Gini Dietrich

PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content

By: Gini Dietrich | February 19, 2013 | 
170

I mentioned yesterday I’m reading Andy Crestodina’sContent Chemistry.”

It’s an interesting book that is half theory and half lab; full of tips, cautions and notes for even the most sophisticated content marketer.

If you’ve ever seen Andy speak or read his blog (or read his guest posts here), you’ll know you’re going to learn something from the first page (or you’ll discover it when you attend his Spin Sucks Pro webinar this Thursday).

He’s very, very good and his book is no different.

PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted

In it he tells a story about a client that launched a website and hired a PR firm to announce the new site (that strategy, in and of itself, isn’t a great one, but it’s not my point) and to create new content to help with search rankings.

Rather than write an original news release, though, the PR firm simply copied the text from the website’s home page and submitted it to the online newswires.

Oh yes. They copied the text from the website’s home page as their “news release” (I seriously hate PR people sometimes; more on that here). What is wrong with people? Can you imagine paying for a PR firm to do that? I’d be furious.

But I’d be even more furious when I discovered what happened next.

Because the wires automatically post to websites around the globe, within minutes there were more than 1,000 instances of that home page content on the web.

Duplicate content is a big no-no for the Google algorithms, s0 the site was flagged as likely spam and they blacklisted the domain. Suddenly the website dropped from search results, even when you typed in the exact company name.

Yes, when you typed in the company name, their website didn’t pop up in search results.

Can you imagine?

The natural inclination, of course, is to blame the web firm when your site disappears from search rankings, but it turns out it was not the fault of Andy or his team at Orbit, but that of the client’s PR firm.

The story ends well. This time.

Because Orbit has a great reputation for building “white hat” websites, they were able to file a reconsideration request and explain what happened. Google reinstated the website, and all was well.

But imagine if this happened to you and you didn’t have access to a reputable firm with tentacles into Google. Not good.

Duplicate Content and Search Rankings

This, of course, wouldn’t have happened if the PR firm had oh, I don’t know, written a news release that was actually news and something journalists and bloggers would have been happy to use because it told a story.

But nooooo. They took this poor client’s money, copied their home page content, posted it on the wires, and called it a job well done.

People! For the love of all things great, please understand the basics of how Google works.

The number one rule: You cannot have the same content on multiple pages.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule.

For instance, if your site is syndicated, or an industry publication likes to use your content (PR Daily and Ragan use our content sometimes once a week), a simple, “This post first appeared on XX site” and link to the original post will do.

Google understands, then, there is an authoritative post (typically the original one) and a secondary post (typically the syndicated one).

But, let’s say you have two pages on your site that have the same content: One is singular (public relations firm) and the other is plural (public relations firms).

Google will strike both of those pages out of its search results and lower the site’s overall rankings.

It used to be common SEO practice to do this, and to use the same content on both pages, so check your sites and those of your clients.

Make sure there isn’t any duplicate content anywhere.

Five Content + SEO Tutorials

If you don’t understand how all of this works, there are plenty of places to get help.

  • Install Yoast or the All-in-One SEO pack to your website and/or blog. These will teach you how to optimize, prevent too many keywords, and nip duplicate content as you write.
  • Subscribe to, and read religiously, SEOmoz.
  • Subscribe to, and read religiously, anything from Content Marketing Institute.
  • Set up a Google alert for “content marketing + SEO” and read anything it pulls back for you.
  • Attend webinars that talk about content marketing and SEO.

Don’t let Andy’s client’s nightmare happen to you. It’s completely preventable.

To play it safe, make sure everything you write – and post to a site or blog – is new and original and that you optimize it well.

If you do those two things, Google will love your site forever and ever.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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170 Comments on "PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content"

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ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@debbieleven Right? Sometimes I just shake my head.

debbieleven
debbieleven
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Quite shocking – that PR firm should be ‘struck off’ Really does annoy me…

Brad_Lovett
Brad_Lovett
3 years 4 months ago

“Wow @ginidietrich: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content http://t.co/DNzS4ytp via @spinsucks”

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@Brad_Lovett It really makes you wonder what people are thinking (or if they’re thinking)

Brad_Lovett
Brad_Lovett
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich “if” may be the key word.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@Brad_Lovett Ha!

