Duplicate Content and SEO

Vinolin - theif of blogger content

UPDATE:  Vinolin has taken steps to remedy the problems that were caused.  If you feel your site is being affected by duplicate content, and would like an analysis, please visit our SEO Services Page.  Thanks!

I’m not sure how many of you are aware, but there is a website in the wine that claims to be an blog aggregator for the purpose of “content analysis”. Here is what they say about themselves – Vinolin’s justification for being thieves. To make matters funnier/worse, the layout of their site looks like a slight rip-off of cork’d's.

I noticed Vinolin was aggregating our content when I discovered this post on their site about a year ago. In all honesty, it didn’t really bother me all that much, as they were just displaying the excerpt, and I saw there was a back-link to our site.

Now… just take a look at this page: Vinolin’s Rip-Off of our last post. This link takes you to google’s cached version, I did this in the event they pull down the page after this article goes public. On this page, you see they didn’t limit themselves to an excerpt, they blatantly copied the entire post and displayed it on their site. The audacity is unbelievable, especially considering they are aware that people have a problem with it(as people should).

So, not only do I discover that they are stealing content from our site and others, but as an even further sign of disrespect, they have not managed their robots.txt file so as to keep those articles from being spidered by the search engines. For those of you who are unfamiliar with search engine optimization, most search engines exact a penalty for duplicate content. It is not uncommon that an original creator of content can lose page rank, and even their indexed version of a page if the spider crawls the the duplicate first. The fact that they are providing a back-link doesn’t help anything as they would lead you to believe, because they are not linking back to the original content, they are just linking back to the main page of (y)our site.

In some cases, duplicate content is going to happen, such as occurs with content licensing, and between friends. The simple solution is to use meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow” and place this in your page’s header so the search engines know the content isn’t for them. If you do it this way, google will ignore the content, but still give credit for any links on the page. Unfortunately, Vinolin didn’t get the memo, and seem to be doing it exactly backwards.

I did a quick whois search (here) for Vinolin.com and discovered very little, as the owners seem to be covering their tracks pretty well. So what do you do? First things first, file a DMCA infringement request with Google, with Yahoo!, and with MSN. Another option, which is always on the table, is to file suit. Generally, if the site stealing your work has an owner in the US (which all information points this is the case here), the suit is the most effective means of recuperating your damage, and you can force the violator to shut down their website. Most people recommend sending a friendly letter before calling in the Attorney’s, but hell, we didn’t get a friendly letter from them asking if they could use our content?

Fortunately, one of Grape Thinking’s fields of expertise is Search Engine Optimization, and web marketing. Unlike many others who have probably been damaged by Vinolin’s blackhat tactics, we know how to handle the situation and ensure any damage done is restored. Granted this will take some time and consequentially money, the fun we get out of exposing Vinolin everywhere using our marketing savvy will more than make up for it.

Here is a list of some of the more popular sites being ripped off by Vinolin (here is the full list of the 1,050 blogs and wine industry sites):

Vinography
Good Grape
Lenndevours
Catavino
Fermentation
ReThink Wine Blog
Wine Spectator
Wine Library

If you found this article helpful, please write about this situation, and link back to this post, as it will help us to recoup some of the google rankings we may have lost. If you have any questions, or need any help with your , feel free to request more information.

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Posted in Technology, Thoughts | 13 Comments »

  • Jeff Sonoma

    The owners name is name is Pras Sarkar. pras@vinolin.com

  • Jeff Sonoma

    The owners name is name is Pras Sarkar. pras@vinolin.com

  • Jake

    Thanks Jeff, I appreciate the info! As an update to our readers, one thing that we are discovering as we dive further into this, is that vinolin is even beating us out on some google results.

    Take our latest post for example..”What we’re thinking”.. If you do a google search for the post title (in quotes) you will find that vinolin has placed no. 8 …with our content… We however, place number 22.

    Since we have a pagerank of 5, and vinolin has a pagerank of 4, I can only assume that the disparity in google search results is the direct result of the search engine believing that the content is original to Vinolin, and that we are copying it.

    The only way to truly see how much traffic they are getting from the content stolen from our site, would be to see the google analytics in which one of our posts (on vinolin) was the entry point.

    We’ll keep everyone updated.

  • http://www.vinolin.com Pras Sarkar

    Hi Jeff,

    I run Vinolin and I felt an apology was in order. I’m a little shocked to see such a strong reaction, but I am not shunning the responsibility.

    You are correct in terms of SEO. Yes, the by product of aggregating feeds is that Google believes that Vinolin is the authoritative source on the subject. This is wrong, and I am looking into rectifying this ASAP.

