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Content duplication has been a buzz topic in SEO for a while now. It's one of the modern webmaster's favorite things to fret over and has been for at least two years.Google doesn't like duplicate content. We all get that now. There is still the lingering perception that there is some sort of duplicate content penalty despite repeated assurances from multiple Googlers to the contrary. Maybe there is no penalty; maybe there is some sort of mechanism at work that webmasters perceive as a penalty... it really matters very little. At the end of the day, if you aren't showing up for your own content but somebody else is... you probably aren't the happiest little webmaster.

As a result, syndication has been quite unfairly vilified. Traditionally speaking, having a site link to your content has always been perceived as a compliment of sorts (Google certainly thought it was a fair indicator of quality). That said, syndicating content... having your great content actually picked up by a larger, more influential site was even better in a lot of ways. The syndicated content was put right in front of a whole new user base without them having to click a thing. Generally you also got a nice link back to your site to boot. If you produced a great piece of content, why not have it show up everywhere you possibly could?

Penalty or not, it is clearly the case that the site where content originates may not always rank best for that content. Google wants to do their best to make sure they keep the content of their results pages as distinct from one another as they can. In short, Google doesn't want to have a result page where 4 of the 10 results are all essentially the exact same article.

Here's the thing though syndication is good. It can drive traffic to your site. It can establish your reputation and credibility within a niche and it can generate high quality inbound links. If you are upset because the larger, more recognized and more popular site's syndication of your content outranks your own then I'd have to say you might need to rethink that one a little bit. So what if it does? You are there because you want to be exposed to the larger site's community. You want the links, attention, reputation and all the good things that go along with that don't you? Of course you do. So if you do a search and find that the big site is number one on a good search query with your content, you don't get upset - you say 'yay'.

Why do you say yay? Because your super great content would never have that top position if not for the fact that Google found it on the larger more authoritative site. Sure, if it's that good you can probably get a decent ranking but it won't be as good. Beyond the ranking, even if your site is #2 and the big site is #3 for the same article, guess which one is likely to get clicked thru more; the link to your site, which is not all that well known? Or the link to a site that somebody has heard of?

If you aren't a household name or a recognized authority in whatever areas you are covering, the fastest way to build that reputation and credibility is to become associated with the brand that is. What's the best way to do that? Get your name, your company and your link on their domain. Because at the end of the day the likelihood of you just outranking them on your own for similar subject matter is probably going to be a tough order.

Abby Johnson talked to Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting at SES recently about the syndication vs. duplicate content problem. Eric has some great tips in the video for minimizing the negative aspects of duplication on a syndication model. Three specific items he talks about are syndicating excerpts, including a no-index tag, and writing 'alternative' versions of your content expressly for syndication. He also talks about how effective a syndication model can be. One site he'd worked with increased their traffic by over 50% using syndication almost exclusively.

Google is also working on some stuff to help us help them (isn't that just awesome of them?). Read up on their new cross domain canonical tag. It's new, none of the other search engines support it yet, and it remains to be seen how effective it will be, but it's a start. Whatever you do, don't throw the proverbial baby (syndication) out with the bathwater (duplicated content worries). There is a lot of upside to an effective syndication strategy.

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Google has issued a statement regarding the company's pending acquisition of AdMob. Google's intent to acquire the company was announced back in early November. The deal was for $750 million in stock.

Since then, the Federal Trade Commission has vowed to closely scrutinize the deal. Google had this to say today:

As we said when we announced the deal, we don't see any regulatory issues with this deal, because the rapidly growing mobile advertising space is highly competitive with more than a dozen mobile ad networks.

That said, we know that closer scrutiny has been one consequence of Google's success, and we've been talking to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the past few weeks. This week we received what's called a "second request," which means that the FTC is asking for more information so that they can continue to review the deal.

While this means we won't be closing right away, we're confident that the FTC will conclude that the rapidly growing mobile advertising space will remain highly competitive after this deal closes. And we'll be working closely and cooperatively with them as they continue their review.

Types-of-Mobile-Advertising

Upon announcement Google highlighted these things about the deal:

- The deal will bring new innovation and competition to mobile advertising, and will lead to more effective tools for creating, serving, and analyzing emerging mobile ads formats.

- This deal will benefit developers, publishers, and advertisers by improving the performance of mobile advertising, and will provide users with more free or low-cost mobile apps.

- The mobile advertising space will remain highly competitive, with more than a dozen mobile ad networks. The deal is similar to mobile advertising acquisitions that AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo have made in the past two years

"Mobile advertising has enormous potential as a marketing medium and while this industry is still in the early stages of development, AdMob has already made exceptional progress in a very short time," said Susan Wojcicki, Vice President of Product Management at Google upon the announcement.

