Q&A: Duplicate Content Worries, and Other Questions from the Audience

What’s the best thing do about Google’s “duplicate content” penalty on our sites, especially for sales pages? How do you stand out with a general advice site? And where should we start with a brand-new content site, when we’re not sure what kind of authoritative content to create?

These were three great questions from our wonderful audience — answered in today’s podcast. If you want to leave a question of your own, drop it into the comment section below! I’d love to answer it on a future session.

In this 19-minute episode, I take questions about:

  • What to do about duplicate content, especially for sales pages
  • What to do about (ugh) scrapers
  • How to stand out and get traffic for a brand-new advice/tips website
  • Figuring out what kind of content to create for a brand-new site

The Show Notes

Q&A: Duplicate Content Worries and Other Questions from the Audience

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.

Sonia Simone: Greetings, super friends. My name is Sonia Simone, and these are the Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer. For those who don’t know me yet, I’m a co-founder and the Chief Content Officer for Copyblogger Media. I’m also a champion of running your business and your life according to your own rules. As long as you don’t lie and you don’t hurt people, this podcast is your official pink permission slip to run your business or your career exactly the way you think you should.

Today, we have another awesome Q&A session. I say ‘awesome’ because we get such awesome questions from the audience. If you want to ask one today, go ahead and drop one into the comments section. Now, if you’re picking this up on iTunes, you would need to go to PinkHairedMarketer.FM to find the episode, and then just drop a question in the comments box. I would love to answer it in an upcoming episode.

The first question comes from a friend of mine who’s a new Rainmaker customer, and he’s moving his site from his old installation to Rainmaker. He has some concerns about duplicate content.

What to Do about Duplicate Content, Especially for Sales Pages

I see this all the time, especially when we talk about syndicating content for a wider reach, but also because in this particular case, my friend has a sales page. He has a landing page that’s designed to get someone to take action, and it’s appearing in two different places on the web with pretty much the same exact content. He’s concerned about what people call the ‘Google duplicate content penalty.’ I want to talk about that first, and then I want to talk a little bit about how to think about Google and different kinds of pages on your site.

The first thing to know and put your mind at ease a little bit is that there is not actually a duplicate content penalty. There are things you can do on your website that Google looks at and that the magical robots decide doesn’t smell good to them, that smells like spam to them, and they will penalize your site.

Having multiple versions of the same content on the web is not one of those things. There is no penalty. The penalty, if you will, can be confusion. If you have lots and lots of different pages on your site that have the exact same content on them, Google’s algorithmic robots can get confused about which is the real one, which is the proper authoritative one — in fact, the canonical one.

There are things that you can do to mitigate that confusion, because when a computer program gets confused, it tends to not work properly. Google and the other search engines can have some trouble figuring out what content to rank if they can’t figure out what’s what.

What to Do About (Ugh) Scrapers

If it is a page that you think would be valuable to you to rank on Google, and that is a goal of yours for that particular page, you can do something called ‘creating a canonical reference.’ It’s a tag that you put on all the pages that are not the real page, that are the extra pages. Just tag all the different versions of that content, and say, “That one over there, that’s the real one. That’s the canonical page. Everything else is just a copy of that page.” It helps those little robots figure out what’s what so that they can rank what they should rank.

But here’s the deal: the real business issue behind this question is the one that needs to get answered, which is a sales page. Let’s say you have a page on your site that is designed to take someone who’s been reading your blog for a while and convert them to some form of paying customer, a customer for your professional services business or a customer for a product or for a course, whatever it might be. You have a page that’s designed to convert that person’s attention into some form of action. That’s called the landing page.

What you need to understand is that there are two realities on the web. There’s Amazon and eBay reality, and then there’s the reality the rest of us live in. In our reality, those kinds of landing pages, if they’re designed to take attention and convert them into behavior like registering to vote or buying a product or getting on an email list, most of the time, those are not the pages that are going to rank in search engines for our site and our business.

I would love it if my page that would get people to sign up for my email list would rank in the search engines, and people would go right to that page and sign up. But that is not the reality I live in. Now, if you are Amazon, if you are even eBay, even though their listings come and go, the sales page, the page where somebody has a ‘buy’ button, will rank. Those sites are so massive that their reality looks different than my reality and your reality.

