Start A Fire is reeaally trying to live up to its name. Normally we tend to address third party, indirect MPN issues in our Facebook group.
However, after realizing the multiple Facebook threads from weeks ago have not reached all of you, we decided we should offer all the facts in one accessible place.
What is Start A Fire?
Start A Fire is a viral sharing tool meant to increase the reach of your content when you share it across social channels.
How does it work?
Let's say your site is Sugar Dish Me and your post lives at the following URL:
Start A Fire works by creating a new URL pointing to your page
They use a technology known as reverse proxy, the same technology that powers CDNs such as Cloudflare, so that when someone requests their URL, it grabs the latest version of the content from yours, inserts the Start A Fire sharing badge in the bottom right of your page and serves it to the user.
That badge is the key to their service and what supposedly increases engagement and reach of your content.
Is Start A Fire a good thing?
It can be. We've heard of plenty of sites getting a lot of traffic from this service.
However, it's important to note that traffic is going to Start A Fire pages, unless they click on a link on that page. Then it goes to your site.
But they're STEALING MY CONTENT!
True, by the strict definition of the word. But this is actually a pretty grey area. No question, it's your content on a URL that you don't own.
Start A Fire "owns" all those links. Every pin done by a user is pointing to their own URL. It's similar to how a Bit.ly link or other URL shortening service works.
If you're using someone else's URL you're putting a lot of trust in that company to always be around and to never "steal" those URLs and point to their own stuff.
But why we think this is a grey area is because your content and site still preserve their complete look and feel.
This is similar to how AMP pages currently serve on Google's own CDN. My concern as a publisher wouldn't be over Start A Fire stealing my content, but rather owning the URL.
Is it my traffic if it's on Start A Fire URLs?
That's where the confusing part comes in.
It's definitely their URL, but services such as Google Analytics will register as a pageview, session and user in your Google Analytics account.
This is because Start A Fire is running your site's code in tact, so Google Analytics will run the exact same way as it would on your site, and send the same data to your tracking ID in Google Analytics. The only difference is that the hostname will be set to Start A Fire's domain and not yours.
Fun Fact? This lack of verification of domain by Google Analytics is why Google Analytics referral spam is able to register "false pageviews" to your site.
How about my ads?
If you run Mediavine ads, your ads will continue to serve and you'll get "credit" for earnings since they'll be ads serving out of your ad units in our
However, in the programmatic world, most of our ad partners approve you on a domain level and most buyers are buying based on your domain.
In this case, you're showing them Start A Fire's domain and not yours, so your ads will perform SIGNIFICANTLY worse than if they were to come to your direct URL.
How about SEO? Isn't this duplicate content?
This is actually the one area we're not worried about at all.
Google is quite familiar with what we call "syndicators" in this model.
Start A Fire correctly links to your page as the canonical URL and all links on the page are to your site.
Google is definitely pretty smart and will detect your page as the authority here since Start A Fire is doing everything "correctly" as a syndicator.
Having your content syndicated by other sites is a great way to grow your traffic and audience, and something we've employed with our own sites for over a decade, with great results.
So what do I do?
You have to decide if you want this service or think it's a problem. From our perspective, you'll just have slightly worse performing ads and the potential for Start A Fire to insert whatever code they want onto those URLs. After all - they own them.
We've had reports from publishers that Start A Fire tested running their own ads alongside ours, which could definitely be a problem, but it appears they're no longer doing this.
For sure, you're putting a lot of trust in a third party when you use a tool like this.
If you never signed up for it, or just want out of the service, we recommend a quick email or tweet to them. Publishers have reported that Start A Fire is quite quick to remove you from their service and they'll forward their Start A Fire URLs to your site, even from Pinterest.
Having your content on a service like this has good and bad aspects, just like pretty much anything. At the end of the day, what feels right to one of you may not feel right to another.
We wanted to explain the basic facts about the technology being used, so that you can make an informed decision for yourself.
Please let us know if you have any questions!