Why Your Site Doesn’t Show Up in Search: Duplicate Content

You’ve gone through the trouble of setting up a website for your practice, but you’re not getting many visitors. What gives?

It could be that you have duplicate content on your website, which search engines don’t like to rank highly.

“What’s duplicate content?” you ask. Well, duplicate content is any content either copied from another website or content that you’ve place on more than one page on your own website. Duplicate content on your own website is fairly easy to handle, and we don’t see it as much as we see duplicate content that’s come from another site.

Here’s how we see it play out. In an effort to speed up communication, healthcare practices either use pre-made patient education materials to delve into the specifics of what they do, or they sometimes end up grabbing content from other websites.

In the short run, they’ve taken the necessary steps to help inform their patients, but they are missing out on opportunities to reach out to new patients.

Getting Specific

Here’s a real-world example.

“Dr. Smith” is a cardiologist who often treats congestive heart failure. He pulls together some information from a few websites and creates a composite article for his own website. It’s not exactly a copy of any one page, but he did not write the content himself.

Later, Dr. Smith wonders why he does not rank in search engines for the phrase “congestive heart failure.” Even when he adds his city to the end of the phrase in Google (“congestive heart failure Minneapolis”), his website still does not show up. He has informative content online, but he is nowhere to be found.

Unfortunately for Dr. Smith, search engines are very good at detecting content that has been copied over. His website isn’t being “penalized” per se. After all, Dr. Smith isn’t trying to trick search engines into giving him something he doesn’t deserve. But, there are better sources for information than what Dr. Smith has assembled. He’s not bringing his own learning and experience to the table. He’s merely regurgitating what he’s seen elsewhere.

Temporary Wins

Sometimes, copied and pasted content will earn a first page result in search engines for smaller markets. This is because search engines have nothing better to place in that spot.

However, what looks like a “win” today will disappear as soon as someone writes an original piece. As the online space continues to grow more competitive, those temporary wins are disappearing faster and faster.

A Word of Caution

As we discuss this topic, we’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up the fact that some people get rather frustrated by others taking their content. In fact, their work may be copyrighted, and you may not be allowed to copy that information to place on your website. Depending on the source, you could end up receiving a stern warning from lawyers requesting that you remove the content.

Yes, that may be more of an exception than the rule, but it is a possibility that practices should be aware of.

How to Know if You Have Duplicate Content

You may not have written the content for your website, or it may have been such a long time that you cannot remember if all of your content is original or not. That’s okay. We can use some online tools to help us sort it all out.

Copyscape allows you to load a URL into the system to determine if the content from the page appears in other places online. The results will even let you know how much of the page has been duplicated. This feature is especially useful in determining whether you simply quoted a source online or whether your content is significantly borrowed from another website.

Safe Ways to Handle Duplicate Content

You likely have patient education of some sort on your website. There are a number of companies that specialize in creating content that can be used around the web for hospitals and practices. Technically, this is considered duplicate content as well, though the implementation is different.

To start with, you likely have an agreement of some sort with the provider of your content. That company will not be shocked to find their material on your website and will feel no need to draft a strongly-worded letter.

Additionally, many patient education creators will provide videos or animation of some sort that can be embedded on your website. Due to the way that the video lives on your website from a technical standpoint, search engines have no reason to be concerned with that content.

Your videos are a fantastic way to educate your patients and keep them on your website longer, but they will not be the primary attractor to your website.

Additionally, there is another way to share content by syndicating. See Eric Enge’s recent Moz post for a great explanation.

The Real Win: Original Content

The best case for your website is to have content that either you wrote or that an expert wrote for you. You want to not only have information about a procedure, but you want to include the specifics of how you perform that procedure. Specify what sets you apart from other practices in the area.

Search engines will give original, high-value content higher priority, and your explanations will become a tool to educate your patients and to market to them as well.

It’s worth the effort to earn your patients’ trust and to extend your practice’s reach.

What struggles do you see in creating content for your website?