SEO Diagnosis: User-Generated Duplicate Content

Posted by randfish

The Problem: You run a website that allows for user-generated content like job listings, rental properties, classified ads, personals or even UGC products (think eBay or Etsy). Thoughtless users, thinking only of themselves and the time they’re going to save, wreck your SEO by posting the same content they’ve put up on ten of your competitor’s sites. This creates duplicate content issues for you instead of that dream of Web 2.0 SEOs – free, unique content. It can definitely be frustrating.

The Symptoms: The search engines start by simply not listing your pages, but sometimes it gets more severe and whole subsections of your domain go unspidered or unindexed because the engines’ algos have determined that you’re a clearing house for material they’ve already seen and don’t need again. In rare cases, this might even cause completely unique, valuable material to be excluded from the visible SERPs.

The Treatment: Don’t let your users get away with it. Force them to create new, interesting, unique content when they post material on your site by creating new fields, unique categories, encouraging (and possibly even rewarding) more depth and detail. If the standard job listing looks like this:

  • Company Name
  • Industry
  • Job Title
  • Job Description
  • Compensation

Make yours look like this:

  • Name of Hiring Manager/Job Poster
  • Company Name
  • Company Website
  • Company Type (Inc, LLC, Corp, etc.)
  • State of Incorporation
  • General Industry
  • Specific Niche
  • Job Title
  • Field of Specialty
  • Basic Job Requirements
  • Advanced Job Requirements
  • Desired Skills
  • Desired Experience
  • etc…

When you craft a more interesting, robust form, two things happen. First, the number of people filling them out goes down. Normally, this is bad, but in these scenarios it can actually work in your benefit as those users creating less interesting content (generally the drones sent to post the same thing far and wide without thought for relevance or quality) drop off, while more dedicated users persist. Second, your site goes up in quality because the content contributed has gone up – and the signal to noise ratio increases.

Results: Less duplicate content and more unique material means that you’re in the engines’ good graces. You might even find that you’re outranking the competition because you have higher quality, more detailed listings (even on the duplicates), along with more ways to sort, search and organize the data. Visitors win because they have better listings and more information. Posters win because they get to be specific and provide details that can help close the deal. You win because your site has the best version of that content on the web.

Diagnostician Extraordinairre
And you didn’t even have to open your mouth and say "Ahhh…"

p.s. While laid up on my couch the past two days recovering from a cold, I’ve been addicted to medical mystery programming (and chamomile), hence the cheesy formatting 🙂

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