Sean McGinnis
3 years 4 months ago

Hahahahahahaha. Dopes.
Oh. And you forgot about real world training classes about SEO. Kind of like omthe one http://312digital.com is hosting in March 20th.

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@Sean McGinnis What did I tell you about promoting your events? I’m not going to do it until you invite me to speak.

jasonkonopinski
3 years 4 months ago

Dolts.

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@jasonkonopinski Right? It just makes me shake my head.

jasonkonopinski
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich You and me both. I remember seeing entire sites plummet into obscurity after the Panda update. It was awesome to see the content-farm model crash and burn. 😀

belllindsay
belllindsay
3 years 4 months ago

Whoa. Copied and pasted the firm’s website? Dare I say, bad on them for allowing their PR firm carte blanche to release information on their behalf without having the final sign off on that content. Surely their team would have caught that blatant cut and paste job before it had the chance to wreak such havoc. Just another small lesson from this incredible story.

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@belllindsay I’m not sure they would have caught it…if they don’t understand duplicate content. My guess is they spent a lot of time and energy on the home page content and were very happy to see it go out worldwide. We have lots of clients who would have no idea about that stuff unless we taught them.

belllindsay
belllindsay
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Hmmm. I suppose. But they were paying these people to write a press release. The whole “duplicate content” issue aside, I wouldn’t have been best pleased to see someone take such a lazy route. But maybe that’s just me. #highexpectations

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@belllindsay I’m with you (we would NEVER do that), but I can totally see how a client – who had spent a lot of time and money on the home page content – would think everyone in the whole world would love to read what was there.

AnneCaborn
AnneCaborn
3 years 4 months ago

@clarefly OMG

KenMueller
3 years 4 months ago

Been reading Andy’s book since you featured him on #FollowFriday, and enjoying it greatly. Lots of great stuff to pass on to my students and clients.

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@KenMueller I just bought copies for my team so they’ll be reading it, too!

belllindsay
belllindsay
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich  @KenMueller I was just about to get it for my Kobo!

jasonkonopinski
3 years 4 months ago

@belllindsay  @ginidietrich  @KenMueller There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t reference Andy’s book in my own work.

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@belllindsay  Don’t buy it! I have a copy for you.

belllindsay
belllindsay
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich It’s like my birthday all over again! 😀

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@belllindsay Oh boy.

allenmireles
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich  @KenMueller Hooray! I was hoping to read it soon. 🙂

iancleary
3 years 4 months ago

Nice touch!  I’m always nervous of giving people full RSS access to our content in case it gets copied in places that you don’t want it to be copied.  I wonder if there’s a way of allowing limited rss access to specified sites…mmm, I’ll check it out.
 
It’s difficult for traditional PR companies to operate in a digital world as they need to have an understanding of technology.    I assume they didn’t realise the consequences of their actions!

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@iancleary Even if you limit the RSS, people will scrape your content. The best way to manage that is to install the anti-feed scraper because you’ll get an email if someone does that. I usually comment on their site and demand they take it down or add a link to the original post. If they don’t, I report them to Google. 
 
Most people don’t understand the consequences. It makes me kind of nuts.

iancleary
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Great tip, thanks!

KenMueller
3 years 4 months ago

@iancleary  @ginidietrich That plug in has saved me quite  a few times. Unfortunately, most of those sites are automated, so it’s hard to police.

jenelleconner
jenelleconner
3 years 4 months ago

Great SEO info! Thanks, @ginidietrich. Do you have an anti-feed scraper WordPress plugin you prefer?

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@jenelleconner We use this one: Anti Feed-Scraper Message

jenelleconner
jenelleconner
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Awesome! Thanks.

