When it comes to local websites I see two scenarios pop up time and time again.
- The multi-location small business or small business targeting several towns in an area
- A local business with several products or services that have similar qualities
When writing local website content, it is very easy to fall into a common trap…
Take the first example. When you target multiple locations with the same business it is easy just to copy your original website content and change a few words – the town or city usually and paste it into new area specific pages.
The second example is similar. You have a range of products or services and in an effort to give more info, you copy and paste whole blocks of text describing how you provide the best (insert service/product), the FAQ, how you work etc.
This type of repeated content is basically shooting yourself in the foot. It may not be exactly the same from page to page, but the odd word changed does not make it different.
Why is duplicate content a problem?
Here in the UK, Google provide over 90% of search volume. Google doesn’t particularly like duplicated content – especially on the same website.
There’s plenty of publicity about how thin or duplicate website content can adversely affect your Google rankings.
Copy and paste may be quick and easy, but it is not your friend.
Local website content – Matt Cutts explains…
Recently Eric Enge interviewed the head of Google’s spam team, Matt Cutts about what makes a quality website. Part of the chat focused on local websites and the issues we face trying to please both Google and search users.
I’ve copied the local content section here, I do suggest you read the whole interview. The comments highlight what a challenge local web copywriters face too.
Eric Enge: Let’s switch gears a bit. Let’s talk about a pizza business with stores in 60 cities. When they build their site, they create pages for each city.
Matt Cutts: Where people get into trouble here is that they fill these pages with the exact same content on each page. “Our handcrafted pizza is lovingly made with the same methods we have been using for more than 50 years …”, and they’ll repeat the same information for 6 or 7 paragraphs, and it’s not necessary. That information would be great on a top-level page somewhere on the site, but repeating it on all those pages does not look good. If users see this on multiple pages on the site they aren’t likely to like it either.
Eric Enge: I think what site owners may argue is that if someone comes in from a search engine and lands on the Chicago page, and that is the only page they see on the site, they want to make their best pitch on that page. That user is also unlikely to also go visit the site’s Austin pizza page.
Matt Cutts: It is still not a good idea to repeat a ton of content over and over again.
Eric Enge: What should they put on those pages then?
Matt Cutts: In addition to address and contact information, 2 or 3 sentences about what is unique to that location and they should be fine.
Eric Enge: That won’t be seen as thin content?
Matt Cutts: No, something like that should be fine. In a related situation, I had a writer approach me recently and ask me a question. He has this series of articles he provides to gyms that own websites. He wanted to know if there was a limit to how many times he could provide the same content to different gyms, yet still have it be useful from a search perspective for his customers. Would it be helpful, for example, if he kept on rewriting it in various ways. It gets back to your frog site example. The value add disappears.
Imagine 4 gyms in the same small city all offering exactly the same advice. Even before you get to what search engines think, users aren’t going to understand what the difference is between these 4 places.
As a user, after reading your content, why would I pick one over the other?
For search engines, it’s the same challenge. Find a way to differentiate and stand out, so that people want to try your product or service and see what they think. When they try it, give them something outstanding and earn yourself a customer.
As you can see, Google want to provide value to their users, not the same information time and time again. They’re not perfect and they do get it wrong. With all the changes over the last 12 months or so, it’s often the small business owner that gets hurt the most.
It’s worth remembering that Google are not in the game to give you business. It’s not a given right to be ranked. I know that sounds harsh.
When you stop focusing on what Google want and concentrate on how to get the word out about your business online, it is surprising how much the two go hand in hand.
Can you provide website content that is useful for users and Google too?
Your business may be part of a chain or franchise or offer the same products as the competitor down the road, so you do need to start thinking outside of the box. Not just for your website content either! Knowing what makes your business, not just different but better is good for marketing of any kind.
Let me ask you a question…
What makes your business special?
There will be something… Get your thinking cap on!
Nope that’s not special, it’s expected. But you could use customer generated content – reviews, pictures, videos saying how wonderful you are.
What about your staff?
Even in a chain or franchise your staff will be different than your local competitor or the business in the next city. Can you highlight your staff?
Your products and services?
Every man and his dog lists features – what are their benefits, why should people come to you?
Discover what makes your business special then write your website content focusing on the end user with a nod in Google’s direction too.
Over to you… What are your thoughts on duplicate content? Have you been hit by Google’s changes over the last year or so?