    To set matters straight, Vinolin is not a for-profit site. It has never intended to own or republish any content as its own. It is and will always be a research-oriented site for content analysis. Yes, I agree that there are fallacies in the way we’ve tackled it.

    There aren’t any ‘blackhat’ methods used to purposely get better search rankings. Vinolin is not a company, is it a hobby research project of mine. It doesn’t have anything to gain in getting better search engine rankings.

    I understand your call to issue copyright infringement notices, but I do not think it is necessary. Please email me (or use the feedback link on Vinolin) if you want your site removed, and I will remove it ASAP.

    I have always worked with bloggers and will continue to do so. I apologize if I have not responded to emails, but that’s more to do with my Spam folder than turning a blind eye.

    -Pras

  • http://www.vinolin.com Pras Sarkar

    Hi Jeff,

    I run Vinolin and I felt an apology was in order. I’m a little shocked to see such a strong reaction, but I am not shunning the responsibility.

    You are correct in terms of SEO. Yes, the by product of aggregating feeds is that Google believes that Vinolin is the authoritative source on the subject. This is wrong, and I am looking into rectifying this ASAP.

    To set matters straight, Vinolin is not a for-profit site. It has never intended to own or republish any content as its own. It is and will always be a research-oriented site for content analysis. Yes, I agree that there are fallacies in the way we’ve tackled it.

    There aren’t any ‘blackhat’ methods used to purposely get better search rankings. Vinolin is not a company, is it a hobby research project of mine. It doesn’t have anything to gain in getting better search engine rankings.

    I understand your call to issue copyright infringement notices, but I do not think it is necessary. Please email me (or use the feedback link on Vinolin) if you want your site removed, and I will remove it ASAP.

    I have always worked with bloggers and will continue to do so. I apologize if I have not responded to emails, but that’s more to do with my Spam folder than turning a blind eye.

    -Pras

  • Jake

    This is a copy of my email response:

    Hi Pras,

    As stated in the post, we have not emailed you to address this problem. We felt it would be appropriate to provide you with the same courtesy you provided us…none. We periodically run an analysis of our site’s SEO, and to our shock and amazement discovered our rankings were dropping.

    I feel very strongly about this situation, and am deeply offended that you would take it upon yourself to aggregate content from our (and many others’) site without permission. I find it disturbing that you would launch a site without fully researching the repercussions of what you are doing, and I find it even further disturbing that you feel yours is a service in which bloggers should be forced to “opt-out” vs. the ethical standard of opting-in. How many bloggers are even aware that you are taking their content?

    You state that your site is a “research oriented site for content analysis”. Considering the fact that you do not have permission to use our intellectual property for your content analysis and research, I feel you should enlighten everyone as to the purpose and results of this analysis and research. What are your plans on using the content you have stolen (defined: to take without permission)?

    In reading through your site, it appears that at one time you did implement ads, and took them down. Another ethical mishap rectified at the beckoning of the blogging community? You state you are a non-profit… do you mean that you haven’t yet determined a working revenue model, or that you are a legal 501(c)(3) corporation with non-profit status? You also state that you have recently been “inundated with concerns” from authors who are “notably angry”… yet you are “shocked to see such reaction”… and you don’t even offer us an apology?

    I regret that we have become acquainted under these conditions, and I hope that you can take responsibility for your actions. My recommendation to you would be to contact each and every one of the 1,050 bloggers who’s hard work and dedication you have taken, and let them know the effects you may have had on their site. (taken traffic via Google, damaged their search engine rankings). I would also recommend you advise your site’s users that the content they have been reading was not forwarded by the authors.

    I understand that most developers do not bear in mind the effects their programming has on SEO. In fact, correcting these oversights is what helps keep Grape Thinking in business. If you are not concerned with search engine rankings, you should take my free advice on remedying the issue, which is to include the noindex, follow in the meta of your site. This would be a great way to demonstrate the sincerity of your statement.

    We do not wish to drag this out in some long debate, as it is a well known fact that everyone makes mistakes. The concept of Vinolin is not a bad one, and there are many sites, such as Blogsoop.com that take blog aggregating very seriously and go about it in an ethical manner. If you feel we have been harsh, it is because we feel that our fellow bloggers and businesses are being taken advantage of, and that unless action is taken, you will not work to remedy the problem. Many bloggers are even depending on their websites and content to generate a substantial portion of their income. When you provide their content freely (and with a negative effect to the blogger), someone has to stand up.

    Please note that if your response is not publicly posted, I will make it available to our readers.

