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February 26, 2014 // 4:30 PM

LinkedIn's New 'Publishing for All' Raises Duplicate Content Questions

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cookie-cuttersLinkedIn recently announced that they're opening up publishing access to all users, a perk previously reserved for influencers only.

While most are eager to participate, the announcement raised some questions for SEO-savvy marketers concerned about what some not-so-SEO-savvy users might publish. The question they raised was this: Will non-scrupulous users amass their site content and start publishing duplicate content to LinkedIn, causing serious SEO issues?

To try to sort it out, I took a look at both LinkedIn and Google's best practices and recommendations. Here's what they had to say, and how I think it'll jive with LinkedIn's new publishing-for-all capabilities.

What's the concern?

While LinkedIn didn't intend users to spam their network with a bunch of duplicate content, some people could still do exactly that. Marketers are content fatigued and might want to take advantage of this opportunity without investing more resources in content creation.

So if a LinkedIn user takes a piece of content from their site and republishes it on LinkedIn, there's a concern that their SEO could be negatively impacted due to duplicate content. Or perhaps even LinkedIn's SEO could suffer as a result.

What does LinkedIn say?

Currently, neither LinkedIn’s rights and responsibilities clauses nor their best practices state you should publish only original content. They go as far as to say that you can in fact “republish something that you have published somewhere else as long as it is 'your' original content that you own the rights to.”

What does Google say?

First of all, Google could always end up treating republished content on LinkedIn differently down the road. But for now, Google will likely take the most issue with users doing things that resemble spammy behavior -- in other words, those that start republishing all of their posts on LinkedIn.

What's the worst that could happen?

Worst case scenario -- your original content will get crowded out of the search results, and the republished content on LinkedIn will show in its place.

If you happen to have really strong domain authority -- strong enough that it can rival LinkedIn -- your content could still get some visibility. Let's take, for example, YouTube, which is a comparatively high value domain. If you have a video on your site and also publish and make it public on YouTube.com, then it’s typically the YouTube.com result that appears in search -- simply because it’s the more authoritative domain.

Because most websites don't rival LinkedIn or YouTube in domain authority, most people will likely see the LinkedIn version of their content in the SERPs if they choose to publish duplicate content.

Now, according to a statement by Matt Cutts in 2013, “[he agrees that] being duplicated out of the Google index is a problem.” But he goes on to say, “for the most part, duplicate content isn't really treated as spam. It's just treated as something we need to cluster appropriately and we need to make sure that it ranks correctly.” To me, that indicates that perhaps Google is doing more work to figure out who the original publisher is so they don't get crowded out of the SERPs by a higher ranking domain. 

Alright, so what should I do?

Here are some best practices to keep in mind if you want to publish on LinkedIn, but also want to ensure that your content remains the primary result for a given topic:

  • Read LinkedIn's policies and documentation, and follow their rules.
  • Don’t copy content word for word. Instead, rewrite posts and publish those.
  • If you're in a crunch and don’t have the time to rewrite your best articles, make a personal/business rule to only republish one out of five articles on LinkedIn -- and only if you feel it’s adding value by getting the content in front of a new audience who would benefit from it.
  • Don’t expect to have any SEO gains by publishing with LinkedIn.
  • Don’t add links back to your site using keywords (and anchor text), thinking this will help your site's link profile.
  • Do include one link back to the original article, informing your readers where and when the article was originally published.
  • Since you are (re)publishing articles to your personal profile, only (re)publish content actually written by you. This has the potential to benefit your future author profile, assuming LinkedIn is also going in that direction in the future.
  • Consider whether an article would be better served to be published on your domain versus LinkedIn, thereby avoiding duplication.

As always, we'll let you know if we learn anything different as more users start publishing content to LinkedIn.

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Topics: SEO Social Media Content Marketing

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