How to Avoid Duplicate Content with Style

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Unique content is important. Not only for search engines, but for your customers. If you only publish duplicate content, your readers could get bored, obviously, but you might actually get penalized on search engines.

Unique content will help you keep your readers from yawning (or worse, leaving your site and never coming back), and it will allow you to keep ranking for relevant keywords on search engines. Unique content is content that you created yourself, that has not been previously published, and content that is different from other content you’ve published. That’s pretty obvious, and it seems easy, but when you have to create a new social media post every day or a blog post every week, it can seem momentous.

So what happens if you get caught up? If you are too busy so you re-post some of your old content? According to Moz, one of the biggest issues is that search engines don’t know how to rank it. To give a little bit of backstory, search engines “crawl” your site, which means that they scan your content and essentially index the content on your site. If you write a post about the 10 cutest puppies this year and publish it in 2015 and then you write about the 10 cutest puppies this year and you republish that same content in 2016, search engines might be pretty confused. What if people search for the cutest puppies; what if they don’t specify the year? You can imagine the type of confusion that might cause.

According to Google if they notice duplicate content, they will do a few things:

  • “When we detect duplicate content, such as through variations caused by URL parameters, we group the duplicate URLs into one cluster.”
  • “We select what we think is the ‘best’ URL to represent the cluster in search results.”
  • “We then consolidate properties of the URLs in the cluster, such as link popularity, to the representative URL.”

Just because duplicate content isn’t the best practice, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong: according to Google, “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action…unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.” But don’t get too freaked out. If you shared duplicate content, you don’t have to immediately destroy every duplicate post in the next five minutes.

 

When Duplicate Content is Okay

If you’re quoting or using snippets from another site, Google says you’re all good. That sort of content won’t get flagged as duplicate! If you do want to quote, make sure you follow best practices:

  • Always use relevant anchor text. Say things like, “Cat Journal has some of the best cat photos around.” Don’t say, “Check out this journal here with the best cat photos around.”
  • Shift your anchor text. Don’t keep saying, “According to Cat Journal,” try “In Cat Journal’s 2016 cat study…”
  • Always cite your sources. It’s unethical (and might be considered illegal) to publish content without citing it.

 When Duplicate Content is Not Okay

If you’re taking full posts from another website and publishing it on your website, that’s just wrong. But if you’re sharing bits of content from other sites, make sure you link back to the original source. It’s not only right; it will help Google figure out what to share. 

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Let’s look at an example based off an idea from Google Webmaster’s blog.  If you’re part of an affiliate program and you link out to an Amazon listing, how can you expect to rank higher than Amazon, whose rank authority is incredible and whose page has a ton of viewers every day? If the content you’re linking to originates from Amazon, you’ll need to provide additional value if you actually want your content to rank.

What does additional value mean?

If you have an affiliate site, for example, and you copy everything directly from the source site, that’s bad form. And it doesn’t provide any additional value. But if you respond to the product, create new copy about the product, and follow your own brand’s guidelines for that copy, then you might be okay. You want to make sure that, if you do share affiliate content, it only takes up a small portion of your over all content. Essentially, you want to have some unique content. We suggest doing the following:

Rewrite the information on your own.
Create your own product listing with all new content.

Create new product titles and tags.

Write 300-500 words for each product.

Want to make sure you’re following guidelines? Check out Google’s Manual Action report.

A Path to Personality

If you go through a rebrand or if you want to re-use some older content, that’s totally fine. Just make sure you re-tool a bit.

Include relevant new information. If you wrote an old blog about a specific type of cat, and there’s been new studies done on that cat, bring that info in so your new post can be up to date.

If there’s a chunk of content that’s still relevant, but you don’t want to copy it exactly, tweak it and turn it into an infographic or a shareable image. You’ll still get to use your relevant content, but readers will be able to see it in a new way.

Transform your content into a guidebook. Do you have 15 articles about how to adopt a cat? Refresh it by turning it into an ebook. Make sure that you adjust the content so it’s relevant and timeless. Remove instances of time (“last week, I…”; “tomorrow, we want to…”) format your text with proper page numbers; add in traditional eBook formatting (a table of contents, a cover page, an acknowledgements page, if necessary, and a bio at the end of the book); add in unique design elements (a border, a unique icon, etc.); add in extras (free resources, shareable info, and any printouts); and link to it directly from your website or offer paid access to customers who subscribe.

Attack it from a new angle. Been thinking about your content for a while? Approach it in a new way. If you wrote a post about the fastest cars coming out this year, you can retool that idea to focus on new laws surrounding speed limits; how to stay safe while driving these cars; or you can write a gift guide using the same cars. You’ll keep some of the relevant info the same, but you’ll have a few different articles out of that one idea.

