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Hi all,

[If this question belongs in the multi-location channel, or somewhere else please advise ;-) ]

We're offering a local search solution for various types of attorneys and related financial consultants. The program is layered on top of an existing service that is currently running in about 100 locations across the U.S.

We know from experience that client's almost never write effective, long-form, optimized content themselves, yet they need *something* to match local search intent. On the other hand, creating 25,000 words of unique content for each client would be cost-prohibitive.

The idea is to include a corpus of standard content (blog posts) as part of the package — each client would get the same content, with minor location tweaks. Each post would be professionally written to compete at a national level in terms of length, optimization, keyword clustering, etc.

So here it is . . . we all know the mantra about duplicate content, but we're wondering if it is a legitimate concern in this case, since clients would only be competing in their local markets, let's say Denver vs. Colorado Springs vs. Fort Collins. In other words, the bar is set lower for local search than it is for national search. We're thinking the benefit of the content to clients in local markets would outweigh any concerns about duplicate content.

Do you agree? Is there any problem including non-unique content in this context? Please let me know. Thank you!
 

Phil Rozek

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@Michael Charvet, I would say there's no inherent problem in using that kind/amount of boilerplate content, at least in terms of rankings. The fear of a duplicate-content "penalty" seems to be a myth. Sure, it's extremely common that pages full of duplicate content don't rank, but there's always at least one clear other reason for that. To wit:

1. It's competing against other, similar pages on the same site that do rank.

2. It's competing against a similar page on another site, perhaps owned by a competitor who works with the same duplicate-content-producing outfit, and the competitor has an edge in terms of inbound links or longevity in the search results. In other words, the duplicate content doesn't put anyone ahead or behind, and so the rankings come down to other factors.

3. It's so crappy it never gets enough good links to rank for national or international terms.

4. It's basically on-topic, but isn't too focused on the service(s) or service/catchment area. As in it's got 1500 words on (in the attorney example) notable Supreme Court cases, but no content on the specific types of cases attorneys handle, where clients come from, which offices/attorneys handle those cases, FAQs, case results, reviews, or anything else that local searchers (and Google) actually care about.

The duplicate nature of it is a red herring, I'd say. What I'd look out for are the other problems (above).

If you use that duplicate content and the rankings improve and your clients get clients, great. Both of those things may very well happen, because that plays out all the time. But if either one doesn't happen, then I'd say it's still fine to use some amount of duplicate content, but this time as a base that you add more-bespoke content onto.
 

Josh Shank

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If you make a page and duplicate then tweak a few words per location you can still get away with this. I've done this on a few sites and using rel=canonical can do wonders.

It's similar in a way a way news networks syndicate their content.
 
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No updates at this time because we're still early in the process, and still creating the content. However, no one has suggested a problem with this approach . . . so it's march ahead.
 
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Thanks, @Michael Charvet, for the question and @Phil Rozek for your thorough response.

I'm the in-house DMM for a 25-attorney law firm with five offices/locations, two of which have overlapping service areas (sort of). We're developing new content (plus updating old) for a forthcoming website, with the primary goal of optimizing location-specific subdirectories (firmname.com/cityname) for local search.

We are about finished with the practice area pages for one of the locations, and now face the task of tailoring these to the other four locations.

Assuming that the offices are not in competition with each other and the content has not been copied and pasted from a competitor's site/vendor, are we safe to just swap out location-specific details (basically, city name, office address, contact info) and not worry about rearranging or rewriting the copy for each different location?

Our web design/dev and SEO vendor swears this will run us afoul of the ever-looming Duplicate Content Penalty, but, as the OP mentioned, rewriting dozens of pages (that need to communicate essentially the same exact info to audiences in different places) is very labor/cost-intensive. We'd like to avoid that if at all possible!
 

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