS.


How to Maximize Search Engine Results (SERPs)

August 29, 2009 12 comments

When I consult with clients, I find managing expectations is very important.  What SEO clients want to know is, “When will I see results?”  I normally counsel them it can take up to six months to see results on a web page.  Blogs, however can be much faster.  There are several reasons for this which I will discuss in future articles.

In launching this blog, I made a few adjustments to my normal strategy and its paid off quite well.  One of the most discouraging things about starting a new blog is a lack of feedback from the audience, because there isn’t one.  As you can see from this graph, I didn’t have to wait too long to start seeing results.

web traffic
Visitors started posting comments right away too.  For me, the most important result I want is to show up on search engines.  Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long for that either.  Earlier this week, I wrote a series on how to use Facebook.  It turned out to be quite popular.  In fact, if you searched for “how should Facebook be used” this site turned up number one out of over a billion search results.  I was quite shocked because that result seemed to defy Google’s result algorithm which is a complex combination of number of inbound links, number of relevant inbound links,  Pagerank, length of time the domain has been active and a number of other factors too complex for this article.

I thought it would be an interesting experiment to figure out why I got this ranking.  Usually, the most important factor is inbound links.  I’ve received a few in a short time because I utilize RSS that puts this content on other sites, but not enough to generate that kind of result.  The WordPress domain name has been around for a while so that helps, but nothing could explain how this little blog was out ranking and…the two SERPs that now are currently ahead of me.

So I did another search…this time putting my phrase in quotation marks…which gives me an exact number of sites that have that exact phrase.  There are only 743 pages with results.  That’s a lot less than the 1.8 billion results that show up containing some form of that phrase.

Now I know it’s not that competitive of a key phrase, but there are still hundreds of sites that have been around longer than mine and I’m outranking them.  So let’s look a little closer.  What is the next best result?

FaceBook : Good or Bad for Communication: Looking at Effect of

On Balance : How Should FaceBook Be Used? As with other enabling technologies, such as email, web search engines, and online publishing outlets like…/facebook_good_or_bad_for_communication – CachedSimilar

This one shows up fourth…after three variations of mine.  It was written in May of this year, so it’s definitely been around longer.  It’s got 5500 inbound links to it’s domain.  So what’s different between my SERP and their SERP?  It’s the title.  Now look at mine –

How Should Facebook be Used? « Seo by Swaby

How Should Facebook be Used? August 27th, 2009 seobyswaby Leave a comment Go to comments. Cocktail party. My personal opinion of Facebook is it’s an odd…/how-should-facebook-be-used/

Matching titles to content is one of the keys to maximizing search engine results.  For a blog this is especially true.

Here’s how –

The page title is automatically turned into the URL, so you get double exposure to the key phrase.

Repeat the page title, or parts of the page title in the body of your article and it will show up in the description portion of the SERP.

Aug 27, 2009 I’ll have part II on how should Facebook be used tomorrow. How do you think Facebook should be used? 50 minutes ago

Utilize your blog’s capability to show past articles.  I’m using RSS to show my latest posts.

I’m also showing my Twitter feed which serves as more repetition for my key phrase.

How do you think Facebook should be used? 50 minutes ago

What about regular web pages?  The same results will occur.  Matching up meta data is one of the first things I do when optimizing a static web page.

What is the take away from all this?  Pay very close attention to your page titles when blogging and performing SEO on websites.  Utilizing good, solid keyphrases and repeating them on your site is an excellent way to beat the competition and maximize your search results.

How Should Facebook be Used

Blogger Quick Tip – Twitter from Facebook

August 28, 2009 2 comments

blogger quick tipsTired of having to login to Facebook and Twitter to post updates?  Now you don’t have to.  You can set up Facebook to mirror your updates to Twitter and save a bit of time.

It’s very easy to do.  Just go here on Facebook and follow the steps.  If you have a group page on Facebook, it will also post to your main profile feed.  Just remember to keep it below 140 characters.

Thanks to Mark Ijlal for mentioning it in his great post on driving traffic to a new site.