*If someone is reposting your content without citing it, you can report them.

Now go ahead and reformat, duplicate when necessary, but make sure you add valuable unique content whenever possible! Good luck.

Removing FUD from Marketing

Fearmongering is a marketing tactic that is pretty FUD-up. It started as a disinformation strategy in the 1970s, and there have been some pretty famous cases of FUD, including IBM and Microsoft’s marketing techniques from that era (and even from today). FUD = fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and we’re pretty certain that it’s freaking terrible.

Let’s talk about the history a bit and figure out some other ways to talk to people…like people. Some fear is warranted. If you’re talking about health, for example, and you expose all the issues with not choosing the healthy path, then you’re being persuasive.

But if you’re writing copy that talks about the catastrophic consequence of not using a specific eyeliner, for example, well…that’s just rude. And it’s wrong. There are plenty of examples that prove substantiated fear-based copy is okay and even helpful. And that’s not what we’re talking about here. 

This, for example, is a moving narrative ad that uses fear properly…because climate change is real and because polar bears are dying for real.

We’re talking about this Listerine ad’s sales pitch, which is based on irrelevant and inappropriate fear.

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 (From Chuck Coker via Flickr.)

Did Listerine just claim that not using their products can lead to overcrowded hospitals? And are they talking about “untold damage”? Because now we’re really scared. As you can imagine, this ad may have been effective, but it’s not really ethical. And we think that there’s a better way. You can still elicit a response, but you don’t have to be creepy about it. Instead, you can engage with people’s “fight response” in an ethical way:

Fear is the result of a perceived threat, which we respond to in one of two ways: fight or flight. The key to using fear as an advertising strategy is to avoid intense threats that activate the flight response and instead focus on mild threats that activate the fight response. One example of how to do this with a simple headline comes from a Delta Airlines poster promoting on-board WiFi that reads, “Direct flights have never had this many connections.” An immediate conflict exists between the concept of “direct flight” and “connections.” This conflict triggers a mild threat response that causes the brain to slip into problem-solving mode. The need for certainty and clarity pieces together the puzzle and forms an emotional connection once the conflict is resolved. The audience’s brain does the work, and both the audience and the brand benefit.

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Working Toward Better

Even though corporations have been using fear-based ads for a while, we think there’s a better way to market through ethical means. According to a study published by The International Journal of Research in Marketing, positive advertisements stay with people longer. According to Matt Palmquist, a writer for Strategy-Business, this study found something pretty cool:

Strikingly, the benefit of taking a positive approach in advertising persisted across industries and endured regardless of the product’s value to a consumer. Whether the commercial advertised a durable item (such as a refrigerator), a short-term product (such as soap or soda), a service (such as a cell-phone subscription or haircut), or merchandise (such as furniture or clothing), the findings were consistent. They showed that “compared to ads that elicit less pleasant feelings, ads that elicit more pleasant feelings may trigger more positive beliefs and thoughts about the brand, which, when integrated into summary evaluations, would result in more favorable brand attitudes,” the authors write.

Start with the Truth

But Matt isn’t the only one who noticed that positive marketing is better. In Humanistic Marketingthe authors talk about marketing in order to “improve the human condition” and we think that’s pretty smart. But where do we start? We think you should start with the truth. Telling the truth seems like a pretty basic ethical standard. The world’s best example of truth in advertising may be a tiny “Help Wanted” ad that appeared in the London papers in 1900: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton.”

Some marketers will shoot for the smaller group instead of the masses. Take this Army ad, for example. Advertisers used targeted marketing to reach people who were already prepared for the Army. This Army ad is a great example of innovation because they are promoting a career and a life that is exceedingly difficult and dangerous. How? They reinvent themselves, they promote the idea that the Army isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you. They target the elite.

Marketing for better isn’t about exaggerating issues to seem better than you are. It’s not about scaring customers into purchasing your products. It’s about creating a relevant story that will help you reach the customers who want to see you. In an ethical way.

Tricks from Tested Advertising Methods to Help Your Headline

The headline is the most important part

We’ve all heard that headlines are the most important part of any advertisement. It can seem difficult to craft a good headline, but there are a few easy tricks that we found in Tested Advertising Methods to help you get better.

Can you spot the headline that was more effective?

ARE YOU AFRAID OF MAKING MISTAKES IN ENGLISH?
DO YOU MAKE THESE MISTAKES IN ENGLISH?

According to Tested Advertising Methods by Claude Hopkins, the second method got better results. Why? because it “arouses readers’ curiosity and self-interest.” While the first headline “suggests…a sales talk.” The first headline also suggests fear, and it’s usually better to arouse curiosity than to elicit fear. Craft your headline carefully. It can make or break your ad.

