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Gini Dietrich

PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content

By: Gini Dietrich | February 19, 2013 | 
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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, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

165 comments
LisaGulasy
LisaGulasy

@JJCallahan Thanks for the RT, Jennifer!

lryanis
lryanis

Interesting. RT @danielnewmanUV: PR Firm Gets Client’s Site Blacklisted for Duplicate Content http://t.co/qzt5TanjZY via @ginidietrich

BeckyGaylord
BeckyGaylord

Yep, a very public ouch! @tedcoine @spinsucks

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

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

brandondud
brandondud

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

stanten
stanten

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

gunshotdigital
gunshotdigital

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@crestodina That I shamelessly stole from you

adammbsmith
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* 

AmyVernon
AmyVernon

@amynw right? *shudder* @ginidietrich

MandyPearse
MandyPearse

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

stephanies
stephanies

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

Danyell86
Danyell86

@SenselessGravy no idea. Honestly.

seanmcginnis
seanmcginnis

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

AGBeat
AGBeat

@ginidietrich LOL

crestodina
crestodina

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

LucyNeuburger
LucyNeuburger

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

ThePaulSutton
ThePaulSutton

@mandypearse Kind of unbelievable isn't it?!

shanebarnhill
shanebarnhill

@stephanies Great except I've had too much coffee this morning!!! :) How are you?

brandondud
brandondud

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

brandondud
brandondud

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

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

ldiomede
ldiomede

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

missstephwalker
missstephwalker

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

stephanies
stephanies

@shanebarnhill No kidding - all those exclamation points!!! ;-)

brandondud
brandondud

@seanmcginnis for sure I will send your way.

seanmcginnis
seanmcginnis

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

brandondud
brandondud

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

brandondud
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.

seanmcginnis
seanmcginnis

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

seanmcginnis
seanmcginnis

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

AGBeat
AGBeat

@ginidietrich consider it a nervous "I don't know what's going on" giggle :)

LucyNeuburger
LucyNeuburger

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

missstephwalker
missstephwalker

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

LucyNeuburger
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!

Trackbacks

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