Has this happened to you? You have an opportunity to guest blog on a prominent site. You ask if you submit the blog and it’s published, could you then repost the blog on your own website (with a link back to the original post, of course)? Or, others see your blog posts, enjoy the content and ask if they could repost on their site? In either case, you may have been told that you cannot repost on your own site or that you shouldn’t allow others to repost your blog because of something called “duplicate content.” In other words, if your post is re-published on many other sites, the other site could outrank your own post in Google and other search engines, or it could actually hurt your own site’s rankings.
As a search marketer, I am always defending the re-publishing of posts and ignoring the duplicate content issue because I’m of the opinion that more potential readers of my content and links back to my site are the important parts rather than worrying about whether or not another site will outrank my own with my content. But lately, this issue has come up so much that I decided to find out for sure if my theory was correct. So I reached out and asked one of the world’s authorities on search engine optimization, Rand Fishkin CEO of SEOmoz.com, and asked him to help sort out fact from fiction. Rand pointed out that there is no absolute answer but offered some great suggestions:
KR: Does reposting blogs on other’s blog sites hurt search engine rankings?
: It is possible that if you re-publish your content on another site, it could rank in the search engines rather than your own, original version. A link back is often enough to negate this, but there’s also a technical way to make it work 99.9% of the time and that’s with the “Rel = canonical” tag (http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/12/handling-legitimate-cross-domain.html
). If you use this (or have those blogs you guest post on use it), you can feel very confident that your own post will be the one to rank.
If you feel a little lost at the mention of rel: canonical tags, as many do, I’m going to break it down for you with the help of another great source—my friend and SEO guru, Tisho Richardson, Web Associate at ThomasNet.com (formerly the Thomas Register). Very simply, you put this type of html tag between the “head” tags on the blog post page of the ORIGINAL post; this way the search engines know that this is the one true original version and should rank this version above all others. This is an example of what a rel: canonical tag looks like behind the scenes of a website:
For example, with the first scenario I referred to–guest posting on another blog, the rel: canonical tag should appear on their site on the page where the blog is posted. In the second, where others are sharing your already published content, the tag should appear on your blog page (and always be sure that they link back to your original post).
If you have a wordpress blog, as I do, there is a plugin called “Canonical URL’s”. Once the plugin is installed, you will see a box under the post marked “Canonical”. In there you put the link to the post.
KR: To what exactly does duplicate content refer?
RF: Duplicate content has a very broad definition in the SEO space. It can mean content sections that are duplicated across a single site or multiple sites and can also mean entire web pages that are copied from site to site or are accessible on multiple URLs on the same site (causing confusion and potential cannibalization). As a blogger, I wouldn’t sweat the definitions around it too much, but I’d try to make sure that I used something like the rel=canonical on my own site’s pages (most of the major blogging platforms either do this by default or offer it with SEO plugins).
KR: In your opinion, is it better to have more potential readers of the content and backlinks to your site than worry about the duplicate content issue?
RF: I’d generally bias much more in favor of posting on someone else’s site and getting the link back than worry about having that piece outrank my own. I’m still getting the writing credit, the link and the branding. Over time, if lots of people refer to my site, I’ll outrank all the others anyway (most of the time).I would, however, add that in many cases, it can pay to write unique material for guest posts, rather than sending along something you’ve already published on your own site. The reason’s not just SEO-related, but because fresh, never-before-seen material has a greater propensity to be shared, show off your style and earn you a following.
Thank you to Rand and Tisho for clearing this up and giving some great tips. Bottom line? It seems that having the potential for branding and backlinks to your site outweighs the potential negative of having another site outrank you for your own post. However, if it is a major concern, it seems pretty easy to install the canonical link plugin, and it won’t be an issue any longer. And, of course, it’s always best to write original content if you can.