TaraGeissinger
3 years 4 months ago

Ouch! I’m glad that it all ended okay! It is so hard to keep up with the nuances of digital marketing and SEO. If a large part of your business is focused online, it makes sense to hire a firm who either specializes in online marketing/publicity or at the very least a traditional PR firm who has an online marketing partner. If they seriously just copied and pasted — imagine all of the other missed SEO opportunities!

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@TaraGeissinger It really just makes me shake my head.

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman
3 years 4 months ago

Firstly? I love how I can actually here your voice in this post (“but noooooo”)! LOL! Secondly, I love how I just learned a tremendous amount in less than five minutes…

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@ElissaFreeman I’ve discovered I have to tone myself down a bit while writing this darn book I’m working on. And I’m glad you learned something (though I really doubt you’d ever use a client’s home page copy in a news release).

Shelley Pringle
3 years 4 months ago
Hi Gini, When I first launched my website back in 2003 I hired an SEO company to help me with search. They did a great job–I soon ranked on the first page for practically any search related to PR Toronto. I didn’t take the time to understand what they were doing or why they did it (I’ll never do that again). They’re a reputable firm and I trusted them completely (another mistake).    Then along came Panda (or maybe it was Penguin, it’s confusing when the algorithm updates are all named after cute, black and white animals) and my site… Read more »
KenMueller
3 years 4 months ago

@Shelley Pringle Thankfully I couldn’t afford SEO folks when I started. I got to know a lot of the locals and I knew enough that much of what they were doing was artificial. I focused on blogging from day one and the dividends paid off rather quickly. kirkholmes had a post about the importance of organic SEO over at Outspective the other day, and it really speaks to the difference in these two philosophies. Every move Google has made in recent years has been toward organic content and away from traditional SEO. They’ve articulated that regularly. http://www.outspective.com/search-marketing/seo-explanation-beliefs/

Shelley Pringle
3 years 4 months ago

@KenMueller  You are such a smartie! Wish I’d known you back in the day.

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@Shelley Pringle OMG Shelley. This hurts my heart so much for you. What an awful, awful lesson for you to have to learn.

Shelley Pringle
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Thanks for your sympathy. It’s all behind me now but it was definitely a bummer. On the positive side, I now understand more about SEO and can help clients (and my own business) accordingly.

jerseycoach
jerseycoach
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Unfortunate and sad. I guess this is what happens when a company hires the low-cost provider.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@jerseycoach I’m not even sure it’s the low-cost provider as much as it is a pro (or firm) that isn’t keeping up with the times.

GeneneMurphy
GeneneMurphy
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Thanks so much for posting this … reading it, I put my hand to my mouth in a horrified/amused kind of way.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@GeneneMurphy Sometimes I just shake my head. We’re not without fault, but this stuff is so unavoidable

iamZima
iamZima
3 years 4 months ago

“@LenKendall: Good warning! – PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content http://t.co/Q16liG4g” Great news!

tkographix
tkographix
3 years 4 months ago

RT @NancyMyrland: You should read this -> PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content | @SpinSucks http://t.co/btUDdfwX

NancyMyrland
NancyMyrland
3 years 4 months ago

@tkographix Thanks for the assist in sharing @SpinSucks interesting post!

tkographix
tkographix
3 years 4 months ago

@NancyMyrland You’re most welcome. Thanks for sharing the post.

SFDoug
SFDoug
3 years 4 months ago

Excellent lesson on how to promote content from @ginidietrich via @AmyVernon: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted http://t.co/oFv6D80o

Douglas E Rice
Douglas E Rice
3 years 4 months ago

Ha! Love that picture!

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 4 months ago

@enerdy Hey you!!! Crazy isn’t it…people are so lazy!

enerdy
enerdy
3 years 4 months ago

@SpinSucks hi darling! YES – sad to see agency charging clients for copy + paste jobs – perpetuates negative perception of agencies

enerdy
enerdy
3 years 4 months ago

@SpinSucks thought #2 – this also highlights importance of a quality release – rushing to get ‘something, anything’ out there = bad idea

SpinSucks
SpinSucks
3 years 4 months ago

@enerdy Agreed!

rachaelseda
3 years 4 months ago

First, I cannot believe they tried to get away with such a thing…second I cannot wait for Andy’s webinar!!

