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The Context

I work for a company that services the PR and communications industry on of variety of levels. Our direct clients use us as a content creation agency, to help integrate their brand into lifestyle media. Part of our services include the distribution/amplification of this content. We do this by serving it to journalists and bloggers (copyright free).

Here's where the problem comes in...

Because this content is now duplicated (or syndicated) across Canadian media, Google treats it as duplicate content. Our more web savvy clients are now concerned that they will be penalized for using our content rather than help by increasing content on their site. I understand that Google does not penalize for duplicate content but it still credits the original content as coming from my company rather than the journalists and bloggers that we would like to benefit.

Does anyone have any advice or strategies to handle this "reverse" SEO challenge?

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    Use the canonical tag. That is what it is there for. There is a penalty in the SERPs for duplicate content. Google will only show one. It generally depends upon the inception date (the date that Google first finds the content) to determine which one is the original. This can be overridden using the canonical tag. Otherwise, there is no benefit in search to having content duplicated all over the place. In fact, if content is duplicated too much, there is a penalty for the site that appears to be duplicating the content. It is called article marketing and Google has slapped some sites. – closetnoc Nov 24 '15 at 22:42
  • Thanks @closetnoc. This helps us better position the "benefits" to using our content on their site/blog. It looks like we need to do some strategic thinking about our content distribution. Cheers. – Dayna Nov 26 '15 at 21:34
  • @closetnoc. One more point of clarification: Despite being the content creator, we don't want our site to be ranked. I've not seen it done, but will the tag work without referencing another site? And... it's a bit of a backwards SEO issue. – Dayna Nov 26 '15 at 21:44
  • You bring up an interesting point. The canonical tag is not for rank so that is not an issue. You can actually de-tune a page it you wish. You can bury deep within a hierarchy, make no link to it, put it behind a login, noindex the page, etc., and still have it available to your customers. It is okay if the other pages rank, but only one will generally. – closetnoc Nov 27 '15 at 2:03
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Sounds like an issue that should be handled with robots directives.

If you don't want search engines to rank you for it, why let them crawl it?

Google takes canonicals as a "strong hint," if your site publishes content, lets search engines index and crawl it, and then expects other sites that republish it unchanged to rank for it, I suspect you'll be disappointed as they may ignore the canonical link.

However, if you use robots.txt to forbid Google from crawling that part of your site, it won't be an issue as Google won't ever see it on your site.

While I agree, that canonicals may work, they also may not. Preventing crawling via robots directives almost certainly will.

I doesn't sound like your "web savvy" clients are very savvy.

  • I couldn't agree @adam-asdf, I use "web savvy" VERY loosely. This is great advice ...Thank you! My challenge has always been to "dumb it down" enough for the sales and media relations teams to relay the information correctly to our clients/prospects. – Dayna Dec 22 '15 at 20:56
  • I totally understand, beyond 'clients,' I've dealt with plenty of web developers/designers who seem to think they understand SEO when they don't (probably the worst is when they launch a site a leave the "noindex" directives in place). If you block crawling via robots directives, there will still a bit of a "race" to be the first to publish/ping any given piece of content so they are considered the originator. You could tell them: Our content gets you 90% there--for maximum effectiveness, make sure to write an introduction, a conclusion and to make small edits throughout. – adam-asdf Dec 23 '15 at 1:47

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