The truth about duplicate content

There are many myths and rumours surrounding duplicate content. In this post we’ll separate the fact from the fiction in terms of its potential impact on your website.

What is ‘duplicate content’?

Where better to start than with Google’s definition?

“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin. Examples of non-malicious duplicate content could include:

• Discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
• Store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
• Printer-only versions of web pages”

There is a common misconception that any amount of duplication on a web page is a bad thing – this is not the case. Generally, some duplicate content is OK if the source is credited, adds value and it doesn’t make up a disproportionate amount of your content.

The quoted copy above is a good example of this, we are not passing this off as our own opinion, we are very clearly referencing and linking to the original source.

So what’s wrong with duplicate content?

Problems with duplicate content arise if its intent is seen as malicious. Once upon a time, black hat SEO practitioners could copy content across sites to manipulate search engine rankings. But algorithms are much smarter now, so having a large amount of duplicate content on your site will do more hard than good.

Also, if your site has a significant amount of duplicate content, search engines will have the following problems:

– They won’t know which version(s) to show in search results – and what order to rank them in.
– They won’t know which version of the content to include/exclude from their results.
– With internal duplication in particular, search engines won’t know if they should direct the link metrics to one page, or keep it separated between multiple versions – essentially diluting the ‘link juice’. But if the content is on only one URL, each link will point to that single page, enhancing its authority.

Can you be penalised by Google for using duplicate content?

There’s a common myth floating around that you can receive a formal penalty for duplicate content. However, in a recent video, Lipattsev was adamant that if Google discovers your site’s content isn’t unique and doesn’t rank your page above a competing page, it isn’t a penalty – it’s simply Google trying to give the end user the best experience. Depending on the search terms and the quality of your content, your page containing duplicate content could appear higher in another relevant search.

In the following video, Cutts makes it clear that duplicate content won’t raise a red flag with the search engine giant, unless it is spammy or involves keyword stuffing.

Although you may not be penalised by Google for duplicate content specifically, there are issues surrounding duplication which can hurt your rankings – namely the three points mentioned earlier.

Google and the other search engines love uniqueness, added value and high quality content, so sites providing this will be rewarded, while sites providing a high amount of copied content won’t be.

What about plagiarism?

Content scraping is not protected by copyright law if the person who’s using the content on their site gives credit to the original source. However, if an acknowledgement of the source is not included, this is classed as plagiarism; if you’re the victim, you could file a Digital Millennium Copyright complaint against the person who has stolen your content. Take a look at this real-life story of website plagiarism, including steps you might want to take if you’re in a similar situation.

How can you avoid duplicate content issues?

Although duplicate content may not be as deadly as many people believe, it’s still important to take steps to minimise its negative effects on your site. As a first step, tools such as Siteliner and Copyscape can help you to discover any obvious issues. You’ll find lots of helpful, up-to-date tips from the folks at Hobo Web and if you have an ecommerce site, US agency Inflow have also produced a handy guide.

If your website contains a lot of internal duplication, which is particularly common on ecommerce sites, you should indicate preferred URLs to Google via Canonicalisation.

Image courtesy of Andrew Mager.

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How to create a content marketing strategy plan

The thought of starting to create content, if you haven’t already, can be daunting. It’s such a large undertaking and it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. However, if you break it down and create a comprehensive content marketing strategy plan, you can make production manageable. The following tips should help you get started.

Outline your aim and goals

Before anything else, you need to decide what the overall aim of your content marketing efforts is. Think about your company mission and consider how content could help you work towards it. Then, break this down using the SMART framework: you want to identify goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. For example, an aim could be “to be seen as a thought leader in technology-driven pet accessories”. SMART goals for this could be “to appear on the first page of Google for the search term ‘automated dog feeder’ by 1st August 2016” and “to grow an email list of 1,000 subscribers by 1st July 2016”. With clear goals, you’ll have tangible targets to work towards and easily be able to measure your successes.

Identify your buyer personas

Now you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to look at your target audience. To see results, you need to identify who you’re creating content for, this will determine the kind of content you produce and your tone of voice. You should have about three to five detailed buyer personas. You can get started with buyer personas with this beginner’s guide or by using Hubspot’s template and guide. Typically, you’ll want to find out more about your existing customers by speaking with them, doing surveys and looking at your site’s traffic.