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@rachaelseda I can’t wait, either! We have a gazillion people attending!

TheGonzoSEO
TheGonzoSEO
3 years 4 months ago

RT @1918 PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content http://t.co/ZzQQZsub

Tedeayxo
Tedeayxo
3 years 4 months ago

@lindseyschober http://t.co/B97fTsx9

SEOlfred
SEOlfred
3 years 4 months ago
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@SEOlfred Thanks Oliver…I’ll check it out!

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich
3 years 4 months ago

I figured cats always win the interwebz!

audreyschroder
audreyschroder
3 years 4 months ago

Wow, that is so wrong! Thank you Gini and @crestodina for talking about this. That is disgusting. Why a PR firm would take on the job of website building is beyond me. That’s not PR.

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@audreyschroder  They didn’t take on the job of website building. Rather, the site was built and the content created and then they took the copy off the home page and used it in their news release, which set off triggers at Google to list the site as spam. Bad, bad practice.

audreyschroder
audreyschroder
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich That makes no sense at all. I can’t imagine any website content that would work as is in a press release. It’s kind of you to not mention the PR firm’s name. Did Andy say who in the book?

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@audreyschroder Nope…he’s kinder than me. I’d probably out them if I knew who it was.

morrissinger
morrissinger
3 years 4 months ago

@SanDiegoEsquire is this negative SEO? Seems one could kill competition by paying link farms, black hat SEOs to work for competitor.

SanDiegoEsquire
SanDiegoEsquire
3 years 4 months ago

@morrissinger Negative SEO indeed. Fortunately the company was able to save the website after submitting a reconsideration request to Google

asazcurry
asazcurry
3 years 4 months ago

@jeanalawrence love your tid bits of info

MeltwaterME
MeltwaterME
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich thats really sad! Hiring and selecting #pr agency shouldn’t be taken lightly!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@MeltwaterME Right? Oy.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@hannahkirkman Scary, huh?

hannahkirkman
hannahkirkman
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich leaving aside the cluelessness about the consequences, just stunned by the total lack of ethics

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@hannahkirkman I’m not sure it was lack of ethics so much as just pure cluelessness. I can imagine client saying, “Yes! That copy is great!”

hannahkirkman
hannahkirkman
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich maybe, but when you’re paid to create something and you just copy, that doesn’t sound too ethical…

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@hannahkirkman Or you don’t have the backbone to tell the client, while their new site rocks, it doesn’t make news

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@gfly05 Thanks Gary…and on LI too!

gfly05
gfly05
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich
My pleasure, it was good info.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@Karen_C_Wilson @larawellman Yes, indeed!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@LouHoffman Oops. LOL!!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@neicolec Some people’s children, as my mom would say.

neicolec
neicolec
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Hey, he’s the one of the four that will get these kind of accolades. So, I’m basking in it while I can!

neicolec
neicolec
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Fess up. You must have been the over-achiever type.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@neicolec “been” the overachiever type? Try am.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@michaeltriley Thank you!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@_bradmiller Oh yes, yes, yes.

_bradmiller
_bradmiller
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich 🙂 I would say I can’t believe they would pull that stunt, but I would be lying…

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@_bradmiller Pure clulessness

JacksonSalza
JacksonSalza
3 years 4 months ago

@rachelakay Guess they didn’t learn anything in grade school about plagiarism.

blockgreg
blockgreg
3 years 4 months ago

@rachelakay ok, wow. But didn’t the client review the “press release”? All parties to blame here. But that PR firm should nvr work again.

rachelakay
rachelakay
3 years 4 months ago

@blockgreg Yeah, I don’t know why they would ever reco that. BTW – I’ll be at SDSU friday!

blockgreg
blockgreg
3 years 4 months ago

@rachelakay Aww, I will not be here friday. We’re moving (up the street). That’s the big day.

