I’m just a blogging neophyte who wanted to learn something new and add a creative outlet to my life. As a new dad, I’ve researched, evaluated, purchased and experienced a plethora of baby related products and issues so I thought I would share some of my two-bit wisdom with others via a blog.
Some of my general criticism about blogging has always been that a lot of it lacked true original content, was merely commentary on someone else’s commentary and was often circular conversations among sometimes artificial groups that created a lot of noise. Rising above that noise has become truly challenging which has in turn created more noise about how to rise above it. But I digress…
So I went about tinkering with my blog theme, adding plugins, creating a twitter account and writing posts as best as I could. In late December I came across an issue that I thought was under-reported and decided to write a post regarding the ban in Belgium and France on the sale of those popular foam floor mats that often cover our children’s rooms (you can read about it here).
Things were relatively quiet over the New Year but the post started gaining momentum as it got shared by various people on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere and the hits started to increase over the last week. I was giddy to see my Google analytics page bump up with hits from around the world. It was also interesting to watch the post rise in the google search rankings as it got more hits and more recognition through tweets and comments. To get a mere 100 views in a day was pretty sweet for this little amateur.
From a purely academic point of view (ok ok, vanity too), I greatly enjoy looking at visitor data, country locations, traffic sources and keyword searches on my Google analytics page. I can also see firsthand the power of Facebook in terms of driving traffic (more than google searches in this particular case) and that people really search for some random things sometimes. So when I did a keyword search yesterday morning I saw that my post was #1 on Google results. Yeah Baby! Except that… further down there was a post that had the exact same title.
Curious I clicked and found MY EXACT SAME POST on another website. It wasn’t a post about my post (I know one can create a LOT of content that way with little new thought), but a complete duplication just in different font colors. Oh No You Didn’t!
Fair use, basically unethical or simply plagiarism?
Here are the facts:
- Permission was not sought to publish the article on their website
- There was no by-line at the top attributing the article
- It was copied essentially in its entirety including links, paragraph formatting and video embed
- At the bottom of the page there was a link to papalogic.com, but with no explanation as to why or that it was the source of the article (Note:the embedded url was later updated to link to the post itself following my initial complaint)
- According to wordpress, there are no trackbacks/pingbacks from this article
- According Google analytics, there are exactly zero referrals from this website back to my article
At the same time:
- On the website’s Twitter page there was a tweet linking back to my post on their site
- On the the website’s Facebook page, there was a wall post linking back to my article on their site
So basically, all the traffic was being redirected to MY article on THEIR website, essentially hijacking the traffic that my content has generated. Today for example, my post was displaced from the #1 spot.
The Stern Email
The fact that the article was re-used, though annoying, could perhaps slide. I’m pretty lenient and easy going with respect to commenting and questionable pingbacks, but this one hit a nerve. The fact that the article was being used to drive traffic to another website rather than mine and that the fundamentals of social media were being broken pushed me to act.
I contacted the website via email and voiced my disappointment that my content was being used without attribution and without permission. I will spare you details of the conversation, but it did take several emails to explain that, regardless of whether you are an ad-revenue-generating, good-cause-focused news website , you cannot just use someone else’s content without asking them or giving them credit – even if they are just a little guy in the blogosphere. Sure, some people probably do not mind, but those are usually product pitches looking for air time and distribution.
After a request to remove the article altogether, the post was later altered to include another news article and some clips from mine with some “papalogic wrote…” and “read more at….” Not much original thought, but fair enough by internet standards. Happy enough.
Don’t mess with my circle of traffic!
So, problem solved. But all this got me thinking about how web traffic gets built and how it can so easily get destroyed when someone or something disrupts your Circle of Traffic.
This is probably obvious to the experts out there who preach (via an ebook of course) the importance of leveraging multiple methods to drive traffic to your blog beyond just good content, like keyword use in articles, commenting, Twitter interaction, Facebook fan pages, RSS, etc. but I began to visualize sources of traffic and the paths they take.
As you can see, the post is at the center with all traffic (red arrows) leading back to it. Another title for the slide would be “All Roads Should Lead to Your Post, Not Rome”.
The key actions a blogger takes at conception (blue arrows) are designed to initiate the traffic flows and are designed to drive everything back to the post (or the main blog).
At the same time, effective use of other channels drives others to create more traffic in the post’s direction through re-tweets, re-blogs, sharing on Facebook or elsewhere (green arrows).
We also know that the super secret sauce at Google and other search engines (probably just thousand island or ketchup & mayonnaise) takes into account all that “chatter” as it decides whether to push a link up or down its search rankings. Depending on how noisy the niche is, the chatter may ultimately – if you’re lucky – reach a point where things go viral or the post reaches the top of the search rankings for a prized set of keywords. That’s right, you’ve reached blogging nirvana. Now start again and right another post.
So what does this have to do with the beginning of this post?
As I sat there yesterday, pondering the situation, I realized that I was not so upset that my content had been re-used. Rather, I was steaming because my traffic had been hijacked. By repurposing the content as its own and leveraging social media channels, it was re-directing content to its website rather than my blog. Even if there was a tiny link somewhere on the page, all the traffic terminated right there and never made it made back to me. At the same time, the chatter it was creating in its own social media sphere of activity was raising the page rank of its version of my post on the back of mine.
It’s quite common for major websites (the lifehackers, gawkers, gizmodos of the world) to create a lot of content by mentioning and re-using other posts but in those cases the traffic is always redirected to the original content in a very obvious and prominent way, often creating server problems for that little guy if he’s not expecting the spike.
So there you have it: Go ahead, re-use my content, just don’t mess with traffic!