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Seeing Double  Duplicate Content Thats Confusing To Search Engines
Shaun Smith

Seeing Double - Duplicate Content That's Confusing To Search Engines

Our latest blog comes directly from the client mailbag. At Sparkable, we’ve recently come across two different clients that came to us with a similar pain point: they weren’t showing up on Google for their industry keywords.

These clients worked in different areas of the healthcare industry, owned their domain names for nearly a decade and were each paying a different big name company to maintain their websites and perform search engine optimization services. So, why wasn’t it working?

In both cases we found duplicate content to be the main culprit hindering the search ranking for these local businesses, even though Google officially doesn’t have a duplicate content penalty. But Google does recognize that duplicate content can lead to a poor user experience, which in turn will affect page ranking. From the Google Webmasters support forum:

“However, in some cases, content is deliberately duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic. Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.”

You’re probably wondering how we figured out that duplicate content was leading to poor search performance. The simple answer… we tested it.

What we found were pages, literally word-for-word the same, as other pages found in the same industry across the Internet. The common thread - they were built by the same companies.

In both cases, these websites were built by companies that market themselves to specific industries. I’m sure you’ve seen these before on a smaller scale but at this point there marketing companies that claim the be the “Website and SEO experts that know how to get you ranked #1 on Google for:” plumbers, doctors and lawyers.

The fact is, these marketing providers often rely on a large network of content that comes from one giant pool. They then fill your pool and everyone else’s pool with the same water. So the “resource library” on your website or “industry news network” that shows up on your homepage is also going to anyone else who subscribes to the same service. The main problem here is that Google and Bing don’t know which web page contains the original piece of content.

So how does this affect your search ranking? When you and your competitor across town are using the same service, Google sees you’re providing the exact same content and therefore will often let your third, fourth and fifth competitors slide above you two in search results. If your user is searching for a broad keyword, the marketing service or its resource library will rank higher than your website.

Through Google Analytics tracking we’ve created key performance indicators to measure the awareness, retention, exchange and activation of each of these sites before and after we eliminated duplicate content. After a few months, the primary url for both sites were ranking higher for their top 10 keywords and both sites saw a significant increase in new visitor traffic.

Now of course, there are other, less malicious examples of duplicate content that may not affect your search ranking; multiple product listings with different colors, for example, should not lead to a drop in performance.

In summation, be careful out there friends. Often times in life if a solution seems too good to be true, it probably is, and big name marketing firms don’t usually offer customized solutions.

Feel free to contact us with your questions about search engine optimization and to learn how we can help your business achieve its marketing goals.