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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Google, duplicate content and private label rights (PLR)...

In case you missed it, Adam Lasnik posted some interesting remarks about duplicate content at the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog (now THAT'S a long blog title).

"Deftly dealing with duplicate content" answers a few questions and creates a few new ones. It may not have provided everything you'd ever want to know about duplicate content, but it's nice that the folks at G gave us at least a sneak peek at how they address the matter.

The post discusses why Google doesn't like finding the exact same thing in many different places, how it handles which version to list when it finds duplicate copies and even provides a few handy tips that webmasters can use to avoid duplicate content hassles.

The Google post says webmasters should provide links back to the original versions of syndicated articles as a means of plagiarism protection and recommends use of DMCA remedies if someone who's stolen your materials seems to be ranking for it.

Unfortunately, it didn't really hone in on the one area that matters most to me right now--determining what is and what is not duplicate content.

Lasnik writes:

"Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar."

He then discusses the numerous instances of duplicate content and how most of them aren't part of any malicious scheme while noting the presence of a few nefarious souls willing to use dup content as a means of SE gaming.

He does not, however, tell us when a block of content becomes "susbtantive" enough to trigger Google's attention. We don't know when similarity becomes appreciable.

Lasnik reassures us that snippets, quotations and alternate-language versions of the same material aren't considered duplicate content. Beyond that, we're still in the dark.

That might be enough information for most people, but for some of us in the content industry, it still leaves us guessing more than we'd like. Well, at least that's the case for me. There are legitimate questions and concerns about the use of "private label rights" content (in "base form" and after editing/modification) that ave answers hinging upon how Google determines what constitutes duplicate content.

Those issues may not matter for everyone, but they do matter to me on multiple levels. I have many clients who are PLR users or who will use the availability of private label rights content as a rationale for holding down original content creation expenses. I am occasionally hired by PLR suppliers to write content, too. On top of that, I have personally marketed some of my own PLR content.

There are a million and one reasons to love private label rights content. There are a million and one reasons to avoid it and to use original material, too. It all depends, of course, on how and why the material is being used. Determining the actual value of PLR materials and accurately determining when it might work and when it might not, may very well depend on how search engines treat duplicate content.

Google still hasn't really addressed those issues directly or indirectly. It could be because they don't really give two hoots about PLR and have bigger fish to fry. It could be because they perceive PLR content as a means of search engine gaming and don't feel like fanning any of its flame. Who knows?

Original content remains the safest investment, but the arguments for and against its use relative to PLR alternatives is still difficult to ascertain with any certainty.