As an SEO consultant, I was very skeptical at first: “Open Data and SEO? Can that work? Does it even make sense?” In the meantime, I have had the opportunity to find out more about the topic of Open Data and the concept as it is being implemented by the GNTB and the specialist group that has been formed. I’ll go ahead to say today, “Yes, it can make sense, even from an SEO point of view”! In addition, the following article should also be seen only within the context of search engines. Ecosystems that are not analyzed by Google or Bing, for example content in apps, are to be excluded here anyway.
The big argument against Open Data, at least in terms of SEO, is duplicate content. However, if you know Google’s statement on the subject and know how to interpret it correctly, you don’t have to be skeptical anymore.
Thus, as a website operator, I do not have to make sure to provide 100% uniqueness of content. With this background knowledge it is now necessary to evaluate Open Data from an SEO point of view and to consider in which cases it makes sense (or less sense) to use Open Data.
In principle, from an SEO perspective, there are two possible use cases for Open Data leading to duplicate content:
Own contents are made available as Open Data.
The use of Open Data on one’s own website – i.e. content created by third parties and already published elsewhere.
Application example 1: Own content is made available
If I create high-quality content about a destination, a sight or another (tourist) attraction making it available as Open Data, I have an interest that my content is used and that my information about it is spread accordingly on the net.
Open Data thus becomes an additional distribution channel. I also don’t have to be afraid of duplicate content, because if my website publishes the content first and if it is also in Google’s index, Google understands who initially provided the content. Thus, as the one providing the content, I don’t need to worry about negative SEO consequences.
Application example 2: Use of Open Data on your own website
If you want to use high-quality content from third parties in the form of Open Data, you have to be aware that you will most likely not get top rankings via search engines. For them, the Open Data Content is there to produce less content themselves and thus save budget and capacity.
This could make sense for hotel businesses that operate a website and want to provide additional content, but do not want to produce their own content. This is probably where the alarm bells of many search engine optimizers start ringing, how are these businesses supposed to be visible on the web?
They are right about that, but I dare to say from my experience that it will be difficult for smaller businesses to generate visibility to non-business attractions in their region in search engines anyway. For example, who should be more relevant to the term “Neuschwanstein Castle” than the website of the castle itself?
The question is with which goal Open Data is used
The decisive question when using Open Data is always the use case and the goal of the website. Booking platforms, intermediaries or even marketers of POIs themselves are usually not interested in using open data content and if they do, then only to a limited extent. These platforms have a high interest in producing content themselves and placing it visibly in search engines.
Other businesses that are looking for supplementary content (hotels, smaller guesthouses, etc.), for example, have a high interest in high-quality, editorially verified content that can be used without fear of rights infringement (for example, visual content). However, since these contents are usually expensive (or costly/time-consuming to produce) and the prospect of being visible against the POIs themselves or the Internet giants of our time, this raises the question of the sense of creating unique content.
In summary, I think that the concept of Open Data, as it is to be implemented here, still needs a lot of education. Because only then can the construct work and the idea be successful. In conclusion, from an SEO point of view, I can’t find any arguments speaking against this construct in principle. With the right view of one’s own goals, I can make use of Open Data, or just refrain from it. However, this will not dictate SEO anyway, but rather your own business goals.
Tobias Wollesack is Senior Owned Media Consultant at iProspect. His focus in operational and strategic consulting is on SEO. Among his customers are especially internationally operating companies as well as corporate groups.