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Dear HuffPo: Feel Free To Send Techdirt Traffic

from the plus,-google-should-fix-its-seo dept

Let me kick this of by saying that I'm a big fan of The Verge, which has quickly become a top tech site for many. I don't always agree with what's written there (I don't always agree with what's written anywhere!), but it tends to regularly produce high quality work. The Verge is at its best with its long form pieces that combine well-written narrative with great design and layout. A recent example of this was with its excellent history of the American arcade. That story got passed around a bunch -- I know I had it sent to me at least half a dozen times. It's a wonderful story if you haven't read it.

It was then interesting to see The Verge's Editor-in-Chief, Joshua Topolsky, take to Twitter to demand that Huffington Post remove a snippet and link to that story.
You can see the Huffington Post version here. I'm having a very hard time figuring out what Topolsky is complaining about. The HuffPo piece quotes the first paragraph and the first paragraph only and then has a prominent link to the full story at The Verge.
The original Verge article is 47 paragraphs long -- plus amazing graphics, design and video. So... I'm sort of at a loss as to how anyone might think that the HuffPo snippet and link takes away from the original. HuffPo's Bianca Bosker shot back something along those lines, noting that it was just a short snippet and drove traffic to The Verge:
In response Topolsky explained more that his problem with it was that it hurt The Verge's SEO (search engine optimization) on such stories.
But I'm at a complete loss as to how that's "egregious" on the part of the Huffington Post. It would appear that this is solely an issue with the way Google's ranking system works. I've long thought that this was a weakness of Google. We've had many sites that scrape our content in its entirety -- and, as we've noted countless times -- we're absolutely fine with that. But I am often surprised at how often we see other sources listed above ours in Google. But that's always struck us as a problem with Google (and with how Google views us), rather than anything worth pinning the blame on the sites that copied our content.

In the meantime, though, having discovered in the past just how much traffic a link from HuffPo can drive, we'd like to offer up Techdirt as a site that HuffPo can freely link to whenever they want. We won't complain to them. Though, if Google ranks them higher in search, we might complain to Google...


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 12:47pm

    SEO is a poor metric in this case. If Huffington Post ranks above Verge, then people might go to the Huffington Post. But then they get linked back to The Verge. If the reader is really interested, they will click on through to the Verge. If they are not interested after reading the first snippet, then the Verge hasn't lost much because uninterested readers rarely stick around to click on ads. If anything, the preview saved the Verge a bit of bandwidth and server load which it otherwise would have spent on uninterested readers.

    In some ways The Verge should be happy that the Huffington Post got a better SEO than they were able to get on their own. First, the Huffington Post linking to an article probably helps the SEO of The Verge. Second, apparently the HuffPo had something going for it that Verge did not. Whatever it was, the HuffPo managed to get the link higher in the ranking than Verge. Complaining about that is like a quarterback complaining that the running back gets the ball further down the field than he does himself. You have to remember that the objective is to get the ball down the field as far as possible, and you have to realize that it doesn't really matter whose name is associated with the run as long as points go on the scoreboard. In this case the objective of The Verge should be to get the link as high on the page as possible, and it doesn't really matter whose name it is under as long as the traffic comes back to Verge.

     

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  2.  
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    Atkray (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 12:59pm

    Keyword "theft"

    The use of "theft" is the key. This is more of the entitlement syndrome running rampant.

    Someone else may have possible gotten a benefit from something that is incorrectly believed to be property, therefore it is theft and a wrong must be avenged.

    Any benefits are irrelevant in the face of the mindless blind rage of entitlement.

     

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  3.  
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    dennis deems, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:35pm

    Who uses Twitter

    to lodge a "formal request"?? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:44pm

    You know I never heard of Verge. I've been to Huffpo a few times so know of it.

    The Verge appears to be headed by one that doesn't get the internet is nothing but a huge copy machine. Your computer doesn't work without grabbing a copy of that webpage for display. No one stole nothing as the original site and source is still there in it's entirety, much the same as the argument of theft with copywrite. The advance of technology has rendered the old modes of dealing with problems scrambled and no longer accurate.

