12 Kinds of Duplicate Content in Local SEO: Which Ones Are Trouble?

There are two intertwined myths about duplicate content:

1: That Google is on the warpath against it, penalizing sites left and right.

2: That duplicate content is a thing – one specific problem.

Neither is true, because of one fact: there are many different types of duplicate content.  (Google says so, too.)

That’s even more true in local SEO – because to rank well in local search you’re not just dealing with your site, but also with a bunch of listings.

Some types of duplicate content hurt your rankings, whereas many are just a mild drag or are harmless.

It’s not bad SOP to try to make all your content everywhere unique.  But sometimes it’s just not necessary, and you don’t want it to suck up too much of your time and distract you from stuff that really matters.

I can think of at least 12 types of duplicate content.  Pay attention to the types that (at least in my experience) might hurt you, and don’t spend time worrying about the harmless ones.


1. Mirror sites
Same content, different domains.  The rationale is that maybe both the sites will rank well, or that one of them will have a call-tracking number to “prove ROI!”

Google’s warnings are strongest for wholesale duplicate content between sites.  In my experience, using mirror sites never ends well.  Either one site ranks OK and the other doesn’t, or neither ranks well.  Mirror sites confuse Google and would-be customers alike.


2. Duplicate / near-duplicate Google listings

Google listings that have nearly identical names, addresses, and phone numbers can hurt your rankings.  Use Michael Cottam’s excellent duplicate-finder tool to uncover them.

By the way, “practitioner listings” often aren’t a problem, in my experience.  (In other words, if you’re a doctor, lawyer, real-estate agent, or insurance agent, it’s OK if you have a listing in your name and the practice or agency has one in its name.)

3. Duplicate citations
Not a big deal if you have 2 very similar listings on, say, MojoPages or Brownbook – one of those little sites.  But do you have one YellowPages.com listing named “Acme Dynamite” and another named “Acme Dynamite Company”?  Delete one of them, or else Google might scrape YP (a trusted third-party source) and create an unwanted Google Places listing for you.

Also, you should be gung-ho about removing duplicate listings on highly visible sites like YP, Yelp, and Facebook.  To the extent you get reviews on those sites, you’ll want to get the reviews piled up on one listing, rather than spread them thin between several listings.

4. Internal duplicate title tags
Does your “Services” page have the same title tag as your homepage?  Google won’t penalize you or anything; it’s just that you’ve lost an opportunity to help different pages rank for different search terms.

5. Duplicate title tags between sites
Similar problem as in point #4.

But there’s an additional problem: if you have multiple sites that include the name of your business in the title tags, you may mess mess up your brand-name search traffic.  When people search for your business by name you want one site to come up in Google, so that everyone goes to that site.  Why?  Because Google loves brands.  The more you can seem like one (i.e. popular offline and online), the better.  But you don’t want to confuse Google as to what site represents your “brand.”

6. Duplicate / near-duplicate pages on your site – particularly “city” pages
I’ve never noticed a site get penalized specifically for barfing up two dozen pages that target different cities by swapping out the city names (“HVAC Contractors Atlanta,” “HVAC Contractors Decatur,” etc.).

But a few problems remain: (1) those clone pages often don’t rank well, (2) even if they do rank well they eventually drop because users pogo-stick away from them, and (3) they usually don’t produce many phone calls.

Low-quality “city” pages aren’t as much a drag on your rankings as they are a giant lost opportunity.  Yours don’t have to suck, though.

7. Reviews cross-posted by customers
Scenario: a customer writes you a nice review on Yelp, so you ask her to write a review on Google+.  Just make sure it’s not the same review.  Make sure the words are significantly different, or the review might get filtered on both sites.  (By the way, Yelp and Google are the only sites that aggressively filter reviews – at least as far as I know.)

Not a problem:

8. Reviews that you copy and put on your site
This isn’t against Yelp’s or Google’s (or other sites’) policies, and I’ve seen so many businesses copy and paste their reviews onto their sites that I’ve concluded it’s just not a problem.

