Expert Help, Fake News or Duplicate Content?

Steve BushStarred Page By Steve Bush, 19th Aug 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Internet

Consumers and readers face a challenge when looking for help on the internet. Individuals and businesses need to differentiate between fake information and genuine expert help.

Real or Fake Information?

Web-based marketing and sales take place in an ultra-competitive environment that often seems to have no real boundaries defining permissible tactics for making a sale. For internet readers and consumers, the practical challenge is to overcome an abundance of false information and find the expert help that they need.

During the 1970s, a popular and effective advertising campaign promoting cassette recording tapes asked consumers the following question after an Ella Fitzgerald song was played: “Is it live or is it Memorex?” The desired impact was to make it appear that listeners would have difficulty distinguishing between a live performance and the recorded version.

The similar point to be made today regarding information on the internet is that it often is difficult for anyone to know what is real and what is fake when it comes to information, advice and news obtained on the World Wide Web. Here are some key questions:

• Is the fake news problem getting better or worse?
• How do consumers distinguish between fake information and genuine expert solutions?
• Does duplicate content add to the confusion? Or is it irrelevant?

Fake News and Information on the Internet

Google is currently making excellent progress in cleaning up the duplicate content mess on the internet. This oversupply of duplicate articles was helped along by years of various services promoting “article spinning” that produced hundreds of different versions of one article. The primary goal of this devious marketing strategy was to make it look like there were hundreds of unique pieces of content rather than just one. There were links attached to each article, so the intention was to provide external linking as if there were multiple sources of information rather than one.

In my view, this is simply another variation of how much fake information there really is on the internet. If an individual writes one article and makes it look like they wrote hundreds, how much of their effort was real and how much was fake?

In another growing problem area, there is an effort to eradicate all of the fake news and fake recommendations on the internet. The corrective efforts are being led by various government agencies and some websites that have the most to lose if fake reviews continue. When a company pays someone to publish a positive review of their product or services on a site like Yelp, both consumers and the review website (such as Yelp) are the losers.

There are apparently some “sting operations” being operated by enforcement officials in different legal areas to catch some of the biggest violators in the fake information business. Some companies have made a very good living by helping individuals and businesses to fix their poor reputations by planting fake news on a variety of internet websites.

There is a clever television ad that has recently made fun of believing whatever is heard on the internet. (“It must be true. I heard it on the internet.”) Unfortunately, the real problem for the individuals and companies making a living on the internet is that a growing number of internet users are not just joking when they talk about false information on the internet. Real-life experiences in which individuals and businesses are harmed by fake news and reviews are a serious problem. The credibility and ethics of web-based marketing are both at stake.

The end game is not pretty if everyone keeps losing more and more confidence as a result of what they have read or seen on the internet. The World Wide Web will turn into a big collection of fiction and fictionalized stories.

• Will buyers stop using the internet for product and service recommendations?
• Will sites like Yelp quickly become information dinosaurs?
• How are we supposed to decide what is real and what is fake?

The financial incentives to place false reports throughout the internet community are high given a potential viewing audience of millions and millions of unsuspecting readers and buyers. Ultimately it is conceivable that Google will also play a big role in helping internet visitors to decide which websites to avoid in the search for truth and justice. We should all want to help stamp out the “gaming the system” techniques like article spinning and fake reviews.

Here is a helpful video in which Matt Cutts of Google explains how duplicate content is handled by search engines.

Can You Find Expert Solutions on the Internet?

Advertisers can either enhance or detract from the overall viewing experience when internet visitors are looking for expert solutions and help. You can tell when a site is trying too hard to make money instead of providing genuine help to its readers. The goal, of course, is to do both. An increasing number of sites simply do not get this and are struggling (or not even trying) to achieve a truly delicate balance.

Have you noticed how many internet sites now look like NASCAR vehicles with obnoxious ads plastered all over? There has always been an attempt to get readers to stop looking at what they really want to see. Pop-up ads were annoying to everyone, weren't they?

It is certainly more difficult for consumers to find expert solutions on websites that are addicted to the NASCAR approach to advertising. Content that is excessively promotional is one kind of internet destination that Google’s rigorous search engine algorithm is not bringing to the attention of search engine users. Google effectively stopped sending visitors to such sites. Based on recent traffic counts, they haven’t reversed their decision. This brings me back to the original question:

Can You Find Expert Help on the Internet?

I think one part of the answer is to avoid sites that have devalued expert articles. The list of suspects will vary depending on subject matter. I truly believe that is exactly the message Google has already sent in their own loud and clear way by reducing search engine traffic to certain websites to an absolute trickle.

Squidoo is a great example of a website that was eventually destroyed by issues such as duplicate content and an over-promotional format. This online publisher was created in 2005 and went out of business in 2014 by selling its content to HubPages. For all practical purposes, it appears that Google stopped sending any meaningful traffic to Squidoo sometime in 2012.

Some people still use PageRank as a measure of content quality on the internet, and that is probably a big mistake. As little as Google currently thinks of some “suspect” sites (based on traffic), Google PageRank has remained unchanged for most. For example, even though Google stopped sending internet visitors to Squidoo, PageRank remained stable. That is all I need to know to tell me that PageRank no longer matters in any substantive way. If that is correct, you should not rely on PageRank as a way of finding expert internet help and answers.

When in Doubt, Try an Old-Fashioned Strategy

If you are really looking for expert information on the internet, one effective strategy is to speak directly to the expert in question. Instead of just assuming that information is either true or false, why not contact the expert by phone or email? The most direct approach is especially prudent in an internet world increasingly populated by fake and duplicate information.

Please remember the advice from Sergeant Phil Esterhaus on “Hill Street Blues” — “Let’s be careful out there!”


Duplicate Content, Expert Help, Fake Information, Internet Marketing, Online Publishers

Meet the author

author avatar Steve Bush
Steve Bush is a business finance consultant and writer. He served in the military as an officer in the U.S. Navy Supply Corps. Bush obtained an MBA at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
19th Aug 2014 (#)

most interesting and useful article Steve...than you very much...

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
21st Aug 2014 (#)

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.

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