    If the Verge is depending on being first when one searches for one of the topics they originated, maybe it isn't about quality at all but rather numbers of eyes on viewership. These leads me to believe (since I haven't been there it's a guess) that this Verge site depends on advertisement for some or a major part of it's income. So if that is the case, it comes down to greed, pure and simple.

    Sorry but no matter how good the quality of somewhere, where I go and support is like when I go to the store to buy something. That is to say, my dollar (or my time) is a commodity I choose where to spend. I don't spend on those products made by companies I don't like. (Hello Mafiaa, getting the message?) Verge has become known to me now by how they act and that tells me I don't need to be there to support them.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:46pm

    Re:

    Exactly. The goal is to get traffic to your site. Who cares if it is a click through from another site or not?

     

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  6.  
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    Crashoverride (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:48pm

    I'm a bit of a SEO luddite. However I always thought having links to your site helped your rankings.

    Furthermore I thought having traffic being sent your way for free is something any website owner would welcome???

    It's a bit like complaining about having someone place an ad for you on the Superbowl versus the index of the local paper.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:53pm

    Hmm, just checked and looks like HuffPo changed their "article".

    "The Verge:

    The defining feature of a "real" arcade, however, is that there aren't really any left.

    Read the whole story at The Verge"

    All that is there now. Kinda sad to see this. I'm a huge fan of The Verge, been so since they first started the site and even before that (when the majority of the staff were still with Engadget). But I can't say this surprises me by and large. The way some members of The Verge staff see things is through very oddly tinted glasses. And that's in general.

    I will say this, that was an amazing article they wrote though. Love the new layout they seem to be using with lengthier articles.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 1:57pm

    Re:

    "These leads me to believe (since I haven't been there it's a guess) that this Verge site depends on advertisement for some or a major part of it's income. So if that is the case, it comes down to greed, pure and simple."

    I honestly hadn't thought of this before, but now that you mention it, as of late they've had a rather surprising number of articles that were being dubbed by commentors "troll/link click bait".

    The reason for this is articles that had nothing to do with Apple were being headlined with headlines that would draw an Apple crowd. Which is a bit amusing, as I mentioned above that they tend to slight devices made by various manufacturers for features that are missing but are "important in this day and age", yet for some reason when these same features are missing in, oh say, an iPhone it is praised and any there is no mention of said feature at all or a fault against Apple/the iPhone for lacking it. This does harken back to the their Engadget days. For those who remember they'll know what I'm referring to.

    They have gotten better about it and are giving slightly fairer reviews and opinions, but still everything is skewered in Apple's favor and the headline thing lately, well... now it makes sense about that.

     

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  9.  
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    MonkeyFracasJr (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:08pm

    SEARCH BY DATE!!!!!!

    I have LONG wished that I could include a meaningful date criteria to my searches.

     

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  10.  
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    Milton Freewater, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:13pm

    Theft of SEO?

    "What's most egregious about this @HuffingtonPost scrape is its theft of our SEO on title and text."

    I guess if a professional editor says "theft" means "supplanting" then it does. But we'll have to update our style guides.

    There is currently no definition of "theft" that makes his tweet make sense.

    I understand what he means to say — it's a familiar problem — but if you want people to respond to your complaint, be honest about what actually happened.

     

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  11.  
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    Another AC, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:17pm

    Re: Keyword "theft"

    Not only that, but I've never heard of theft of something that isn't even yours.

    Even if we grant the odd premise that HuffPo 'stole' their SEO ranking, it still doesn't make sense since a Google ranking is something you earn, not buy or own.

    Again granting the even more confusing premise that someone can 'own' a ranking, even then it would be Google that 'owns' it not the website being ranked.

     

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  12.  
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    Milton Freewater, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:17pm

    Re:

    "I'm a bit of a SEO luddite. However I always thought having links to your site helped your rankings.

    Furthermore I thought having traffic being sent your way for free is something any website owner would welcome???

    It's a bit like complaining about having someone place an ad for you on the Superbowl versus the index of the local paper."

    You're 2/3 right, but the other third is that the eyeballs for the great headline go there first, and only a certain percentage click through. So they help you get readers but they leech your ad dollars.

    All that said, if you call it something confusing and misleading like "theft of SEO" nobody is going to take you seriously. Sort of like other recent willful misuses of the word "theft."