How Should Facebook be Used? – Part III

August 28, 2009 1 comment

PhotographerWelcome to part III on how Facebook should be used.  In part 1, I talked about my inspiration for creating this article.  In part II, I covered six types of Facebook users.  Today, I will complete the series and give you my tips on how to maximize Facebook use, both from a personal and professional stand point.

I’m taking these Facebook “types” from an article I recently read called The 12 most annoying types of Facebook users.

The Paparazzo – In the CNN article, the author is referring to your friends who tag you in photos they’ve put on their page.  In real life, we have a much bigger paparazzo to fear – ourselves!  We love to post photos of things we do and people we care about, but we have to think about what that can do in the wrong hands.  You’ve probably heard about the family photo that became a life-sized ad in Czechoslovakia.  How about the woman whose child’s picture was used as part of an adoption scam?  Pretty scary!  Those are two reason’s why it’s important to think before you upload and not accept every friend request you receive.  Google does a great job in its picture search, so don’t think it can’t be found.  How about a Facebook friend who likes one of your photos and puts it on a blog or message board?  You can’t really control that, so you should limit your exposure on a personal level.

From a marketing standpoint, it seems that people’s natural urge to share could be used to promote a message.  If only someone could make a Lolcat that promoted a business that didn’t seem like an ad.  Hmmm.  How about a video?

The Obscurist – This is the friend that constantly posts status updates you think are meant for certain individuals in their network.  It turns out nobody gets their obscure updates.  I’ve found a lot of TV commercials to be this way as well.  In this day and age of information overload, it’s far too easy to just ignore obscure messages and references.  Does anybody wonder where Dennis Miller went?  Now you know.

The Chronic Inviter – The brilliant feature of Facebook and the reason it has exploded in popularity is it’s easy to invite people.  Every aspect of it encourages sharing, especially ads, games and building the network.  Personally, I’m selective of who I invite to games or even into my network.  Just because I went to school with someone twenty years ago doesn’t mean we could or should be friends today.  But there’s always someone, sometimes more than one, who you get all the annoying “app” invitations from.  Some of them are fun, but most are just stupid.  All of them however are run by companies that exist for the sole purpose of mining your personal data and all the friends that you tell them about.

When you agree to an app, you’re warned that all your data will be imported, even if you can’t see a preview of the application you’re about to participate in.  The default setting for new apps is to allow and communicate with everyone in your network.  This can be changed later, but even if you quit an app, that company still has your info and that of your friends.

This is a huge privacy issue and Facebook should make changes to protect their members.  Companies looking to Facebook for advertising purposes should keep this in mind and act ethically.  Please be aware of this the next time you decide to invite a friend for a virtual drink.

Facebook is an amazing application for this digital world we live in.  It’s great for personal use and as a web marketing tool.  Unfortunately, we all fall into at least one of the “annoying” types of users.  If we’re aware of this behavior we can make improvements to be better friends and better netizens.

My takeaway from writing this article and examining these types of users is we can definitely learn a lot.  If you’re an “over promoter” but are gaining friends and referalls, you’re probably doing it right.  If you’re a “lurker,” maybe put yourself out there a little bit more.  Surely you’ve got something to offer the conversation?  If you’re a “crank,” maybe rephrase your criticism.  It may be a digital world, but at the other end of the comment is a human being that does have feelings.

The beauty of the Internet is you can test, change and adapt your approach to just about anything.  What we think about Facebook today will most certainly be different in the future.  So what’s the best way to use Facebook?  It’s the way that best helps you meet your own goals.

How Should Facebook be Used? – Part II

August 27, 2009 27 comments


Let’s continue with yesterday’s article about best uses for Facebook.  As you recall, I was commenting on a recent article called The 12 most annoying types of Facebookers.  The first three types were covered yesterday, so let’s move on.

The Town Crier – The way we receive news is changing in a dramatic way.  Just ask the newspapers.  I rarely watch the news on TV anymore because I’ve already seen it on the Internet.  Social networks add a new twist on news because there is no individual responsibility to verify what’s repeated.  Internet coverage of Michael Jackson’s death is a good case study.  I first heard about it from a message board I frequent.  That board provided a link to TMZ which I went to.  My opinion of TMZ is it has a credibility problem, so I sought other sources.  Those sources simply said Jackson had been hospitalized.  I kept switching back and forth between several sources including TMZ and quickly realized TMZ had the scoop and the most honest reporting.  The news game is definitely changing and the Internet is where it’s going.