Research where your personas go

In order for your content marketing activities to be effective, you need to know where your prospects go online. This will require some research. In a similar way to your initial persona research, it’s a good idea to speak with existing customers. Ask about their online habits – what sites they visit most often, their favourite blogs, the social media platforms they use and more. This will help you decide where you need to concentrate your efforts in terms of the kind of content you create and how you promote and distribute it. For example, a seller of keyboards for developers may find that many of their potential customers spend time on Reddit, so it could be worth growing a presence there.

Evaluate existing content

Next, take a look at any existing content you have. You’ll want to do a content audit to see areas you’ve done well with so far, and areas that have been lacking. How in-depth you need to go will depend how much you’ve produced so far. Basically, you want to list all your content, how much traffic it has produced, how many leads and sales it has generated, the keywords you used and engagement generated. See which pieces of content have worked well for you so you can create content on similar topics, or utilising the same keywords.

core-content-strategy-statement-template_blank-600x315
CMI’s template for content strategy statement

Note the kinds of content you want to focus on

So you know what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re creating content for and what areas you’ve been successful with so far – you can use this knowledge to decide what kind of content you want to focus on going forward. You can choose from a world of options, including blog posts, infographics, videos and reviews. Think about your personas, what they’d like, and how different content could help you achieve your goals. For example, say you’re aiming to sell tractor attachments and your buyer persona is Tom, a young farmer who uses the internet to help his dad make the best purchasing choices for their farm. You could create a series of blog posts that review the latest bale spikes in detail and honestly.

Take a look at your team and their capacities

For a content marketing strategy to be effective, you need to understand your capabilities. Consider who will be working on your content, whether it’s just yourself or an entire dedicated content team. You’ll need to be realistic about what you’re able to do, so think about what you know, your strengths (e.g. would you be better at writing informative blog posts or creating an image using Photoshop?) and your other responsibilities. This will give you an idea of how much content you’ll be able to produce on a weekly or monthly basis, without over-stretching yourself. If your time is limited and you have the resources, you could outsource most of your content marketing.

Make an editorial calendar

By now, you should have a good idea of what you’re going to do, so it’s time to create an editorial calendar. Ideally this should be a spreadsheet with columns for the content type, title, goal, creator, deadline, distribution/promotion channel and any other important details. You can use an existing template to make things easier. Then get creating!

Once you’ve started publishing, you’ll need to promote your content through various channels. It’s a good idea to have a promotion workflow, which will ensure this important step is never missed. When a piece of content is published, you could email coworkers about it, share it on social media, forward it to your email subscribers and contact influencers in the hope they’ll share it.

Monitor and tweak

So you’re writing, publishing and sharing content on a regular basis, but it doesn’t stop there. You need to monitor how your content is doing and make changes to your plan if necessary. Analytics tools are essential for this. At the very least, ensure you have Google Analytics set up and configured properly so you can see important data about visitors to your site. Keep your eye on how content is performing and try to spot any trends; you can then tweak your plan to reflect content that has done well.

Useful templates

To make planning easier, there are many templates available. Buffer offers one of the most comprehensive, along with detailed steps you can follow. You’ll also find a straightforward, fast, one-page plan by Uncommon.ly here and an excellent content marketing strategy package for B2B companies by Velocity here.

Don’t put off writing your content marketing strategy plan any longer – get started today!

Image courtesy of Pieter Schouten

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8 reasons why corporate blogging is so important

For most business owners, blogging can seem like such a headache. You have to plan your content, decide on a style and tone of voice, write your posts and then ensure they are consistently posted and shared.

All of this takes time and energy, which you may think would be better spent on other things. However, blogging has been proven as an effective means of driving traffic and leads to your site, so you should recognise the potential it has to drive your business forward.

Here are 8 reasons why corporate blogging is so important:

1. It improves brand awareness

The primary reason corporate blogging is so important is that it improves brand awareness. A blog creates more opportunities for your company to be discovered by potential customers and partners. Each post has content that can be found via search engines and read and shared on social media and other sites. This should result in increased traffic, and therefore more people becoming aware of your brand and what you do – this can only be a good thing!

Rental marketplace start-up Erento use their blog to post about lessons they’ve learnt from implementing organisational changes, such as 4 Great Outcomes of Restructuring Our Sales. As a small company that’s largely unknown outside Germany, these posts help to increase awareness of their brand around the world, without directly trying the promote their services.