     

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  13.  
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    Lowestofthekeys (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:23pm

    Re:

    Having links to your site does help (I've read that relevancy is debatable), but having outbound and inbound links is even better.

    It's supposed to be a simple way of saying that one site trusts this site, which helps them improve in rank, but it's also driven by the people, which is why the ranking can get so fickle.

    According to Rand at SEOMOZ, it seems like Google is really pushing towards a citation method of improving rank. They apparently studied several sites and noticed they were ranking for keywords connected with their brand name on other websites.

     

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  14.  
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    Milton Freewater, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:23pm

    Also, is this egregious?

    BoingBoing did the exact same thing Huffington did.

    http://boingboing.net/2013/01/17/the-life-and-death-of-the-amer.html

    The story appears below The Verge's direct link in my Google search so there was no "theft of SEO." Maybe Huffington's egregious error was being too big and too effective, not its repost.

    Could also be that the way BoingBoing blocks off the quoted text hides it from spiders, which would be a nice thing for them to do if they did it.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Keyword "theft"

    So true, but what makes in even more insane is when you translate traffic into ad revenue the Verge is effectively saying - stop making us money. That's just batshit insane.

     

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  16.  
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    kenichi tanaka, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:26pm

    The comments have gotten hilarious on Huffington Post for this article. Everyone is slamming Huffington Post for tyhe posting of this article ... not a good sign when you "steal" someone else's work.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:36pm

    Then again...

    Nothing like a little controversy to drive traffic. Who knows? The whole tweet thing could have been a public stunt to get people to go look at both sites and increase traffic all the way around. What's the saying about there being no such thing as "bad press"?

     

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  18.  
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    Baldaur Regis (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:42pm

    Re: Keyword "theft"

    The sense I get from Mr. Topolsky's tweets is that the actual butthurt comes from the 'scraping' of his article (as it's mentioned twice); imagine the agony of having so many people liking your work they're actively looking for it, quoting it and *gasp* linking to it.

     

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  19.  
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    jackn, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:51pm

    Re:

    The verge had a chance, but they blew it.

    'Official Complaints' on twitter. Guess they aren't up on things.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 2:53pm

    I have to wonder, do more people actually google "death of the american arcade" than click on the huffington post link, having arrived at the huffington post through various other means?

    I'm only guessing, but i suspect the answer is no...

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 3:29pm

    Re: Then again...

    shrug, im never going there

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Adrian Lopez, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 3:30pm

    Theft of SEO

    'What's most egregious about this @HuffingtonPost scrape is its theft of our SEO on title and text. Google "death of the american arcade"'

    Does this mean that if I use the phrase "death of the american arcade" on my own web page, I am stealing from The Verge?

    I wonder how Topolsky is able to walk around with balls so huge.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 3:38pm

    I have to agree with AC #20. I would never have thought to search for the topic title, not knowing there was an article out about it unless I read it somewhere else. Yes I do tend to follow links if there is only part of the story and I want to know more.

    It is the link somewhere else that would bring me; not searching for it in google where I am not aware of it yet.

    Still, some sites I will never go to or if I do by accident I will look elsewhere for the same topic once I know it exists. There's the source of Huffpo that didn't give the full topic and of BoingBoing and within an hour all sorts of places to find the same article without having to go to this Verge site.

    Lots of times to get out of the "Hot News" restriction, many will rewrite the article without changing the basic facts, still supplying you with the info.

     

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  24.  
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    Reality Check, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 4:00pm

    Theft of reputation.

    This Verge site should sue Joshua Topolsky for damage to their reputation.

    Since they don't know what 'theft' means anyway, they could sue for 'Theft of Reputation'... After all, stealing a reputation sounds like a bad bad thing. It sounds much worse than the charge of 'acting like an ignorant self-righteous douchebag', which nobody would take seriously as a crime.

    That's why Mr Topolsky ranted on twitter about 'theft', because 'promotion of our site to the general public' doesn't have the desired connotation of being a bad bad thing.

    I for one won't bother reading this allegedly fantastic article on Verge, because they NOW have a reputation for ignorant self-righteous douchebaggery, and I want nothing to do with them.