Last year I gave a presentation at the University of Utah on fact checking and accuracy when blogging.  What I concluded was that as a blogger, one should have two sources to back up anything presented as fact.  As merely a participant on a message board or social networking site, our level of responsibility is much lower, but it’s still a good idea to verify news before we shout it out to all our friends and contacts.  How foolish would you feel now if you’d forwarded the news that Jeff Goldblum had passed?

The TMIer – I agree with the author, too much information can be a bad thing.  As the Internet provides transparency to much of what takes place in daily life, we may be compelled to overshare.  It’s no wonder, we’re bombarded with ads for colon cleansing and increasing the size of our private parts.  Politicians are pitching pills to combat ED and have you ever listened to some of the side effects of pharmaceuticals?  Let’s give it a rest.  If you wouldn’t tell your grandmother, you shouldn’t be telling it to us.  Some things are better left unsaid.

The Bad Grammarian – I know texting and tweeting are causing us to create shortcuts, but there’s no excuse for bad grammar, misspellings and improper word use.  It doesn’t matter the news source any more, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t catch an article with a mistake in it.  Yes, you can run it through spell check, but we still need editors.  Some common misuses include loose for lose, their for there or they’re and you’re for your.  Sometimes there are misspellings that should have been caught and then there’s the purposeful use of “z” instead of “s” plus other abbreviations.

The Sympathy-Baiter – Yes, it’s tough out there, but if you’re going to put out teasers, at least tell us why.  I think this falls into the TMI, category unless it’s something newsworthy like a serious illness or death in the family.

The Lurker – It is creepy to think that someone is out there viewing your information without communicating with you.  But what are you doing putting out things on the Internet you don’t want people to see?  Lurking is common behavior on the Internet for a number of reasons.  Besides the stalker factor, a lurker could simply be shy – a real life personality trait manifesting itself online, or they could be fearful.  The Internet encourages participation because of anonymity, but Facebook removes that protection because real information is used for the most part.

The Crank – The “Negative Nelly” of the online world.  The sympathy baiter complains about things that happen to them.  The crank complains about other people.  Neither one is fun to be around.  I have found cranks to be useful because of their analytical ability.  If you have a plan or thought that needs criticism, the crank is the best place to go.  They have a laser like ability to point out the weak links you may not have thought about.  Then you can decide whether it’s worth improving or ignoring.  More and more companies are turning to the Internet to get feedback on new products and services.  The crank can be no fun to be around, but it is possible to turn their negativity into a positive.

I’m going to finish up this series in part III of how should Facebook be used.

How Should Facebook be Used?

August 27, 2009 8 comments

Cocktail party

My personal opinion of  Facebook is it’s an odd gathering of people from high school, college, work friends, recent friends, a couple of family members and people I don’t know, but I might want to network with at some point in the future.  A lot has changed since Facebook hit the tipping point and became the social networking juggernaut it now is.

When I started with Facebook two years ago, I had six friends.  I joined at the suggestion of my uber tech savvy Internet friend Pat Kitano.  My other five friends were real estate bloggers and a bobsledder from Jamaica I once did marketing for.  My friend list stayed at six for quite a while and then I started getting friend requests from people I went to high school with.  Then a Facebook group was created for the alumni of that school.  That list grew from a few dozen people to the several hundred that now occupy it.

Then I got requests from college friends.  Soon a group for my fraternity was formed.  Then, that group exploded with members.  Add in a trickle of requests from family, other people in real estate and marketing, friends of friends and my list had gone from six to 150 in a very short time.

From a human perspective it’s been really nice.  I’ve been able to reconnect with people I thought were long gone.  It reminds me of the lyrics to a song that was popular a while ago –

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and
lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

From a marketing perspective, Facebook is amazing.  Groups have formed by interest and location and social standing.  Ads can be highly targeted and since it’s so new, nobody really knows how to be successful at it without coming across badly.