2. It builds relationships

Corporate blogging can help to create and nurture relationships with the people you’d like to focus on, whether that’s your target market, existing customers, suppliers, employees or other people involved in your company. You can create a two-way conversation with blog posts asking for readers’ thoughts and comments, and you could also get your readers involved by asking them to write guest posts for you. Building relationships this way will promote brand loyalty and help readers have a positive impression of your business – they’ll quickly realise that you’re a company that is happy to communicate, take on feedback and answer questions.

Coca-Cola’s Unbottled blog is always trying to get people involved through the effective use of hashtags, social media and competitions. They may be a global giant, but there’s no reason you can’t learn from their example and tweak it to suit your business.

3. It gives the company a human face

Blogging allows you to humanise your company through the tone of voice you use and the information you choose to share. You can also get employees to be responsible for particular posts and include their image and name. In the same way that blogging builds relationships, it also helps customers see you as human, and not just a faceless corporate machine. This will help them relate to you and feel more inclined to do business with you.

As an online marketing authority, it’s no surprise that Moz’s blog does this excellently. Each post includes the writer’s own thoughts, as well as their profile, where you can find information about them and other posts they’ve written. You’re also given the chance to communicate directly with them.

4. It improves transparency

Blogging is a fantastic way for businesses to build trust with their audience. You can use your corporate blog to share internal updates, such as new partners and sales figures. When the public sees a company as trustworthy, straightforward and honest, they’re more likely to use their services or buy their products.

Zappos’ CEO and COO blog offers a level of transparency above most other companies. They share internal memos, emails and other information to ensure customers feel that they can completely trust the company. This is an excellent, inexpensive way to gain trust and goodwill.

5. It nurtures credibility

Along with transparency, you can also build credibility with your corporate blog. By consistently publishing high quality content on topics related to your field, people will begin to see your company as one with authority. When they need information about the area you specialise in, they will head to your blog or contact you, knowing they can trust the content you’ve provided.

Dell use their blog to share important company news and industry updates on a regular basis, helping employees, stakeholders and clients to feel like they’re always in the loop; they can trust Dell to have their finger on the pulse of the tech industry.

6. It builds excitement and anticipation

A corporate blog is the perfect place to publish press releases and share exciting updates and titbits about new services or products. You can get your readers looking forward to things coming out in the near future, and they can share the information on social media, increasing the clamour even further. This gives you more potential for building excitement than formal press releases alone.

Recently, an Indian tech start-up, Notion Ink, blogged about the entire process leading up to their product launch. A blog allowed them to keep interested parties updated at every stage, all the way up to the launch and beyond.

7. It generates leads

Corporate blogging generates leads, which is, of course, what every small business owner is trying to do. With every piece of content you publish on your blog, you’re increasing the chance of your business being discovered. More traffic will come to your site, and some of these will turn into leads by becoming subscribers, sending you an enquiry, following you on social media or connecting with you some other way. B2C businesses which blog receive around 88% more leads per month, and B2B companies generate 67% more leads. Without a regular blogging presence, you reduce your chances of being found significantly.

One of the most well-known examples of the effectiveness of blogging for generating leads is American pool company River Pools & Spas. They were losing money until they starting blogging; within a couple of years they managed to grow from a small company serving Maryland and Virginia to the most visited pool site on the web!

8. It increases customers

Some of the leads you generate with your blog will inevitably convert into customers. Readers who have already done their research and decided to buy a product or service you offer will know about your company because of your blog and also trust you because of it. Research shows that, by the time they get in touch with you, they’ll already be over 60% of the way through the sales cycle, so essentially your blog posts have done all the hard work for you!

Personal finance management platform Mint managed to get two million customers within three years by focusing on blogging and other content. Mint is no longer a small business, it’s a global brand – isn’t that your aim, too?

Corporate blogging is an essential marketing tool

You may have noticed from these eight main points that corporate blogging can help at all stages of the buyer’s journey, including initial awareness, consideration and eventual decision. Fresh, quality and regular corporate blog posts are a powerful tool that can increase traffic to your site, brand recognition, leads and sales. Don’t ignore the power of corporate blogging any longer!

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How does content marketing generate leads?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you will have heard the hype surrounding content marketing. What might be less clear, however, is why exactly you need to be doing it.

As with most forms of marketing, measuring the ROI on campaigns can be tricky, which makes it tough for many small and medium-sized businesses to justify the spend.