9. Duplicate descriptions between listings
You can use a different description on Yelp from the one you use on Manta, or you can have those descriptions and all your others can be pretty much the same.  (I say “pretty much” because different sites have different length requirements for your blurb, so a little variation is inevitable.)  Doesn’t matter.

10. Website content cross-posted on listings
Want to use a blurb from your homepage as your description on Angie’s List?  Harmless.

11. Google+ posts duplicated on multiple Google Places / Plus pages
If you’ve got multiple locations – each with a Google Places page – it’s OK to publish the same post in each one’s “Posts” stream.

12. Re-posting Google+ reviews
Google allows this.  Very few businesses know that they can show off their Google reviews in their “Posts” stream.

Can you think of any other types of duplicate content, in the context of local SEO?

Which ones have you found to be harmful vs. harmless?

Leave a comment!

50 Examples of Title Tags That Rock at Local SEO

Title tags have been around forever (at least in Web years), and they’re not particularly sexy.  But they’ve always been a big influence on rankings, and probably will be for at least a while.

People ask me how I’d write a title tag.  It’s a good question, but I’d rather explain with examples than blabber on about best-practices.

I’ve rounded up 50 examples from 50 “local” businesses.  I went to all that trouble because you’ll need to go to a little trouble, too: Your title tags can affect your local rankings big-time – probably more than they should.  It’s worth taking the time to write good ones.

Some of these examples belong to clients of mine, but most examples I found just by poking around.

Most of these title tags aren’t flawless (not that there’s such a thing as a “perfect” title tag anyway).  And I’m not saying they’re the reason these businesses rank well.

But these title tags do seem to pull their weight.  All the businesses rank well as of this writing – usually both in the Google+ Local results and in the local-organic results.

By the way, all the title tags are for homepages, not that that makes a difference: You’d go about writing a title tag for a subpage in the same way.

Flip through these 50 examples of good title tags, and see how you can make yours a little better:

Carpentry Boston & Tile Installer – RJT Carpentry and Tile

An Sen Acupuncture in Portland Oregon

Concrete Driveways, Patios – New Brighton MN – Creative Concrete Inc.

Criminal Defence Lawyers Edmonton | Pringle Chivers Sparks Teskey

Nashua Dentist | Todd G Pollack DMD | Cosmetic Dentistry | Nashua NH 03064

Furniture Store – Northern NJ, Bergen County & Princeton | Design Spree

Chandlee Jewelers: Your Trusted Source for Diamond & Gemstone Jewelry in Athens since 1980

Barbara Oliver & Co Jewelry: Engagement Rings, Diamonds, Design, Appraisals | Buffalo Jewelers

Farzad Family Law – Top Orange County Divorce Lawyers & Family Law Attorneys

Ice Dam Removal Minneapolis & St. Paul MN | IceDamRemovalGuys.com

Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery – Austin Dermatologists

Suwanee, GA Dentist – Suwanee Family Dentistry – General Dentist

Car Title Loans in Las Vegas | USA MONEY TODAY

Dentist in Dublin, Award winning | Portobello Dental Clinic

Brunke Chiropractic | Monterey Chiropractors

Back and Neck Center of Brick – Chiropractic & Physical Therapy, Brick, NJ

Tampa Wedding Photographer – Justin DeMutiis Photography – Tampa, FL

24 Hour Las Vegas Veterinary Emergency Care

Welcome to CS Roofing | Roofing Company, Replacement and Repair

Perspective Consulting – Career & Educational Coaching – Oakdale, MN

Concrete Cutting | Concrete Core Drilling Contractor

Window Cleaning & Pressure Washing | Medford, Ashland, S. Oregon

Tucson’s premier Endodontist Root Canal Specialists

Heaven`s Best Carpet Cleaning – Rug Cleaning in Seattle and Tacoma WA

Family Dentist Wheaton IL | Wheaton Family Dental Care

Car and Truck Repair Springfield, MA – Lyndale Garage Inc.

