Someone on the BoS board asked a question today about how to execute linkbait well.  I have an article on this blog about that, and wanted to paste a link, so I used my usual link repository — Google.  I have a photographic memory for titles and can’t remember URLs to save my life, for some reason.  Anyhow, the exact query was [developing linkbait for a non-technical audience], which as an exact match for the title Developing Linkbait for a Non-Technical Audience should be a cinch for Google.

And, indeed, it was.  Every one of the first ten results was about the article.  The problem?  Well, take a look: (photo slightly edited — I moved the query over from the right side to the left side so it would fit in my wordpress theme)

 Duplicate Content Penalty 

Yep, that is right — all ten results on the first page are about the article, but the article itself doesn’t appear at all.  Welcome to the Duplicate Content penalty — Google thinks I am plagiarizing one of those results and, as a result, assumes my blog is not a relevant result for the query.  Oofdah.

What can I do about it?  Not much.  This post may well cause that query to rerank.  Luckily, it isn’t a commercially significant query for me.  I’m mostly pointing it out to demonstrate what it looks like to get your site penalized by Google — any time you can punch in a title verbatim and have folks who linked to it appear before the article itself, you can be positive you’ve been penalized.  Luckily, the penalty does not appear to be applied to my site at large, as I still rank for the title of my blog, and obvious strings for which I’m the canonical result that don’t appear on the page itself.  (Patrick McKenzie blog, Bingo Card Creator blog, etc)  Those are the tests you’d want to perform if you suddenly see yourself de-rank for something you should rank for, by the way.

What caused this?  Well, if I’d have to guess, it was either the Sphinn (a social network for SEOs) post (a decent bet, since that is the #1 result) or perhaps one of the verbatim copy/paste jobs from those .info spamblogs.  Really freaking irksome, either way.  Since you can’t control people scraping or linking to you, I recommend not worrying about it, but should this happen to you on a page you care about, an inbound link or three from a trusted site will generally cure it.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.