If you are smart about it, however, we believe that content marketing can generate a tangible return in the form of what matters most, leads. Read on to discover the benefits and specifically how these benefits drive leads:

Content marketing drives traffic to your website

Leads generated by: Conversions, enquiry forms on landing pages, sign ups.

Think about the queries your customers might enter into Google, then answer these with useful and insightful content. In this content, where appropriate, link to relevant landing pages that offer your product as the solution.

Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand, and SEO remains as one of the most tangible sources of leads for many businesses. To rank on Google, you need content that utilises relevant keywords, links to your site from quality sites, technical optimisation (e.g. keyword-rich tagging) and consistent output. This is what content marketing is all about – it uses keywords, introduces links, improves the user experience and requires consistency. Do all this properly, and you’ll see your rankings on the search engines improve significantly over time. This increase in traffic will lead to more people contacting you about your services and signing up for your content (such as blog posts and email newsletters).

Content marketing builds brand awareness

Leads generated by: Potential customers becoming aware of your company and thinking of you when they have a requirement.

No matter how big your company is, branding is very important and can help build trust and confidence from your customers.

Content marketing is one of the most powerful branding tools at your disposal. Over 50% of marketers who create and distribute content say it has increased their brand visibility. Content acts as a branding platform, giving you a way to develop your own unique voice and communicate with your target audience. Through your content, you can present your guiding principles and solidify your value proposition, giving readers the information they want to know while showing your company in a positive light.

One excellent example of a company using content marketing for effective branding is the social media management system Hootsuite. The company aims to be fun, informal and easily accessible, and their content helps them achieve this, with blog posts such as ‘Five secrets to success from Santa, the ultimate entrepreneur‘ and ‘How to ask for things on social media‘. Their parody of the Game of Thrones opening speaks to their millennial tech-savvy target audience, many of which will be fans of the show and enjoy the way Hootsuite links it to all their favourite social media platforms. This kind of positive branding will lead to more people becoming interested in your business, with them turning into leads when they follow or like your social media pages or sign up for your emails.

Take a look at Innocent Drinks’ brand story for another good example of branding done right.

Content marketing increases readership and subscribers

Leads generated by: Readers turning into subscribers, creating opportunities for you to sell to them through social media and email marketing.

If you’re creating top-quality content, you’ll begin to gain a readership. These readers will most likely find your content through search engines, social media, paid advertisements or links from other sites. In fact, research shows that 71% of people are more likely to buy from a brand they follow on social media. So you need to be producing content and sharing that, along with other relevant content from third parties, on your social media pages.

With an increased readership comes an increase in subscribers – AKA leads. High-quality content keeps readers coming back for more, so more of them will sign up for blog post notifications and newsletters. You can utilise these leads to make sales, by sending them product or service offers that are relevant to them and emailing them special deals. It’s vital to avoid spamming your subscribers though, as it will undo some of the work you’ve done and damage your reputation. Check out Simply Business’s fantastic guide to email marketing if you’re wondering where to start.

Content marketing builds trust and authority

Leads generated by: Increasing trust in your brand and improving your reputation, leading to more people engaging with your social media accounts, increased enquiries and more subscribers.

If you are consistently producing great content, readers will return to your site and you will begin to gain their trust and build authority in your field. As well as attracting visitors to your site, this should also peak influencer and related companies’ interest. This can only mean good things for your business, as word of mouth should result in even more new leads from people joining your mailing list, asking about your services and joining the conversation on social media.

Authority and SEO go hand in hand. As your brand becomes more well-known and respected, Google will pick up on this with the increase in links, social media mentions and traffic, and push your site up the SERPs. Building authority will take time and effort, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

In a nutshell: Content marketing helps your business to reach more people

You’ll see that there’s a common trend with all the above points: they revolve around more people becoming aware of your business. And as the saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity”. With content marketing, you can enjoy all the benefits of traditional advertising and more with a much smaller outlay. You can use blog posts, infographics, videos, photos and social media to get information related to your company’s services out there, and wait for the increased number of visitors to start converting into leads. There’s no need to pump out content for the sake of it though; quality is much more important than quantity, so focus on content that will provide real value and insight to your visitors without being ‘salesy’.

Don’t underestimate the many benefits of regular, quality content for your company. As well as generating leads, research indicates that content marketing costs approximately 62% less than traditional marketing methods – who can say no to that?

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