Theories are cool and all, but facts are better

We all have our theories. Cousin Sam thinks aliens caused global warming. Your dentist thinks Pokemon Go is a conspiracy. We get it. While theories might be interesting, they aren’t going to get you sales. The best tool to use for that is facts. Why? Because people make purchasing decisions based on logic. The more logical you are, the better.

Be specific

Hopkins suggests that “the weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific.” Instead of saying it’s the “best product around,” say that the product has 4 million happy customers; instead of “strict standards” say that it’s up to the latest codes in the United States; instead of saying, “you’ll love it,” say, “most customers love it so much, they buy two…”

Don’t leave them hanging

Hopkins suggest that we “cover every phrase of [our] subject.” Why? Well, this goes hand-in-hand with the ideas above. If you give your customers half of the facts, they won’t have everything they need to make a decision.

 Be happy

We’re more attracted to the positive. Don’t let your audience think about the gloomy side of things; present a positive reason to choose your product and show the customers why the crowd is choosing your product. We do this in our daily lives, right? When we want a friend to come with us to a movie, we talk about all of the great reasons to see the movie, not all of the terrible things that will happen if they don’t to see the movie. Sometimes, advertising is just about common sense.

Take note of your favorite ads and see what they’re promoting. Do they inspire you to do more? Are they appealing to your fears? We can often get the best ideas by recognizing what types of ads appeal to us. Now we can go forth and advertise a little better thanks to Claude.

October Reading List

It’s October, which means we have Michael Hurley’s Werewolf on repeat and we’ve been obsessively scoping out the coolest haunted houses in our areas. But we’ve also spent a lot of time spooking ourselves through literature. Here are some of our favorite Halloweeny reads:

Shirley Jackson – The Haunting of Hill House: She was made famous for her short story “The Lottery,” but we think that The Haunting of Hill House is better. And by better, we mean more terrifying. And that’s sort of hard considering “The Lottery” is pretty dang scary anyway.

Edgar Allen Poe – “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”: We couldn’t just choose one Poe story for this list.

Stephen King – It: Clowns running around the U.S.? We see you, and we raise you one Stephen King story.

Mark Z. Danielewski – The House of Leaves: We had never read anything like this, and we’re willing to bed you haven’t either.

Mary Shelley – Frankenstein: It’s not look-under-the-bed scary, but it is pretty creepy.

R.L. Stein – Goosebumps: “Night of the Living Dummy” and “It Came from Beneath the Sink” still freaks us out. But don’t make fun of us, we bet you used to read Goosebumps too. Or if you didn’t, you probably know a few kids who did!

Anna Journey – Vulgar Remedies: This isn’t as scary as it is haunting. If you want some spooky poetry to read after Goosebumps, this one won’t disappoint.

Alin Schwartz – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Don’t you remember the one about the woman and the bathtub and the dog? Or the one about the girl and the ribbon around her neck? Or the puppy-rat thing? All of these are still pretty frightening.

After you finish reading those, you can check out our favorite scary movies:

Goodnight Mommy (Franz & Fiala, 2015)

The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973)

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Amirpour, 2014)

Child’s Play (1988, Tom Holland)

IT (1990, Tommy Lee Wallace)

La fin Absolue du Monde (1931, Abel Gance)

So there you have it. We’re not about to tell you what to drink while you watch these (hot apple cider with cinnamon) or what to eat (pretzel sticks covered in chocolate and one half of a gummy to look like a witch’s finger), when you read these, but we think you’re pretty much covered.

Our Favorite Chrome Extensions

We don’t exclusively use Chrome, but when we do, we get down with a lot of plugins. Check out our list of favorites and let us know what Chrome plugins* you’ve been obsessed with lately:

For Developers:

Var-Masterpiece – This makes checking for bugs a heck of a lot easier– unreadable var dumps are finally legible.

Full Page Screen Capture – It’s hard to say how often we use this screen capture app, but it’s probably collectively over 5 million times a day. At least.

SEO Stats  – This plugin gives us at-a-glance SEO stats, so we can double check our progress, review new websites, and make sure all of our SEO is right where it needs to be.

For Writers:

Typewriter  – This typewriter app isn’t really useful. We don’t really need it, but we find ourselves typing on it for fun anyway.

Grammar Check – We have some grammar lovers on the team, and while many of them can spot a comma splice from a mile away, we still think it fun to check their copy every once in a while.

Ask Jelly – What are people searching for? What’s the best drone on the market? How many times a day do people check their email? Jelly has user-based answers for all your outlandish questions.

For Fun

Mustache Everyone – There is no real reason to ever use this, and there’s no real reason to ever stop.

LibDoge  – So much wow with this plugin!

*These plugins are also available on other browsers

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