Landing : Athabascau University

"Duplicate content": The work of Google in the age of blogological reproduction

From thoughts on privacy to public considerations...

I've just discovered my blogging has perhaps been committing the cyber-sin of duplicating content. I routinely cross-post blog entries here in the Landing and at my public blog, Academicalism. Reaching different audiences, is all I've been thinking -- and the facts that 1) Landing posts aren't necessarily public, and 2) until very recently, the Landing hasn't allowed public comments (from which I dependably learn a good deal).

But it turns out that different sites displaying identical content ring alarms at Google HQ,* whose zombie-cyborg minions (hey I can say that, I know somebody who works there) apply some sort of search-ranking penalty to duplications deemed to be "attempt[ing] to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic":

In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we'll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.

Uh, okay: guilty as charged, if "win more traffic" means the same thing as "reach different audiences." Except that it doesn't, really: the different wording alone speaks to different ends, one commercial, the other communicative.

And it may be that I've been unwittingly protecting my missives from such malicious misconstrual by habitually linking from one to the other when I do cross-post. Among Google's recommended "steps you can take to proactively address duplicate content issues" is the suggestion to "syndicate carefully":

If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you'd prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to use the noindex meta tag to prevent search engines from indexing their version of the content.

At this point, given the Landing's new public affordances, I don't really have a preference as to which version a reader finds. I still do see value in maintaining distinct blogs, and in cross-posting between them (which I see as a practice in keeping with AU's accessibility mandate, and with Canadian research-agency emphasis on dissemination and "mobilization"). But If I'm still risking Google's passive-aggressively administered wrath by doing so, I'd welcome suggestions on how to avoid incurring it. The "noindex" metatag I tried to retrofit into previous posts, here and in Wordpress, just isn't sticking.


* Which I like to picture as some kind of Dr. Seuss-like contraption:

On a mountain halfway between Reno and Rome,
We have a machine in a plexiglass dome
That listens and looks into everyone's homes...


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