Eli Fennell

Social Blogging FAQ

Recently, I wrote that bloggers should duplicate content from their blog posts to Google+. I have come to call this approach “Social Blogging”. The topic generated a great deal of interest and controversy.  More recently, John Battelle appeared to recommend a similar approach to using the LinkedIn Publishing Platform. His reasons were different from mine (he felt it most important to own the content, which I agree is important, but my focus is more geared towards the social side of the equation than the website side), but the similarity in the recommended approach is striking.

I have received so many comments, so many questions, so many criticisms (most of them gentle and some of them perhaps legitimate, to be fair to my critics) that I felt it important to address them with an FAQ.  This is especially true, as some users now report using the method I advised, and while the method has worked for me, it is worth considering whether it may not work for everyone.  This will be added to if necessary, depending on any future comments, questions, or criticisms. It will also be necessarily limited largely to Google+, as I do not yet have access to the LinkedIn Publishing Platform.

1) What Do You Mean by Duplicating Content on Google+?

Literally, I mean crafting a blog post and then duplicating it, as closely as possible, on Google+ using the native formatting, image, linking, and video tools from that platform, with a link back to the original blog post.  I have been duplicating most of my blog posts as Google+ Posts for a couple of years now, and it has worked well for me.  This very topic has stirred up controversy that continues to be shared and discussed, with some people abhorring the idea and some loving it. Those who have actually tried it, have generally given me positive feedback.  The majority of people, however, have questions, which is the point of this FAQ.

2) What If It Can’t Be Done for Technical Reasons? (e.g. Inline images interspersed with text.)

Then don’t do it. Quality should always be in your mind, and if for reasons of quality it can’t be done, then don’t do it. Google+’s tool set for bloggers is more limited than a true blog, but many basic blog posts would be fairly easy to reproduce closely enough. (I will only mention LinkedIn’s Publishing Platform here to point out the tool set is far richer.)

3) What Made You Decide To Do This?

There was no clear strategy that led me to this.  I never sat down and thought, “I’ll be the social blogger guy!”  I had tried my hand at blogging and sharing to Facebook, but the results were disappointing.  When I was invited to Google+, I immediately started using the native tools for text formatting and images.

Since then, I have tried my hand at nearly ever development in the tool set, whether for text, links, videos, images, or otherwise.  I enjoyed a bigger audience through Google+ than my blog ever did, so I focused on it.  As people were engaging with my content onsite, more than they were apparently willing to click through, and since I found it easier in many ways to use, I decided at some point to focus on it.  I wanted people to read what I was writing, not to profit from their traffic to my blog if they’d rather stay onsite.

Your goals or focus may be different than mine.  I am social first because that is where I was able to find my audience and my voice.

4) What About My Referral Traffic?  Won’t It Drop?

Sharing my blog content to Google+ hasn’t hurt my own blog traffic, it has helped, but your mileage may vary, though I am a prolific Google+ user and not a prolific blogger, so my sample size is admittedly small.  Why not try it and see if it works?

What I can say is that my Google+ Profile enjoys Search ranking power that my blog doesn’t and never has.  I concede that I am not the premiere authority on SEO, and as such I appreciate how easy Google+ makes it for me to produce rich content that ranks, even if only temporarily, high up in Search.  Should I find it more rewarding, at some point, to focus on my website’s authority first and foremost, then I might feel differently about this.

5) Won’t Duplicate Content Hurt My Site in Search?

Maybe.  It is possible reproducing your blog content to Google+ or LinkedIn will cause those sources to outrank you.  Google doesn’t punish non-spammy duplicate content, but they don’t like sharing two or three of the same thing either.  My method would definitely produce a Google+ Post and a blog post with the same textual, and graphical, content.  As my profile is more authoritative, then it can and does outrank my website.

That said, it’s certainly better to rank with a Post than not rank at all.  If a small number of people exposed to my Post through Search visit my website, then it has received a traffic boost.  If another small number Follow me on Google+, then I am not only more likely to rank high in their Search Results later, but I’ve just formed a fairly sticky connection.  Theoretically, as long as Google+ exists, that connection can exist, and in some cases may even lead to connections through other networks or even personal real world connections.