Allandefmehlxu
Allandefmehlxu
3 years 4 months ago
allenmireles
3 years 4 months ago

Great cautionary tale here: not that any of us would pull a bonehead move like this, but it certainly underscores the importance of creating separate content for each channel. Yikes, I cannot imagine what that must have been like to live through. So looking forward to the learning we’ll enjoy on Thursday with good ol’ @crestodina. Rumor has it you better get there early though. Seats are filling up!

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@allenmireles  Seats are overflowing!

cmjohns
cmjohns
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich I can’t believe someone from a PR firm would actually do that – and actually think they wouldn’t get caught!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@cmjohns I think it’s cluelessness. I can imagine client being happy they wanted to use the home page content

trackback

[…] (follow them on Twitter!) and Andy Crestodina‘s book Content Chemistry for bringing us this story of terrible PR practices. In summary: a PR firm did the worst thing it possibly could have done in terms of Internet […]

trackback

[…] (follow them on Twitter!) and Andy Crestodina‘s book Content Chemistry for bringing us this story of terrible PR practices. In summary: A PR firm did the worst thing it possibly could have done in terms of Internet […]

LTreu
LTreu
3 years 4 months ago

@AmandaKleinhenz @JessicaDonlon I read about that, too… Sounds like some really lazy PR work

svilardo2
svilardo2
3 years 4 months ago

Yikes!!! // “@shonali: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content http://t.co/CiPHrhQQ via @ginidietrich”

RichardGlynn
RichardGlynn
3 years 4 months ago

I know that as PR professionals we need to understand SEO. But all this process stuff leaves me cold. We need to obsess about Google less, and remember to listen and share brilliant, timely, relevant stories in conversational English with our audiences. Not blast them with keyword-laden bilge!

ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@RichardGlynn I don’t think, at all, there needs to a process to it. I just want people to understand duplicate content and the downside of search engine algorithms. Clearly I blog without that kind of process and we do very well. My tips are meant simply to learn more.

debdobson62
debdobson62
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich  @RichardGlynn I agree with you.  There does not need to be a process.  But having said that, I think we as marketing and/or PR professionals owe it to our clients to understand search engine analytics.  I also think we owe it to clients to not simply copy content and post.  Good post Gini as usual and keep sharing tips/experiences.

mcahalane
mcahalane
3 years 4 months ago

RT @ginidietrich Dear #PR pros: Don’t let this happen to you or your clients. Much love, Gini http://t.co/FqVsREND

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@ValettePiper Indeed!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@listly Me too!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@ChasPRGirl Some people don’t think

ChasPRGirl
ChasPRGirl
3 years 4 months ago

True, and others just don’t know RT @ginidietrich: @ChasPRGirl Some people don’t think

sarahbustard
sarahbustard
3 years 4 months ago

Know how Google works RT @ginidietrich: Dear #PR pros: Don’t let this happen to you or your clients. Much love, Gini http://t.co/VgFAT0vK

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@sarahbustard Amen

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@PaulRobertsPAR Hiiii!

PaulRobertsPAR
PaulRobertsPAR
3 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich and hi back at you…I hope all is well with you. I’ve been behind in my reading, but yours is always top on my list.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@PaulRobertsPAR Oh! You’re totally fine. You good?

Karen Siuda McCann
Karen Siuda McCann
3 years 4 months ago
This is awful. And representative of the increasingly blurred line between “traditional” PR and online/social media tactics. It also shines a bright spotlight on how too many PR people continue to turn a blind eye to the need for them to understand (at least) search basics.   Copying and pasting ANY content is a terrible, lazy tactic, regardless of its original format. But, understanding nothing of how SEO and search algorithms would de-prioritize that content once it was plastered all over the Web was inexcusable and potentially business compromising (for both parties).    I’m impressed by the restraint of not… Read more »
ginidietrich
3 years 4 months ago

@Karen Siuda McCann I’m trying to figure how/if this could happen inside my organization. I’d like to think it wouldn’t, but I’ll keep talking about it with my team so it doesn’t ever happen. That’s part of the reason everyone here blogs…if you participate in content development, you understand it a lot better.

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