Google says since the announcement, they have seen a quite positive reaction from advertisers and publishers, who are "enthusiastic" about the possibilities the deal might bring. It's hard to say how long the regulatory process will take, but we'll keep you posted as we learn more.

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It's the time of year when not only does everybody reflect upon trends and happenings from the year past, but they also look forward and make predictions for the coming year. Nielsen has shared its projections for the top advertising trends for 2010. These are:

1. Optimizing media convergence is a top priority.
2. New models emerge to take advantage of smartphones.
3. More cross-media ad campaigns surface.
4. Commercialization of social networking hubs increase.
5. More interesting and interactive online ads appear.
"A better understanding of media convergence will manifest in order to deliver a better return on investment," the firm says. "The ability to accurately measure activity and link online ads to offline purchasing behavior will be critical."

Nielsen says accurate mobile measurement will be required for advertisers to stay ahead of "snowballing growth" of that media platform and that the massive growth of online games will lead the way for more successful interactive and cross-media advertising campaigns. The firm expects growth in innovation and adoption in this area.

Of course social media will continue to provide new opportunities and Nielsen thinks there will be increased use of more creative advertising and content models online.

John Burbank John Burbank, CEO of Nielsen Online says the next phase of the Internet will be the "audience-centric web" and will be characterized by the audience being the center of everything, "online" no longer being an island, and richer business opportunities due to richer data being consumed.

"Whether it’s reaching men aged 18 to 24, women with incomes of over $150,000, heavy users of Tide or Hispanic teens, the match of consumer need to marketing message starts with the audience," he says. "In the audience-centric Web, that richness of insight will now be available to online marketers, just as it has been offline."

Nielsen also shared its top five cross-media trends for 2010, which include: convergence in demand, second and third screen initiative growth, continued audience fragmentation, new and varied approaches to content, and the formation of multiple distribution opportunities.

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It's no secret that people work harder when given a financial incentive, and that companies also like to make a little money. Now, the program that YouTube created to capitalize on these facts has turned two years old, and YouTube's having a little celebration.

As Shenaz Zack, a product manager, explained on the YouTube Blog, the Partner Program is pretty much a huge success. He pointed out, "[M]any partners are earning real dollars from their videos. Some users have quit their jobs to concentrate on YouTube full-time, including several who make six figures a year from the site."

There have been some other interesting real-world effects as a result of the Partner Program, too. Fred's set to become a movie star. Brownbagfilms already has, with a video entering the Oscar runoffs. And Zack wrote, "Others have earned such awards as a Tech Award in Education, Digista Award in Japan, and the distinction of being one of TIME's 50 best inventions of 2009."

This string of successes is almost sure to continue. Indeed, since YouTube controls access to the program, it could open the figurative floodgates at any time, allowing all sorts of content creators the opportunity to step up their game and share revenue from ads.

Of course, this would mean having ads on all sorts of content, and would in turn generate a lot of revenue for YouTube.

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Google announced that it now offering cross-domain support of the rel="canonical" link element. If you are unfamiliar with this link element, Google's Matt Cutts discussed it. Basically, it's a way to avoid duplicate content issues, but until now, you couldn't use it across domains.

"For some sites, there are legitimate reasons to [have] duplicate content across different websites — for instance, to migrate to a new domain name using a web server that cannot create server-side redirects," says John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst with Google Z├╝rich.
"There are situations where it's not easily possible to set up redirects," he says. "This could be the case when you need to move your website from a server that does not feature server-side redirects. In a situation like this, you can use the rel='canonical' link element across domains to specify the exact URL of whichever domain is preferred for indexing. While the rel='canonical' link element is seen as a hint and not an absolute directive, we do try to follow it where possible."

Cross Domain Duplicate Content

Mueller gives the following ways of handling cross-domain content duplication:

- Choose your preferred domain
- Reduce in-site duplication
- Enable crawling and use 301 (permanent) redirects where possible
- Use the cross-domain rel="canonical" link element

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable gives three reasons why the addition of cross-domain support for the rel="canonical" link element is really important:

1. Some hosts don't allow webmasters to deploy 301 redirects
2. Some site owners aren't technical enough to implement a 301 redirect
3. In some cases, webmasters do not want to redirect users but rather only search engines (i.e. pagination, weird filtering, tracking parameters added to URLs, etc).
To use the link element, pages don't have to be identical, but they should be similar. According to Google, slight differences are fine. You should not point point rel="canonical" to the home page of the preferred site. Google says this can result in problems, and that a mapping from an old URL to a new URL for each URL on the old site is the best way to go.

