Gini Dietrich

PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content

By: Gini Dietrich | February 19, 2013 | 

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. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • ginidietrich

    @debbieleven Right? Sometimes I just shake my head.

    • debbieleven

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

  • Brad_Lovett

    “Wow @ginidietrich: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content via @spinsucks”

    • ginidietrich

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

      • Brad_Lovett

        @ginidietrich “if” may be the key word.

        • ginidietrich

          @Brad_Lovett Ha!

  • Hahahahahahaha. Dopes.
    Oh. And you forgot about real world training classes about SEO. Kind of like omthe one is hosting in March 20th.

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

  • belllindsay

    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.

    • @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

        @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

        • @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.

  • Dolts.

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

      • @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. 😀

  • AnneCaborn

    @clarefly OMG

  • 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.

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

      • belllindsay

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

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

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

        • belllindsay

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

        • @belllindsay Oh boy.

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

  • 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!

    • @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.

      • @ginidietrich Great tip, thanks!

        • @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

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

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

        • jenelleconner

          @ginidietrich Awesome! Thanks.

  • 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!

    • @TaraGeissinger It really just makes me shake my head.

  • ElissaFreeman

    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…

    • @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).

  • 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 completely disappeared from search results. I dug in and learned as much as I could about SEO. It seems there were a lot of back links to my site that were complete garbage.
    I researched solutions and got advice from others who had many different suggestions. In the end, I decided to do what I thought was best. I focused on blogging and creating as much new content as I could. It took a long time for my site to come back in the search results. Google’s algorithm update was almost a year ago and it’s only recently that my site has started to rank again.
    Fortunately, it was my own company’s site that was hit (and only myself to blame). I can’t imagine making such a big mistake on a client project.

    • @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.

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

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

      • @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

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

    • ginidietrich

      @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

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

    • ginidietrich

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

  • iamZima

    “@LenKendall: Good warning! – PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content” Great news!

  • tkographix

    RT @NancyMyrland: You should read this -> PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content | @SpinSucks

    • NancyMyrland

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

      • tkographix

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

  • SFDoug

    Excellent lesson on how to promote content from @ginidietrich via @AmyVernon: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted

  • SpinSucks

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

    • enerdy

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

    • enerdy

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

      • SpinSucks

        @enerdy Agreed!

  • Douglas E Rice

    Ha! Love that picture!

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

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

  • TheGonzoSEO

    RT @1918 PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content

  • Tedeayxo


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

  • Gini Dietrich

    I figured cats always win the interwebz!

  • audreyschroder

    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.

    • @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

        @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?

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

  • morrissinger

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

    • SanDiegoEsquire

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

  • asazcurry

    @jeanalawrence love your tid bits of info

  • MeltwaterME

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

    • ginidietrich

      @MeltwaterME Right? Oy.

  • ginidietrich

    @hannahkirkman Scary, huh?

    • hannahkirkman

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

      • ginidietrich

        @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

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

        • ginidietrich

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

  • ginidietrich

    @gfly05 Thanks Gary…and on LI too!

    • gfly05

      My pleasure, it was good info.

  • ginidietrich

    @Karen_C_Wilson @larawellman Yes, indeed!

  • ginidietrich

    @LouHoffman Oops. LOL!!

  • ginidietrich

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

    • neicolec

      @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

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

      • ginidietrich

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

  • ginidietrich

    @michaeltriley Thank you!

  • ginidietrich

    @_bradmiller Oh yes, yes, yes.

    • _bradmiller

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

      • ginidietrich

        @_bradmiller Pure clulessness

  • JacksonSalza

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

  • blockgreg

    @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

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

      • blockgreg

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

  • 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!

  • cmjohns

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

    • ginidietrich

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

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  • Pingback: PR Firm’s Copy and Paste Job Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted - PRNewser()

  • LTreu

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

  • svilardo2

    Yikes!!! // “@shonali: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content via @ginidietrich”

  • RichardGlynn

    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!

    • @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

        @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

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

  • ginidietrich

    @ValettePiper Indeed!

  • ginidietrich

    @listly Me too!

  • ginidietrich

    @ChasPRGirl Some people don’t think

    • ChasPRGirl

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

  • sarahbustard

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

    • ginidietrich

      @sarahbustard Amen

  • ginidietrich

    @PaulRobertsPAR Hiiii!

    • PaulRobertsPAR

      @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

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

  • Karen Siuda McCann

    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 outing the agency too. Hopefully, this was due to a junior staffer afforded too little supervision and not standard operating procedure.

    • @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.

  • Great post. Thanks for the additional resources at the bottom, too.

  • MandyPearse

    @ThePaulSutton this kind of practice gives all in PR a bad name

    • ThePaulSutton

      @mandypearse Kind of unbelievable isn’t it?!

  • missstephwalker

    @LucyNeuburger oops!

    • LucyNeuburger

      @missstephwalker haha indeed! It is tempting to do but shows complete lack of creativity and imagination! #PR

      • missstephwalker

        @LucyNeuburger but also awareness, it’s a giant balls up when you’ve been trusted with launching something then that happens.