     

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  25.  
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    Tunnen (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 4:17pm

    But then they will be missing out on "Likes"

    Won't someone think of the poor "Likes" "+1" "Re-tweet" "Dig" counters!

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 5:21pm

    Re:

    HuffPo did change it. They said:

    We posted a paragraph from your 7,700 word story in order to encourage our readers to read it at The Verge. There were no SEO efforts made. Since The Verge feels the paragraph was too much of an excerpt, we’re reducing the length as a courtesy.

     

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  27.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 6:28pm

    I heart the places that scrap content from here.
    Sometimes I go looking for older posts of mine before I regged the name... do you know how many hits AC gets?
    So I resort to using Google and I find my posts on these other sites but they alter some of the words... some of them are disturbing...

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Franky, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 7:35pm

    The Huffington Post is reposting original content, which takes away from the search engine ranking on The Verge. Obviously this was an attempt by Huff to taking traffic from The Verge.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    steve white, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 7:43pm

    Re: Also, is this egregious?

    and then the writer laura june says she's more bothered by the byline which is not shown in the screengrab above

     

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  30.  
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    steve white, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 7:45pm

    Re:

    i guess you might be out somewhere and someone says oh did you read the articel about the death of arcade, oh you must google it...

     

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  31.  
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    Jay, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 7:50pm

    Josh has the maturity of a basement dwelling neckbeard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Magic, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 9:40pm

    I'm sure the fact that his wife wrote it has nothing to do with it at all....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    Cerberus (profile), Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 10:16pm

    Re: Who uses Twitter

    I have sent The Verge a complaint through their "tip us" button. I filed it under "something is broken" (one of their three categories", explaining to them how they are damaging their reputation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2013 @ 10:27pm

    Re:

    Please try again and this time attempt to make sense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 1:39am

    Re: Re:

    "the eyeballs for the great headline go there first, and only a certain percentage click through. So they help you get readers but they leech your ad dollars."

    But... if those who do click through would never have found you without the referring article, how are they "your" ad dollars? What if it's a page with a number of stories, and the one that interests the reader isn't yours - how are they "your" ad dollars? They get the ad dollars for the page they provide, then you get the ad dollars on your site for the traffic that comes through. Assuming that you'd have got the ad dollars if only they didn't go to the first site is where this dangerously slippery slope begins...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    Ellie (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 3:12am

    Re: Pot calling the kettle black plus another matter

    The Verge is a fine one to talk! They shamelessly scraped many paragraphs of content yesterday about an important tech legal type news story, from Reuters UK. I could barely find the link, it was tiny with only one word of anchor text, for attribution. They really shouldn't be complaining so loudly about HuffPo!

    For you in particular, That Anonymous Coward. I read an earlier article of yours, here on TechDirt circa 2011
    about a company's awful behavior toward a person who found a security vulnerability. I really wanted to talk to you, or someone, about that. Please?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    martyburns (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 3:22am

    Re:

    +1 for neckbeard

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    orbitalinsertion (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    Re: Theft of SEO

    Don't bother, you're soaking in it.

    Just count how many times the phrase is used in the comments section here.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 7:59am

    Re: Keyword "theft"

    Seriously. "SEO theft". As if "idea theft" wasn't already stupid enough.
    What's next, "thought theft"? "Theft theft"? "Theft" doesn't even look like a word anymore.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2013 @ 10:05am

    Re: Who uses Twitter

    I'm rationalizing it as "they've heard a few things about the internet but don't really know what they're doing".
    So, in my brain's frenzied attempt at a sensible explanation for their actions, they thought they were publicly shaming HuffPo for "stealing" from them, but ended up only shaming themselves for their poor grasp of how the internet works.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jan 24th, 2013 @ 2:30pm

    One solution

    Why Does Google Still Reward Content Scraping?: "... BI's stub stories rarely show up in Google and almost never outrank the stories they link to. This is by design: 'We put a note for Google in the post's metadata that tells Google to ignore our post, and give the "juice" to the original story. We do this by noting a canonical link,' says Carlson. 'It would be a lousy user experience to come to our site from Google and see "Click here to read the [publication] story,"' he says, noting more generally that it's just 'a nice way to treat other publishers.'"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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