But you and I, when we’re talking about getting content to rank in search engines, the content that we are going to optimize, that we’re going to promote, that we’re going to give all of the boosts to try and get that search engine traffic, is content and what we call ‘attraction content.’ That is the content that is designed to bring new people to us to find out more about what we do. It’s blog posts. It’s FAQs. It’s answering customer questions.

That’s the kind of content that will rank in search engines for a business that doesn’t have the scale of something like an Amazon. We call it attraction content. It’s the attraction content that leads people to, perhaps, the page to sign up for your email list, to the page where they might be able to sign up to work with your service or your firm or buy something from you. That’s what we call ‘action content.’

Trying to rank for a sales page is not, for most of us, something we want to put our time and energy into. It’s much easier to rank for some interesting, engaging, useful piece of content that does something beneficial for the audience, and then from there, get that person to take the next step toward a deeper level of commitment and connection with your company.

The next question comes from Patrick Garmoe. It’s a really cool project he’s got going. It’s not in my wheelhouse, but I thought I would share my ideas, with the caveat that I am coming from this with a very specific point of view, so it may or may not be beneficial or relevant.

How to Stand out and Get Traffic for a Brand-New Advice/Tips Website

Patrick launched a site called Tiperosity.com. It’s a free site. It’s designed for a community of people who want to exchange tips. I took a good look around. It’s a cool site. It’s very interesting. He’s just thinking about non-spammy ways to get new people to this site. It’s been kind of unique challenge. The content’s all free, and he’s had to widen his thinking about what kind of free content he can give around the product.

His current plan is to guest post in one of the niches covered by the site. He was thinking ‘do-it-yourself home and garden’ and building an audience for that one area instead of trying to get exposure for all the categories of the site. There are tips on all the different aspects of your life.

Some of the other ideas he’s had include creating some press by attaching tips to certain holidays and promoting it to local media in a press release, running Facebook ads to the content, running category-specific Twitter feeds so people can follow a particular kind of tip on Twitter, and an email sign-up, which will be segmented based on interest. They’re working on some content and videos to explain how people might use the content. They could click on the category and a tab and then get some more in-depth content that they can share.

As I said, my thoughts on this are coming from a very specific point of view. I find these kinds of sites tricky unless you have some backing. The thing about it that I find tricky is that it’s one site for everyone. It’s a general tip site. It’s a site for all different kinds of DIY, home-and-garden people. Of course, that’s millions and millions of people. Trying to publicize that kind of site without some serious investor dollars behind you, I think, is tricky.

My take on it would be to build more brand personality around the site, to build a voice for the site, even if you keep the tips exactly the same, but you have some voice and character, someone we can really imagine giving these tips. Tips and advice are wonderful, evergreen topics.

There are lots of tips. There’s lots of advice. There are lots of advice columns. But if you think about the difference between Ms. Manners’ advice column and Dan Savage’s advice column, you could theoretically get the same question submitted to both, and you would get answers in a very, very different voice. For me, having a voice around the site would help you make it less generic, and that would make it easier to promote.

What’s going to make it remarkable or sharable? What is it that differentiates this from something like Ask.com? There are the generic answer sites out there. I know, as a user, I tend to stay clear of them because I just don’t find them awesome. I don’t find that I get a lot of wonderful answers there. What would it that would make somebody prominent say, “You have to see this. This is a must-see?”

It could be voice. It could be that the tips are curated, unlike one of these generic answer sites that has a lot of kind of junk and spam. It could be a community. Right now, the site is really general. For me, I find it hard to create a remarkable site unless there’s some kind of personality, voice, character.

I would love to issue a challenge to the audience reading this podcast: give us a reason to make Tiperosity a must-do part of our day. Help Patrick come up with something that makes this remarkable. He’s got a good, solid foundation of usefulness. What he doesn’t have is that element of fascination that makes it compelling, that makes it magnetic, that draws people in.

I would love to get you guys’ thoughts on what could make it more magnetic, what could make it fascinating, because it’s already very solidly useful. But let’s take it up a notch, and see what we can do. Again, drop that in the comments if you will, PinkHairedMarketer.FM, and just look for the latest Q&A post, and let us know what you think about Patrick’s site and what you would do to make it awesome and remarkable. You can also Tweet me, @soniasimone. I would love to hear your answers.