        • LucyNeuburger

          @missstephwalker I could not agree more. I am in a new job working with business start ups so integrity is a very important element!

        • missstephwalker

          @LucyNeuburger we’re finding more and more that PR and SEO are intertwined these days.

        • LucyNeuburger

          @missstephwalker as more content appears online, that seems the case. Increased chance to be caught out too as demonstrated in that article!

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  • Nelsonytlexrkv
  • AmyVernon

    @amynw right? *shudder* @ginidietrich

  • adammbsmith

    A beautiful opportunity for some Negative SEO methinks!If you see a new competitor entering the space and you know they’re going to be a threat in the future – Blast them by distributing the content from their home page.*evil cackle*

    • @adammbsmith That’s terrible! LOL!

      • adammbsmith

        @ginidietrich Is now a good time to ask if I can guest post? lol

        • @adammbsmith LMAO!! Note to @belllindsay : If Adam submits a guest post, make sure it’s not about one of his competitors!

  • ginidietrich

    @crestodina That I shamelessly stole from you

    • crestodina

      @ginidietrich Glad you retold the story. People need to hear it! You’re welcome to steal anything anytime. 🙂

      • ldiomede

        @crestodina Hey Andy–this is long overdue but it was so nice to hang out with you the other evening.

  • Annabellea6xhzh


  • gunshotdigital

    Its lengthy process but you can use Google webmaster to fix things @BrandYou @spinsucks

  • stanten

    @BrandYou @SpinSucks Ignorance, laziness or stupidity? Tnx for sharing. Makes the case we always preach at @TeamAltitude — content is king!

  • ginidietrich

    @AGBeat I miss you

    • AGBeat

      @ginidietrich LOL

      • ginidietrich

        @AGBeat I’m sure you laugh at that. My little heart.

        • AGBeat

          @ginidietrich consider it a nervous “I don’t know what’s going on” giggle 🙂

  • TabithaKMeyer

    Why PR and SEO should work together “@profkrg: PR Firm Gets Client Blacklisted for Dupe Content via @ginidietrich”

  • brandondud

    @seanmcginnis I respect you but that post was terrible from PR sucks a far overreach and a bit overkill

    • seanmcginnis

      @brandondud even though it was a true story? Don’t you think that was worth sharing?

      • brandondud

        @seanmcginnis I just think they’re making rare instance of terrible PR firm copying exact website sound normal.

      • brandondud

        @seanmcginnis if that is share worthy so every spammy SEO firm that screws client

        • seanmcginnis

          @brandondud agreed. Completely. I’m thinking of making a series! To say nothing I design firms who screw seo up too.

        • seanmcginnis

          @brandondud we all need I stick with what we know. But also learn enough about tangent disciplines to avoid disasters.

        • brandondud

          @seanmcginnis fair I only harped on you as I don’t see you as a just try to curate as much content as possible type guy.

        • brandondud

          @seanmcginnis I would love to have discussion about this and more in person I need to be out in industry more

        • seanmcginnis

          @brandondud is lie that. We should schedule a call to discuss soon. DM me contact info?

        • brandondud

          @seanmcginnis for sure I will send your way.

  • writererinraub

    Should have hired a #writer. MT @WomenWhoTech PR Firm Gets Client Site Blacklisted for Dupe Content via @ginidietrich

  • ginidietrich

    @joeldon Great. Now I have that song stuck in my head.

  • FreshTouchPub

    WOW #NoBueno @MarshaCollier: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content

  • BeckyGaylord

    Yep, a very public ouch! @tedcoine @spinsucks

  • lryanis

    Interesting. RT @danielnewmanUV: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content via @ginidietrich

  • Ok, I am “starring…circling…and underlining” this post for its case study and hyperlink “richness”. And that means sharing comes naturally!
    Enjoyed Andy’s webinar that SpinSucks hosted earlier this week.

    • @dbvickery  Oh you did attend the webinar! Yay! Hope you got a lot out of it.

      • @ginidietrich Yep – and you gave a shoutout to Danny’s book when I asked for the “latest and greatest in SEO” that would cover topics like Google Authorship, etc.

  • SenselessGravy

    @Danyell86 how do some people have jobs?!?!?

    • Danyell86

      @SenselessGravy no idea. Honestly.

  • LisaGulasy

    @JJCallahan Thanks for the RT, Jennifer!

  • shanebarnhill

    RT @stephanies: Beware duplicate content. It’s a Google no-no. Here’s proof: via @ginidietrich

    • stephanies

      @shanebarnhill Thanks for the RT. How’s things?

      • shanebarnhill

        @stephanies Great except I’ve had too much coffee this morning!!! 🙂 How are you?

        • stephanies

          @shanebarnhill No kidding – all those exclamation points!!! 😉

  • RebeccaLee1010

    RT @mgreer_pr: Learn basic seo prs! Duplicate content is a big NO NO.Firm get clients website blacklisted by Google.

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