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I made a multi-author website, where volunteer writers publish articles, and in return a description about them is shown under their articles, now I need them to sign a contract, with some statements like their ownership of the article, their consent for publishing it on the website.

I wonder if I should add a clause about writing exclusively for the website so not to generate duplicate content on the web and to preserve web SEO. I fear that would be discouraging for them since they are volunteers.

I could alternatively edit the clause to publish the content first on the website, or add the meta canonical; then they can publish it on their blog for example or wherever they want. That way would search engines identify the website as the original source? What do webmasters do in this case to not damage their SEO?

  • I think you need to offer the authors the ability to add and update the rel="canonical tag as you suggested. Or you need to notify them that they can't crosspost their articles on other websites. But it doesn't sound like you want to take the latter route. – Michael d Feb 19 '18 at 16:19
  • Content marketing sites, such as what you are suggesting, always create a canonical tag to the original on the users site. Reversing this will ensure your failure. If you want to be the site for the originator of the content, that would create a bad scenario and may get you into trouble with copyright and search engines. – closetnoc Feb 19 '18 at 17:59
  • Thanks for your replies, i didn't quiete understand what you mean closetnoc, what do you advise me to do? – ZeSoft Feb 20 '18 at 9:11
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If you want the content to be original, meaning that they can't publish the articles on their website, then you probably have to offer them something. If they are running their own blogs, a rel-follow backlink to their website on each of their article entries should be quite tempting for them.

If on the other hand you're going to cross post their articles onto your site (with their permission), you're probably going to need the rel=canonical tag.

You can opt not to use the rel=canonical tag and have Google decide which article to index from which site. I don't think you will specifically get a penalty for this. Google may realize that all of your articles are cross posts from elsewhere and decide that your site offers no original content and perhaps derank you substantially. But if you use the canonical tag on these articles, you won't be getting much if any at all search traffic going to those pages.

If your objective is to rank these articles from the authors on Google then you simply can't use the canonical tag. However, you're going to get hit with duplicate content issues.

Overall, to get these authors to agree to give you high quality original articles all to yourself, you'll probably have to offer them something. Then again, look at how long this post of mine is. It's basically an article. And all stackexchange had to offer me to get me to write this stuff was some awesome green points. Perhaps you can offer them points?

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