Does Duplicate Content Hurt Local Rankings?


Yan Gilbert

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So I noticed today that a large web design company that specializes in the health field is reusing the same content for their clients.

I noticed a few duplicates when researching and then I searched in Google using full sentences in quotes, pages of content with 500-800 words were all the same, over 1500 times!

Basically all of the Services pages of every one of those websites are all duplicated thousands of times.

These are all local health practitioner websites located across North America.

I'm wondering if this would be impacting them being found for the keywords in those Service pages, or because the nature of local that these practitioners are spread out across different cities that it wouldn't matter?
 

BenFisher

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The local and the organic algorithm more than likely treat duplicate content the same way. I had a client recently that had 100+ pages of duplicate blog content, they ended up getting removed from maps (relevance wise).
 

Phil Rozek

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In my experience, cross-site boilerplate duplicate content like that does not hurt your rankings in and of itself. If you’re one of those 1500 or so, the cleaning up the drivel and making the content more unique alone probably won’t cause your rankings to take off. What’s even more puzzling is to see another business with the same “content” outranking you. (“Hey, they have the same junk on their site, so why are they outranking me?”)

Here are some problems I’ve noticed with widespread duplicate content like that:

1. As you say, it’s not very geared to the practice’s local area. Sure, someone may have swapped out the city name, so there’s a phrase like “best dentists in [city]” every few pixels. Tut that’s usually not enough to rank well.

2. It tends to be short on relevant internal links. That’s a hassle for the web design company, the “scaling”-obsessed purveyors of garbage.

3. The title + description tags tend to be generic, too. Even if a page ranks organically for a term, few people will click through. It seems to hurt one’s rankings long-term if you’ve got a page nobody seems interested in.

4. The owner of the site is stuck in a rut and doesn’t even know it. He/she thinks, “Oh, I had my web design company take care of my pages. Why am I not ranking? It must be that 6 blog posts a month isn’t enough, and 300 citations isn’t enough - or maybe I should buy a few exact-match domains….” When the static content sucks, rankings come down even more to one’s ability to earn good links and reviews, which the busy doctor is even less likely to be serious about, because those things are even harder than taking the time to write your own pages. Nailing the one-time content (the static pages) is one of the last advantages available to the a business owner who’s too lazy to work hard on the ongoing stuff. With the web design company that churns out 1500 identical sites, even that’s no longer a potential advantage.
 

JoshuaMackens

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It's been awhile since we've done a significant cleanup of a client who had duplicate content but in our experience, your website will not rank with significant amounts of duplicate content. Our last client we had to clean up like this (1.5 years ago) saw their rankings skyrocket after we made the website 100% unique.

This doesn't mean rewriting all the content. Some of it may be worthless and you can just 404 it. But it does mean making the site 100% unique.

Does it still work? I'm not exactly sure but I can tell you that's the 1st thing I would do. That way I could check it off of my list of things that might be causing issues. Local SEO isn't so much about work that moves you forward, many times it's about work that keeps you from being set back.
 

Yan Gilbert

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Thanks for the replies everyone.

I did read your previous article about this Phil, and I agree with your point #2. There are no internal links on any of these pages, so they are definitely missing out on that.

I'll give an update on what I find when I have more time after the holidays.
 
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If you are trying to improve rankings and overall organic SEO traffic, one of the first things we normally do is eliminate duplicate content.

Last time we did it, we did see an overall boost in traffic and rankings.
 

HoosierBuff

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Just came across this thread today, as I am working with a Replacement window company that has the same content in 50 other sites.

From what I can tell, they aren't being harmed by it - the site ranks quite well today using content that is on all these other sites. I may try to change things up to see what happens, but, from what I have seen, at least with this site, I agree with Phil. . . no real harm in the rankings.
 

JoshuaMackens

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Just came across this thread today, as I am working with a Replacement window company that has the same content in 50 other sites.

From what I can tell, they aren't being harmed by it - the site ranks quite well today using content that is on all these other sites. I may try to change things up to see what happens, but, from what I have seen, at least with this site, I agree with Phil. . . no real harm in the rankings.
No harm in rankings that you are aware of. It might be that the site ranks well because of poor competition or higher metrics for your client (quality backlinks, citations, etc.).

Two points on why it would be wise to eliminate duplicate content:

1) You never know what Google might do next with duplicate content where the effect might be even harsher.

2) You never know when a competitor might come in, take your spot, and then you clean up the duplicate content and pop above him. You can avoid that risk by just doing it now.

"Ranking well" is a relative term. You rank well compared to your competition. If there is a small city with a few HVAC companies, the guy who ranks #1 technically "ranks well" but might also be suffering from a Penguin penalty. But because his 3 other competitors have a Penguin & Panda penalty, he ranks better than them and effectively "ranks well".

You never really know how far ahead you are when you rank #1, #2, #3, etc. You just know you're ahead. Are you ranking far above them? Who knows, you may only be hanging on by a thread and just 1 extra citation for your competitor is going to knock you down and them up.

My point in all of this is to say it's better to eliminate all issues, just in case something happens.

But I certainly understand feeling comfortable with good rankings.
 

HoosierBuff

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"Ranking well" is a relative term. You rank well compared to your competition. If there is a small city with a few HVAC companies, the guy who ranks #1 technically "ranks well" but might also be suffering from a Penguin penalty. But because his 3 other competitors have a Penguin & Panda penalty, he ranks better than them and effectively "ranks well".
This is a great point. . that definitely could be in play. It isn't a huge town (Richmond, va), and it's not a big vertical. I am surprised that they are far and away the #1 ranked despite have fewer links (measured by a few different sources).
 

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