You should not use a nonindex robots meta tag on pages with a rel="canonical" link element because those pages would not be equivalent with regards to indexing, Google says. One would be allowed while the other would be blocked. Google also says it's important that these pages aren't disallowed from crawling through a robots.txt file, because search engine crawlers won't be able to discover the rel="canonical" link element.

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This time of year everybody likes to start making predictions about where industries are heading. This is especially true in the search industry. My guess is that we will see quite a few pieces this month regarding where search is going in 2010. These can make for entertaining reads and get the mind going with regards to how we are going to have to plan for an ever-changing future of search engine marketing.

When Google itself comes out with predictions for where search is headed, things get even more interesting. This is obviously because Google is such a huge and critical part of the search landscape. Google's Matt Cutts discussed some of his own predictions for search in a recent upload to Google's Webmaster Central YouTube channel.

One thing Matt stressed is that Google is always looking for new types of data to search. He gave examples of searching email with Gmail, books with Google Book Search, and patents with Google Patent search. He predicts Google will continue this trend and find more data sources to provide search functionality for.

Another prediction he gave was that Google will continue to improve search over harder problems. Specifically, he noted things like determining what is really going on with the words in documents and in queries - semantic search if you will.

"A lot of people think that if you type in 'A B C,' all Google does is crawl the web and return pages that match 'A,' 'B,' and 'C'. And that's not it," says Cutts. "We do a lot of sophisticated stuff. Think about synonyms, morphology...all sorts of ways where we can kind of find out, 'oh, this is really related to them conceptually.' Whether you want to call it semantic stuff or statistical processing, we do a lot of stuff to try and return relevant documents."

As part of this prediction, Cutts says Google will continue trying to find new ways to extract "good data" from the web. He mentions Google Squared (which is still in an experimental stage) as an example of doing so. Google Squared, in Google's words, takes a category and creates a starter 'square' of information, automatically fetching and organizing facts from across the web.

Google Squared  - Planets
Cutts also predicts that people will get more comfortable with storing their data in the cloud. He expects more people will migrate their data from their hard drives to different cloud services, and that this will make it easier and better for search, and contribute to the delivery of more relevant results.

He also mentions real-time and mobile as playing significant roles in the future or search. No surprise there.

"It's going to be a lot of fun. Search is nowhere near done, and every time we make search better, people ask us harder and harder questions, " he says. "So the nice thing is knowing that we'll pretty much always have more to do to make search better."

Cutts recently discussed the possibility that page speed could play a role in search engine rankings. He made no mention of this in this set of predictions, but that is another thing to consider as we get ready to move into 2010.

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Google has launched its new homepage, which looks generally the same, but removes everything but the logo, search box, and two buttons until the user moves the mouse. Google says most people go to the Google home page to search, and they wanted to remove the other distractions, unless users specifically want to see them.

This is an interesting philosophy, because it certainly grabs your attention when you move the mouse and and a bunch of new stuff appears. Perhaps, the move is really designed to draw attention to Google's other services.

"Since most users who are interested in clicking over to a different application generally do move the mouse when they arrive, the 'fade in' is an elegant solution that provides options to those who want them, but removes distractions for the user intent on searching," Google says.

New Google Home Page
Google has been testing similar designs for several months. The company explains:

All in all, we ran approximately 10 variants of the fade-in. Some of the experiments hindered the user experience: for example, the variants of the homepage that hid the search buttons until after the fade performed the worst in terms of user happiness metrics. Other variants of the experiment produced humorous outcomes when combined with our doodles — the barcode doodle combined with the fade was particularly ironic in its overstated minimalism . However, in the end, the variant of the homepage we are launching today was positive or neutral on all key metrics, except one: time to first action. At first, this worried us a bit: Google is all about getting you where you are going faster — how could we launch something that potentially slowed users down? Then, we realized: we want users to notice this change... and it does take time to notice something (though in this case, only milliseconds!). Our goal then became to understand whether or not over time the users began to use the homepage even more efficiently than the control group and, sure enough, that was the trend we observed.

Judging from conversation on Twitter, opinions of the new page are pretty evenly mixed. Some think it's "snazzy," while others feel it's distracting." Some don't like that you have to move the mouse to know where specific links are.

As with any design change to a popular site, there are going to be critics and supporters. The Google home page affects a great deal of web users. What is your opinion of the new change?

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