by Colan Nielsen
At our April LocalU event, I covered Shades Of Grey: Controversial Local SEO Tactics that Drive Results. I covered local SEO tactics ranging from keyword stuffing to review snippets in the organic search results. One of the topics I discussed, which always draws a wide range of opinions, was the concept of creating service area pages that have duplicate, or very similar content.
Duplicate, or similar content has always been a controversial topic. Google has confirmed on many occasions that duplicate content is not a negative ranking factor. It’s understood that Google can filter duplicate content from the search results, however, we have observed that when it comes to creating service area pages, they can rank and drive traffic and leads, even if the content is duplicated or very similar.
In my presentation, I used the example of a service area business that had 35 service area pages created over the course of a few years. The content across these pages matched 84% on average, according to Siteliner.
Here’s what Google has to say about duplicate content in Google Search Central:
Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.
Did I mention duplicate content is a hot topic?
If you perform a search at the Local Search Forum for duplicate content, you will quickly see that this has been a hot topic over the years. I would encourage you to head over there and check it out.
- “I don’t think using similar content on different locations is a big deal at all if you’re not targeting the same geographic areas. After all, there is only so much you can do to get “unique” content about dental implants for all the thousands of dentists that exist in the country.” (Joy Hawkins)
- “We’ve noticed competitors who have provided their clients with much more thorough content (3 to 4 times the word count) but use the same content for dozens of dental offices.” (Creativedge)
- “We have been slowly dropping in some of our key cities and the only thing that I can think that could be hurting us is that each of those 500 cities have their own landing page where the content is the exact same besides changing the city name and phone number throughout the text. Could this be hurting my site?” (Hunter23)
How did the service area pages perform?
Pretty darn good! In aggregate, the service area pages drive a lot of traffic, and more importantly, conversions.
What are the pros and cons that we have found with this tactic?
- Increased visibility
- More traffic
- More leads
- Not always effective in competitive markets
As far as I am concerned, when it comes to controversial tactics, such as this one, you have two potential paths forward.
- Do it yourself
- Don’t do it and lose to your competitors
But please, don’t whine, and don’t be on the fence about them, and always remember to watch what Google does, and not just what they say.