The third question was a live question. It was asked of me at our live event, Authority Rainmaker, just this past May, which was so much fun. I hope you can join us next year. It’s this amazing combination of incredible energy and professionalism combined with this real intimacy. It’s a not-too-big, not-too-small event. You get lots of time to talk with people, connect with people, and connect with the speakers. Our closing keynote, Henry Rollins, who — if you know your punk history — was the front man of legendary group Black Flag, spent hours talking to people. After his talk, he went out and had dinner with a bunch of us. It’s that kind of event where you can really connect and talk to people.

One of the connections I made was someone who had a really interesting chicken-and-egg question. I think a lot of people find themselves in this situation. This gentleman has a professional network. He has a significant group of people who know him and are connected to him, in this case on LinkedIn, but it could be Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, or any kind of site where people know about what you do professionally can make a connection with you. The network wants to know where to find him on the web, but he doesn’t know yet what kind of content, authoritative content, to publish that would answer the questions people would be coming to him to answer. I have a couple of thoughts for this situation.

Figuring out What Kind of Content to Create for a Brand-New Site

I think a lot of us will come up against this when we do what we do. We have a network, and we’re good at what we do professionally. But we’re starting off with an authoritative, content-based website, and we’re a little stymied about what to put on the site. We just don’t know exactly what kinds of content are important to put there.

I have four points for you on this one. The first point is, I wouldn’t get super hung-up or anxious about this, because when you first launch your site, very few people are paying any attention to you at all. All the time I get from people, “How do I get a bigger audience? How do I get a bigger audience?” I know this is a difficult answer and kind of a Zen answer, but it is not a BS answer: relish the time when you don’t have a massive audience and the few people that you do have are really on your side. That’s the time when you figure out who you really are, what you have to contribute, what you have to move forward with. Take that time, and make the most out of it.

It’s a little bit like when we have kids, and the first years are so difficult. But then afterwards, you wish you could go back in time and say, “I know it’s hard, and I’m not minimizing how hard it is, but try to enjoy it, because you’ll never get this back.” It is really kind of a magical time when you can find your message and really understand how you can help others without tons of people gawking at you. I realize you’re probably no more able to take that advice than the parent of a 2-year-old is able to take that advice, but I offer it anyway.

The first thing that I tell people to do is to answer the 10 most common questions about your topic, the things that you talk about all the time. You talk about them in meetings or at networking breakfasts or when people ask what you do at a party, and you tell them, and the first thing they ask. You have 10 to 20 questions you get all the time. They might be questions people ask as part of the sales process.

Any questions like that that you’ve already gathered, start answering them on your site. That just gets you moving. It gets you hitting the ground running.

The second answer I have is to do some strategic social listening. What that means is if you do have that network, that professional network online, you have a good LinkedIn set of connections, start listening to where people are having complicated, annoying, confusing problems. Start listening in for those. Start listening in for the frustrating, difficult, complicated questions, because there’s the most commonly asked questions, and then there are the questions that are really hard to get the answers to. That will tend to be there where the magic is.

Solving hard problems is more valuable than solving easy-to-solve problems. We want to have a mix on the site. The easy-to-solve problems will get you lots of attention. The hard-to-solve problems will get you the loyal attention. That’s really what’s going to make you an expert.

But one thing that I haven’t thought about before, and it came to me as I was having this conversation at Authority Rainmaker, is that another option to fold into your mix with a new website is to make your site a place to ask questions and not always a place to get answers.

Answers are good. Answers are important. We’re all looking for answers to the questions that we have. We’re also looking for some place to get heard about what’s going on with our topic: a professional topic, a personal topic, a consumer interest, a hobby, a question about pets, family, relationships, money, whatever it might be. We all want a place to come with our questions and our frustrations.

In addition to giving answers and helping people, which, as you know, I’m really big on, make your site someplace people can also bring their questions to the table — not necessarily getting an answer right away, but opening an interesting Pandora’s box of questions. Let’s get that can of worms on the table, open it up, and see what’s in there.

Those are my thoughts on what to do when you’ve started a site. You might actually have a professional network, or you might not, but you’re trying to figure out what the heck goes on this site. These are some ideas for you.

Those are our three fascinating questions from three fascinating members of the audience. If you would like to leave a question, go to PinkHairedMarketer.FM. Look for the most recent Q&A post, and drop it in there. I would love to answer it for you.

The Confessions of a Pink-Haired Marketer are brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, a complete website solution for content marketers and online entrepreneurs. Find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Thank you so much for listening. Take care. See you next time.