After my last post here on the Web Development Blog, Olaf and I began talking about RSS feeds and content thieves. Auto-blogging software and other tools make it easier than ever to “borrow” other people’s words. It’s little wonder that several of the posts here have been indexed on aggregator sites and autoblogs faster than the originals posted here. Those sites are updated frequently, many several times a day. It only makes sense that the search engines visit them often.
Since Google’s Panda update has only dealt with one aspect of duplicate content and left the vast majority of content thieves unmolested, or even rewarded, Olaf and I began comparing ideas.
The extreme approach is one that I took with my newest site – disable the feeds completely.
While I was still setting up the site, and therefore paying more attention to the site logs, I quickly spotted one of the first articles being grabbed via the feed. Before the original was even seen by the Googlebot, much less indexed, the other site had posted my article. I then noticed the same IP continually hitting my feeds and began questioning whether or not the feeds were just making it easier for thieves to steal my work.
It took a bit of trial and error, but I finally got the feeds totally disabled. I didn’t mention the experience to Olaf and didn’t really give it much more thought, other than to consider killing the feeds on my other sites.
A few weeks ago when my article Panda Update Targets More Than Bad Content and Olaf’s on Getting More Exposure for Blog Guest Authors were quickly stolen by others we began thinking about a way to stop the theft or at least beat these folks at their own game.
Olaf began picking apart the code of the built in WordPress features and I kept throwing ideas over the wall. Ironically, what we came up with allows the aggregator sites that post blog snippets to continue driving traffic to us while also taking advantage of the automated nature of most of the thieves.
The feature in WordPress has fairly well taken the place of the excerpts for on-site summaries. Some templates still use the excerpt feature, but most rely upon the more feature. Neither of the templates Olaf and I are using utilizes the excerpt feature. With a bit of experimentation, Olaf realized that excerpts can be used to populate the RSS feeds with live links. Eureka, an idea was born.
The basic solution…copy the first paragraph or so into the excerpt section of the blog post and set your feeds to use excerpts rather than entire posts. Also include a link to the homepage of your blog or other blog entries within the excerpt. The flaw with this option is that the aggregators you want posting your information as well as the content thieves will be posting the same content which appears on your site. Granted a paragraph or two is better than the entire post, there is another option, though it does require a bit more effort.
Maximize the benefits of your RSS feeds by writing a unique excerpt which includes one or more links to your blog that invites folks to check out the post but does not contain the same words and phrases as your original blog entry. That way the aggregator sites will continue to help promote your blog and anyone using software to lift content from your feeds will be giving you backlinks without getting your great content.
To take it even a step further, and to keep from competing with yourself, write the excerpts using tertiary keywords rather than the keywords you hope your original will rank for.
Yes, I know there’s nothing earth-shattering here but most problems have simple solutions if you think about them. So, to stop content thieves you can completely disable your feeds or you can use the same automation they employ to your own benefit.
We implemented this on Olaf’s last post. He tells me that according to his logs the number of feed subscribers hasn’t changed and the number of reposts is nearly the same. The traffic hasn’t changed but the number of backlinks sure has. Now instead of just seeing a backlink for the post, we’ve also garnered backlinks for other posts and/or this blog.
Has anyone found another option to limiting content theft while utilizing the benefits of RSS feeds?