Descriptions, citations, and duplicate content


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What is the best practice for business descriptions used across multiple citation sites. Does using the same description cause any duplicate content or other ranking issues? Are there any benefits to having the same description across citation sites just like NAP needs to be consistent?

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Cheers!
 

Colan Nielsen

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Hi Jamie,

Using a similar or even identical business description on your citations is fine. In reality, you want to be sending out a consistent message about your business, so it would be more natural to use a consistent business description.

What you want to avoid is using a spammy description that is full of keywords. That's what could get you into trouble.
 

Broland

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The best practice is actually to use different descriptions. You don't hear this often because it doesn't support the sales of big data aggregators and companies who syndicate data as well as SEO's/marketers who don't understand how algorithms work or perform their own testing. Also, most people hate doing extra writing.

Using the same description on most sites isn't really going to penalize your rankings, but you are not going to get the full ranking benefits that you could with using unique ones, and it can make a pretty big difference. A few points to consider:

Some sites will actually delete your listings if you use a description that was used elsewhere, for example City-Data. This is because, they know that unique content will result in higher rankings of their web pages.

If you take a sentence from a description that was used on a large number of listings and you search for it on Google with quotations around it, you will see the message about omitted results at the end of the results.

Algorithms used by Google score web pages based on many many factors. To put it simply, the content and uniqueness of web pages are included. Google uses algorithms for duplicate and near duplicate detection.

The score of "citations" is considered into the local algorithm, and unique descriptions actually affect a few different scores for the local algorithms. Having better rankings on these listings also results in them being found more frequently and ending up on the front page of results for local search terms (you've probably seen some before). You can even dominate the majority of the front page for local searches with different listings, the rep management guys/gals do this all the time.

I've tested pretty extensively and concluded that you can use the same description about 3-4 times as long as they get indexed by Google around the same time. I always encourage people to test things out for themselves.
 

Linda Buquet

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Broland that makes a lot of sense. We know the organic algo to some degree just discounts duplicate content it finds - lets say if an article or press release is syndicated out to tons of sites. Now the local algo that is looking for citations to confirm the business is legit and weigh the popularity of a business is a different algo but would not surprise me if it works the same to some degree
 

Broland

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Broland that makes a lot of sense. We know the organic algo to some degree just discounts duplicate content it finds - lets say if an article or press release is syndicated out to tons of sites. Now the local algo that is looking for citations to confirm the business is legit and weigh the popularity of a business is a different algo but would not surprise me if it works the same to some degree
Yes it comes into play with both the local and organic algorithms, and as many know the local algorithm(s) relies on many of the same scoring systems as the organic algorithm(s). Google also has algorithms for detecting and scoring news articles differently, and I think that syndicated/duplicated content on those doesn't get discounted as much.
 
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you can use the same description about 3-4 times as long as they get indexed by Google around the same time.
I am a little bit confused here. How would you assure that they get indexed by Google around the same time?

Colan said:
you want to be sending out a consistent message about your business, so it would be more natural to use a consistent business description.
This also makes a lot of sense to me. The major data aggregators push out your NAP (and description) to dozens if not hundreds of sites. I would be surprised if there was a penalty for duplicate descriptions.

Looks like I am right back where I started and like most things Google the answer is never clear :)
 

Broland

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First let me reiterate that I have not (and I doubt anyone else has) seen any penalties from Google by using the same description on multiple online profiles. But what I am saying is that they are much more effective when you do use unique descriptions.

Since I'm clearing things up, I'll also touch on velocity real quick. You will often hear many providers say that velocity is not a factor. Well most quality sites that you create listings on also include a link back to the site (and sometimes other sites), which is therefor part of your link-building. With link-building, velocity of incoming links to a web page is always a factor. Again that is not to say that there are any penalties for creating these all at once, but velocity is a factor and at times they can be more effective if created over a longer span of time.

I am a little bit confused here. How would you assure that they get indexed by Google around the same time?
It's not so much about ensuring indexing. New webpages on most quality sites will index by major search engines naturally on their own. But things like social shares and a few bookmarks help give them a little boost and can speed up indexing. Also interlinking between profiles can be quite effective (especially if done strategically.)

It is more about the creation and when you use each description. If you are creating 100 online listings over the course of several weeks using 35 unique descriptions, using 1 description 3 or 4 times and then moving on to the next is better than using the same description 4 weeks apart.

This also makes a lot of sense to me. The major data aggregators push out your NAP (and description) to dozens if not hundreds of sites. I would be surprised if there was a penalty for duplicate descriptions.

Looks like I am right back where I started and like most things Google the answer is never clear :)
See above, it's not about avoiding penalties but creating the most effective business listings possible. The answers can be clear if you do some research and testing.
 

Phil Rozek

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I tend to agree with Colan on this. I've done it both ways: some times keeping the descriptions as similar as possible across all the sites, and mixing them up as much as possible other times. Haven't noticed that it makes a difference either way.

Keep in mind that IYPs tend to have different requirements regarding the length of descriptions, so sometimes it's inevitably that you'll use a short version here and a long version there. So in some ways mixing them up - at least a little bit - is unavoidable.
 
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I have never had any issues using the same descriptions for all the campaigns I've managed over the years. I always felt the more your citation sites match with your G+ listing the more beneficial it was for you. Definitely makes sense about the duplicate content but not sure if that applies to the citation sites.
 

Laustin1878

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This definitely holds more water in today's Google landscape. Their recent updates are going after duplicate content among other things. On a local level and has been noted, I cannot see how Google can penalize you being as though most of these business listings feed one another or get pushed to many other websites. I realize that broland is not stating that you may get a penalty.

My initial thought on this is that creating several different descriptions may be confusing to a user. If you can keep the message fairly clear across all the different descriptions, I'm sure it won't confuse the user that much.

I'd love to see if you are willing to share some data or have written about this topic on your site. I like the idea of freshness and uniqueness, especially since it falls in line with what Google is going after. My hesitation when it comes to local is muddying up the waters for users as well as Google, who likes to see consistency when it comes to local information.

As broland also stated, test it for yourself. YMMV. I'm always up for learning something new as long as there is support in some way. Linda also highlights in her training that Google is very picky with information and the accuracy of it across the board.

To be clear, I'm not discrediting anything broland is saying. I would love to see additional support if you are willing to share. I had asked this question before and am happy to see a healthy discussion on the topic. Very relevant question IMO.
 

JoshuaMackens

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I don't think there is any testing you can do on this subject to verify either way unless you did some split a/b testing for a local business which would be incredibly tough.

Duplicate content penalties for citations should not be an issue. As with most Google guidelines, look at the spirit of them. Google doesn't want duplicate content because they are not adding value to the internet. They are regurgitating information already available. They want value. Citations add value, whether they are duplicate or not, as people are beholden to certain local platforms (Yelp user loyalty for example) and just because your listing is the same on multiple directories doesn't mean a Yelp user is going to find it if it isn't on Yelp.

If you don't look at the spirit of the guideline and look at the letter of the law, you would think there are duplicate content issues. Looking at the spirit of it and understanding how Google thinks, I think it's pretty easy to see there is no issue.

However, I do agree in theory with Broland that the unique description may actually make that specific search directory listing rank in Google organic for some of your terms.

I do not think unique descriptions would affect your citation score for the local algo. And if it did, I would imagine it's a minimal amount. I just don't think Google sees unique descriptions for citations as value added.
 

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