If your site has good ranking to begin with, then you might think twice about using my approach with Google+ or John Battelle’s suggested approach with LinkedIn.  Again, though, why not try it and see?  Measure the traffic, see how you do otherwise, and figure out which works better?  You might also consider broadening your view of what’s valuable to you: a social follow or share can be a very powerful asset, and while it may not put money in your wallet right now, it may open opportunities to you in the long-run that wouldn’t otherwise exist.  Besides, knowing more people who are interested in your ideas is never a bad thing, in my view, whether any profit comes from it or not.

6) Does Anyone Actually Click Through To Your Blog When You Do This?

Yes.  More than did when I tried it any other way.  More importantly, the time on page and time on site numbers are high, suggesting most referral traffic reads my entire post, despite the duplication. It’s also the case that +1’s pass from Google+ to the linked blog post, and while a +1 is a weak ranking signal, a large number can certainly boost you in Search. This, to me, is just an added benefit, which in fact I did not even know at the time I started doing this, but it’s nice.

7) But… Why?  Why Would They Bother to Click Through on Duplicate Content?

I suspect the primary reason has to do with the way Google+ Posts are displayed, especially on the mobile app, which is its major traffic source.  I place a link to the blog post right below the title line of the post, which is above the part of the post where it says “Read More”.  Every additional click loses a certain number of users, this is a basic law of software design, and desktop users have to click Read More to expand the post, while mobile users have to click through to the post and leave the Stream.  The “above the fold” link is also clickable directly from the mobile Stream, so between the two, a lot of users will click through rather than expand the post.

Those who do expand the post, and read the entire post on Google+, are in my experience more likely to +1, Share, and Comment on your Post.  All of these can lead to greater exposure for the post: if they leave +1 Recommendations on, they will be recommending your posts to others, while a Share exposes the post to potentially their entire audience, and a Comment may play some role in the algorithmic surfacing of Posts in the Stream and in What’s Hot.

In that expanding audience, the number of people who click through instead of expanding the Post appears to increase, though again you should look at your own numbers and decide what works best.  The majority of my ad revenue (which is not really something I optimize for, but rather more of an afterthought, which has yet to pay a single bill for me admittedly) has been generated by duplicating blog content to Google+, which then went viral and was featured in What’s Hot on Google+.

8) What Does the Google+ Team Think About This?

Without calling out names, high ranking members of the Google+ Team have Plussed my posts, even when I did this.  So, they don’t seem to be terribly bothered.  I’m guessing they’re happy that I keep at least some of the traffic and engagement onsite, rather than just trying to be a referral source.

9) What Does Matt Cutts Think About It?

Short Story: Not a clue.  I have no access to his brain. Darn you, two-factor authentication! Long Story: Non-spammy duplicate content isn’t actually penalized, but one source may outrank all the others. That may not be your personal blog. I’m not concerned that Matt Cutts has a spam bullet with my name on it locked and loaded. The approach cannot yet be automated, and if you stand behind your content because it was worthy of defending, let come what may. I don’t create content for Google, I create it for people (with Google as an optimization afterthought at best).

10) What If I’m Highly Prolific?

I don’t recommend anything that resembles mass duplication. Luckily, Google+ does not make mass duplication of the type I am describing simple, even with the help of third-party tools. There is no public API, and scheduling posts for Google+ is inherently tricky, especially when they include images, text formatting, etc.. LinkedIn does not appear to make it simple, either, though we have yet to see if there will be a market for tricks or third-party services that make this possible.

11) What About Google+ Large Image Links?

The roll out of Google+ Large Image Links should make my approach easier and better, potentially. Now, instead of having to embed an image in the post, I can potentially embed a Link and get a large image and rich link snippet which is clickable. This should increase referral traffic. There is also a controversy over the status of these Links, whether they are NoFollow or DoFollow (oddly they appear to be both). This may portent some change in how Google ranks Google+ posts in Search, or not, but it is something to keep an eye out for.

To be continued…(?)

I love technology and how it changes our lives. There's something almost spiritual about how new technologies connect and empower us. And it's really cool, too.

Google+ Comments