    My regards,

    Jake

  • http://www.vinolin.com Pras Sarkar

    Hi Jake,

    I just read my comment again, and to clarify, when I said “I felt an apology was in order”, I meant an apology from my side, not an apology from you. Reading it again, I can see how it was misleading.

    Let me clearly state the goal behind Vinolin. It is a non-profit research project. There is no revenue model and there never will be. I have a day job, and this is my after hours hobby. The research initiative is to analyze blogging content within niche communities such as the wine industry. I analyze patterns in closely connected peer groups through link sharing and the effect of personal tasting notes in the social graph.

    Content appropriation through aggregation is a highly debated issue and there are definite gray areas. The way Vinolin aggregates data currently is to save a snapshot of the RSS feed of each blog. The extent of the content is only what is available in that RSS feed. There is no ‘spidering’ involved where Vinolin purposely tries to replicate or gather more content than what is already available through the feed.

    Again, my goal here is not to defend Vinolin but to make sure the salient points are agreed upon:

    1. Vinolin does not want to take any credit for the articles that are aggregated. To this effect, I will try to highlight links to original sites, and will also display a truncated view of the original content. Also, I will change the interface to make it clear to the reader that they need to visit the original blog for complete and accurate information.

    2. Vinolin has and always will have an open opt-out. As I stated in my earlier post, please let me know if you want to opt out, I will remove your blog from the list ASAP.

    3. I am very sensitive to the fact that many bloggers rely on revenue generation through their blogs. It is not my business to steal pageviews and ultimately affect their bottom line. To this effect, I will make changes (as stated in (1)) and any other changes that will help this cause.

    Jake, if you would like to discuss this further, I am open to starting an email thread on the best way to handle things moving forward.

    -Pras

  • http://www.vinolin.com Pras Sarkar

    Hi Jake,

    I just read my comment again, and to clarify, when I said “I felt an apology was in order”, I meant an apology from my side, not an apology from you. Reading it again, I can see how it was misleading.

    Let me clearly state the goal behind Vinolin. It is a non-profit research project. There is no revenue model and there never will be. I have a day job, and this is my after hours hobby. The research initiative is to analyze blogging content within niche communities such as the wine industry. I analyze patterns in closely connected peer groups through link sharing and the effect of personal tasting notes in the social graph.

    Content appropriation through aggregation is a highly debated issue and there are definite gray areas. The way Vinolin aggregates data currently is to save a snapshot of the RSS feed of each blog. The extent of the content is only what is available in that RSS feed. There is no ‘spidering’ involved where Vinolin purposely tries to replicate or gather more content than what is already available through the feed.

    Again, my goal here is not to defend Vinolin but to make sure the salient points are agreed upon:

    1. Vinolin does not want to take any credit for the articles that are aggregated. To this effect, I will try to highlight links to original sites, and will also display a truncated view of the original content. Also, I will change the interface to make it clear to the reader that they need to visit the original blog for complete and accurate information.

    2. Vinolin has and always will have an open opt-out. As I stated in my earlier post, please let me know if you want to opt out, I will remove your blog from the list ASAP.

    3. I am very sensitive to the fact that many bloggers rely on revenue generation through their blogs. It is not my business to steal pageviews and ultimately affect their bottom line. To this effect, I will make changes (as stated in (1)) and any other changes that will help this cause.

    Jake, if you would like to discuss this further, I am open to starting an email thread on the best way to handle things moving forward.

    -Pras

  • http://www.vinolin.com Pras Sarkar

    Jake,

    Another point that I just noted was that Vinolin doesn’t index 1,050 blogging sites (as noted by the Google search result).

    That number is perplexing to me as I only have about 200 blogs that I’m tracking (I just verified it in my database). I’m not sure where Google is getting that number from.

    -Pras

  • http://www.vinolin.com Pras Sarkar

    Jake,

    Another point that I just noted was that Vinolin doesn’t index 1,050 blogging sites (as noted by the Google search result).

    That number is perplexing to me as I only have about 200 blogs that I’m tracking (I just verified it in my database). I’m not sure where Google is getting that number from.

    -Pras

  • Jake

    Pras and I will be discussing this matter via telephone later this evening in an effort to address solutions for the concerns that have been brought up.

    We appreciate the willingness to make things right, and look forward to helping in anyway we can to ensure the best outcome for everyone.

  • Iain

    Another site doing a similar thing (with full posts) is http://www.winewonks.com. Although your site is not included.

  • Iain

    Another site doing a similar thing (with full posts) is http://www.winewonks.com. Although your site is not included.

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