Regional SEO No Problem With Duplicate Content

Posted October 27, 2011 by .

 

Duplicate Content Regional SitesA lot on the web related to SEO is pure speculation. The Internet Marketing industry has it’s gurus and there are a lot of people that claim to be able to do the work of an SEO and do so successfully. But that’s not the point today. Today we’re just going to speculate and ask some questions. Feel free to answer them as best you can and maybe even shed some light on the issue of duplicate content and the Panda updates as well.

Attack Of The Pandas

Some time last year Google notified the world that they’re releasing a new aspect of their algorithm that basically checks web pages for quality – they called the update Panda. As we know, quality can be a relative term and in the case of web page copy we can safely ask the question “what constitutes quality?”.

Well as we know there’s been a lot of speculation and one of the most popular ideas floating around is the problem with Panda and a website’s duplicate content. Google even reduced the rankings of a few sites citing each of them with low quality content scores. As an extra bonus we had thousands of website owners hitting the forums complaining that their rankings have gone down – and they should have. So what’s my point today?

Is Duplicate Content Really That Dangerous?

Well that’s a great question. Our answers will based on a few facts. Here’s one of them.

  • We don’t know the exact way nor the full extent as to what Google uses to determine the quality of a page

Simple isn’t it? We all wish it was but when it comes to Internet marketing and SEO we’ve got to be on top of our game. So let’s delve a bit into the speculation part of this and see if we can find some answers. Does duplicate content for local listings matter? Let’s find out!

For starters let us try to determine if duplicate content would really matter to a user.In the following scenario we’ll list out what could be completely possible with respects to how a searchers uses Google and your website.

Scenario#1

  1. A user searches for a local dentist in Toronto
  2. A user sees several dental listings in Google places or in the organic search results
  3. One or even some of those dentist listings have content on them which was taken from a popular dental site in Florida
  4. The user clicks on one of those listings
  5. The user reads the duplicate (stolen) content and finds it informative enough to make a decision
  6. The user decides to either call the dentist or use the contact form to do so

Now do you see what I mean? Well if you don’t my question now is does Google (the world’s TOP search engineers)? In this case we could speculate that Google can determine if a page (even though the content is duplicate) is still useful to a user and I would venture to say that I believe Google has taken the above scenario into consideration and that if there is a filter with respect to it, it’s a very minor one.

Scenario#2

  1.  A user search Google for a local auto-body shop in Oakville
  2. A user clicks on the first listing which happens to be a virtual duplicate of the content of an Ottawa body-shop
  3. The user likes the information, finds it useful and information
  4. The user makes a call to the website
  5. The website owner makes a sale and a new customer and the customer finds what they’re looking for

As you can see the above two scenarios clearly illustrate situations where duplicate content wouldn’t negatively affect the user. But when would duplicate content become an issue, not only for the user, but for Google? Let’s see if we can figure this one out.

When Duplicate Content Does Matter

Well there’s been so much talk of Panda, webpage quality and duplicate content over the past year that there’s got to be something important on the matter correct? Well you’re right. The Panda update isn’t a joke – it’s real and many sites are suffering from it.

So when does it matter?

  • if you’re a news publishing website that publishes aggregate news information from across the web and displays  that news content on your website then you may see a reduction in your rankings
  • If you’re scraping content from other sites and republishing their content on yours you may have a more difficult time ranking in Google.
  • discussion forums that can generate both regular and stripped-down pages targeted at mobile devices
  • store items shown or linked via multiple distinct URLs
  • printer-only versions of web pages

The last three bullet points where taken straight from Google’s explanation duplicate content but now we have a problem. Take a look at Google’s quote below:

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar

OK so what about our above two scenarios with the two businesses that have taken content from other similar sites? Well as an experienced SEO I can attest to the rankings of a current client of whom I’ve discovered did contain large chunks of duplicate content on their regional service website but are, after a lot of off-page SEO (link-building and article submissions) ranking on the first page or number one on Google for many keywords related to their industry with regional search parameters appended to the search.

How Does Google Feel About Duplicate Content On Regional Service Sites?

Well that’s a good question and I answered it above. It’s not a definitive answer but we’d be very safe to speculate that Google doesn’t care about duplicate or stolen content on local sites. I stress the word speculate but the speculation is based on facts – the fact remains, the site in question (the client mentioned above) is ranking high all over the place.

What If You Own Several Websites With The Same Content?

This could be a whole other ball-game. Before the Panda update came out, people were calling it the Farmer update. Why? Because apparently Google was targeting websites that farm content – uses the same content on a number of owned websites.

What’s The Take Home?

OK I’m going to be really careful here. For one, if you have content on your website that was taken from another site or still resides on another site and have seen a drop in your rankings you may have been hit by Panda and should re-write your content. After you do so check your rankings within at least a few weeks to see if there’s been a ranking increase. If you haven’t seen any ranking changes for the worse, you’re probably in good working order and need not worry about your content – again most especially if you’re a regional service site.

That’s it. If you’ve experienced otherwise or something similar to my above conjecture please feel free to comment below and share your experiences.

Has duplicate content really affected you or your client’s website?

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