Viva Day Spa | Austin, TX | Massage, Nails, Facials, Skin Care & Gift Certificates

Boulder Divorce Lawyer & Family Law Attorney | Rick Dyson | Home

Dr. Robert Sarro Dermatology in Boca Raton, FL

Skilled Home Health Care in Dallas and North Texas | September Services

Royal Tuxedo | Austin, San Antonio, Laredo

Elwood’s Tree Service in Salem Oregon

Maternity Clothes, Maternity Wear & More | Motherhood Maternity

Lawn Pride | Your Indianapolis Lawn Care Company

NORTH COAST PAVING | Paving Contractor | Cleveland, Ohio

Plastic Surgery St. Louis | Paul Rottler, MD, FACS

LifeCare Dental 9221 2777 Dentist in Perth Open 7 Days 8am – 8pm

Bill the Dog Walker – Premier Dog Walking Service

Laser Hair Removal San Diego | Botox | Avalon Laser Medical Spa

Ann Arbor Towing | Heavy Duty Towing – Michigan Roadside Assistance

S&S Limousine | Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse NY Limo Service

Aplus Computer Service | 10% OFF Coupon “INTERNET632” 973-483-5359

Hairston Appliances – Appliances, appliance repair and parts – Akron, Ohio

Liberty Tobacco, San Diego’s Destination Cigar Lounge for Cigar and Pipe Smokers

Custom Remodeling in Knoxville | Standard Kitchen & Bath

San Antonio Wedding dresses and bridesmaid gowns – Debi’s Bridal

Granite Fort Lauderdale | Custom Countertops | Marble | Quartz

Savannah’s #1 Fence and Deck Contractor

Dunham Associates CPAs – Certified Public Accountants in San Jose, CA

Santa Barbara Chimney Cleaning – Montecito Chimney Service

Do you have any very solid examples of title tags?  Leave a comment and let me know!  (Please don’t include a link; just the name of the page.)

Fluke Business Name for Top Spot in Google+Local Results?

(Update, 7/2: the business names seem to be back to normal; see comments section for more detail.)

Dino Basaldella from Sonoma County Web has asked me a puzzling question:

Why do some business that rank #1 in the Google+Local results have names that don’t reflect either their Google+Local names or their title tags?

For example:

The name of the #1 business is “All Phase Concrete.”  That’s the name of their Google+Local page.

But that’s not the name that’s showing up in Google’s search results, as you can see.  The names that show up for businesses #2-7 exactly match the names of those businesses’ Google+Local pages.

That’s the first oddity: why is the #1 spot treated differently?

The other oddity is it’s not their title tag that’s being shown in Google’s search results – which since late 2010 Google has often used instead of the name of a business’s Google listing.  The title tag of the homepage does NOT say “Phase Concrete”:

Nowhere on AllPhaseConcrete.com does it say “Phase Concrete.”  The footer reads:

Allphase Concrete
1440 Russel Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

This isn’t an isolated case.  Dino also pointed it out to me about a week ago.  You’ll see the same thing if you type in “Santa Rosa automotive repair” or “Orlando automotive repair” (for example) and look at how the #1 listing is named.

I’m stumped as to what’s going on here.

I know about Google’s policy of occasionally modifying how title tags appear in the search results.

But if that’s the case here, I’d like to know why (1) it’s only the #1 spot that seems to be having its title tag displayed in the search results rather than its Google+Local business name, and (2) why it’s being modified in a way that doesn’t make it any more relevant to the search term typed in (e.g. “Santa Rosa concrete service”).

Dino wasn’t signed into his Google account when he noticed this, nor was I when I checked on these results myself.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens if/when a different business is ranked #1, because that business will then probably have its name tinkered-with by Google and the current #1 business will go back to having its Google+Local name displayed in the search results.

Have you seen this before?  It seems new to me, though maybe I’m missing something.

How do you think Google is generating the business names it displays for these #1 spots, exactly?  Can you see any rhyme or reason?

Why only the #1 listing?

Am I just missing something?

If you don’t have any more intel than I do, please speculate!