I was reading an article the other day about the 12 most annoying types of Facebook users.  I agree with the author that all those types of people exist, but I’m not sure they’re all annoying.  I’m also not sure that we don’t all fit into at least one of those categories.  Today I’ll discuss three of those types of users and give out some ideas on how to make improvements if any are needed.

Combine dull status updates with shameless self-promoters, “friend-padders” and that friend of a friend who sends you quizzes every day, and Facebook becomes a daily reminder of why some people can get on your nerves.

The Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore – The author definitely gets this one right.  There is such a thing as oversharing!  Depending on how you set your privacy levels and who you choose to add as friends, pretend that everything you comment, share, upload and link to can be seen by your parents, boss, teacher or religious leader.  Now do you want to post it?  Marketing on the Internet should be brief and relevant.  The technology practically forces us to be concise.  Let’s keep that in mind.

The Self-Promoter – Isn’t part of being on the web some aspect of self-promotion?  Otherwise you wouldn’t be there.  Facebook is a little bit different because members can be passive or even reclusive.  Having been accused of self-promotion myself, I think the best way to handle things is to be relevant with your comments and don’t over promote.  A status update every 10 minutes is overkill, but something once a day or every other day won’t turn off your audience.

The Friend-Padder – The article states most Facebook users have a network of about 120 people.  This fits into established theories about group size.  Humans have a difficult time coping with managing relationships with groups larger than 150.  The “friend padder” will have groups in the several hundreds.  One of my contacts has nearly 2,000 Facebook friends.  She’s also a rabid self-promoter.  One of my real life friends is ready to break 1,000 on Facebook, but she has a lot of friends in real life too.  As my friend count is approaching that magic number of 150, I want to divide and seperate my group.  I’ve created a new page for my SEO business where I can put potential contacts and clients, while keeping my friends and family seperate so I don’t bug them with my marketing.

I’ll have part II on how should Facebook be used tomorrow.

The Power of Branding – II

August 25, 2009 5 comments

brand you

Yesterday, I talked about the power of branding in relation to product returns.  That’s just a simple example of how powerful creating a brand is.  My thoughts for this article have been percolating for about ten days now, so imagine my surprise when I received an article this morning describing the power of online ads that don’t get clicked on.

Online advertising is not just about the clicks, as a recent study from marketing firm Eyeblaster clearly illustrates. Users can engage with advertisements without actually clicking through.

In fact, Eyeblaster is even trying to coin a new metric called “dwell time.” This is in reference to the amount of time a user “dwells” on an ad. This could mean different things depending on the nature of the ad. It could be how long the ad is viewed if it contains video, how long it is expanded if it is expandable, etc.

Interesting.  Even though someone doesn’t click on my ad or my search result, they’re still exposed to my online message!  If a message is repeated enough, or repeated in different ways, it can eventually pay off.  When I read this article, I immediately thought of the old Orbitz ads with the games…either baseball or miniature golf.  If you clicked on the ad, you got to play a Flash game for a minute or two, branded with the Orbitz name.  After a few plays, a landing page would open up in a new screen.  Simple, yet clever.  Life Savers has accomplished a similar feat with its Candystand game site.

Of all the methods to brand a product, service or even an individual, the Internet seems to be one of the most powerful ways.  Advertising has evolved from a game of eyeballs (CPM) to a much more targeted process.  Without the web, this transformation wouldn’t be possible.  The decline of newspaper, magazine and TV advertising is proof of the phenomenon.

Why is the web so powerful?

  1. Low cost – In the beginning, twelve years ago, the costs for entering the web were much higher.  With advances in technology, everything can be turnkey and low cost.  If you don’t want a free blog like WordPress or Blogger, get a content management system – also for free.
  2. Low barriers to entry – Besides cost, it used to be that technical knowledge was needed to launch a web presence.  The same free software that eliminates costs, also reduces required technical expertise.  If you can operate a word processor, you can operate a blog or CMS.
  3. Cloud computing – I’m going to group a few things into this category, social media in particular.  With Twitter and Facebook, a person or company can create a presence with no technical knowledge and no cost.  Ashton Kutcher’s challenge to CNN is a great example.

What do these changes in branding philosophy mean?  It means every business, organization and person who wants to be successful must have an Internet plan to market themselves.  What’s yours?

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