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By OppGen

How to Get More Google Reviews

Reviews matter, and Google reviews especially matter. A 2018 ReviewTrackers report found that 63.6% of consumers are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business. That’s more than any other review site.

Not only does having Google reviews matter, but so does getting customers to review your business. According to the Pew Research Center, about 38% of Americans never leave reviews on products or services. So you’ll have to come up with some ways to get those reviews.

But first, let’s start by making sure your business is capable of getting Google reviews.

 

How to start getting Google reviews in 2 simple steps

If your business isn’t getting Google reviews, it’s time to make sure it does. The following instructions will put you on the path to getting reviews and more customers.

 

1. Sign up for Google My Business

If you don’t have one already, you should definitely sign up for a Google My Business account. You’ll need one in order to get Google reviews, but its benefits go beyond that. It can help you rank higher in local search results, provide accurate information about your business, and helps you against competing businesses.

You can create an account by going to the Google My Business page.

If your business has already been established as a Place on Google Maps, you can type in your business’s name and claim it from the dropdown list. If you can’t find it, click the Add your business to Google link.

From there, you’ll be asked to select a business category, whether or not you have a physical location for your business (assuming you do, click Yes), and to type in your address. It’s very important to make sure you type in your address correctly. If you serve a specific area or neighborhood, you can include that information, too, using a city name or zip code.

You’ll be asked to add your contact information. Like the address, it’s also very important to make sure this information is correct.

 

2. Verify your Google My Business account

One of the reasons why it’s important to have the correct address and contact information is so Google can verify your listing. Google offers a couple of verification options:

  • A postcard with a verification code sent in the mail
  • Phone call
  • Text
  • Email

The postcard is the most common option, as the other verification options are not available for all business types.

If you fail to type in the correct contact information, then it will be more difficult to get the verification code.

When the code arrives, go to the left menu and click Verify location. You’ll enter the code and submit it.

Now you have a verified Google My Business listing! This means you can edit your business’s information, respond to reviews, and add photos, and post various other updates.

It also means it’s much easier to get more Google reviews.

 

How to get more Google reviews

Create a Google review link shortcut

With a Google My Business listing, you can make it much easier for customers to review your website. Google My Business listings have access to a Google review link shortcut that can take customers right to your business’s Google review page.

 

Shorten the review shortcut

Use a link shortener like bit.ly, especially if you’re handing out cards as reminders to review. Typing the full review URL can be a pain. But a link shortener can make it much easier for people to review, especially if they’re reviewing on their phone. Keep in mind that bit.ly does have a set number of links you can shorten, but as long as you’re just using the same link for the review page, that shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Create a Google review page on your website

Reviews can be very persuasive, so why not have a review and testimonial page on your business’s website? Your website may have the capabilities to even have a Google review widget that lets website visitors scroll through the reviews, which will update on its own without having to copy and paste reviews whenever your business receives a new one.

 

Leave a Google review CTA and/or widget in your website’s footer

In the world of marketing, a CTA is one of the most important things. A CTA, or Call To Action, essentially sums up the action you want your audience to take.

In this case, the desired action is for your audience to write a Google review. By adding a Google review CTA in your website’s footer, they’ll see that as a reminder on every single website page.

Depending on your website, you may also be able to use or create a footer widget that links to the review page, too.

 

Ask for a review in-person

Asking for a review in-person is not rocket science, but it’s effective.

If you ask a customer or patient for a review, they’re more likely to leave a review. You can ask them in-person at the end of an appointment or when the service is complete.

Sometimes you may have to entice them to leave a review — try offering a discount for their next session or the next time they use your service.

Don’t forget to tell customers how to leave a review for your business. You could even show them how to do it on their phone.

 

Request a review digitally

A good rule of thumb when asking for a review is to ask for it in the same medium they used to reach out to you. If a customer emailed you initially, reply to their email and request a review toward the end of the email. If they messaged you on social media, ask them to leave a Google review on the same social media channel they used.

 

Respond to Google reviews

You should respond to Google reviews — especially the negative ones. Although that seems counterintuitive, replying to a negative review can actually do a lot more good than bad, but that’s only when it’s done right.

Avoid using the same copied-and-pasted script when replying to bad reviews. That implies to customers that you don’t really care about negative experiences and just want to address it and sweep it under the rug. Replies that are different and acknowledge and address the problem directly will receive a much, much better reception.

Replying to all reviews shows those reading these reviews that you care about customers’ feedback and genuinely want them to have a good experience. This makes customers more likely to return and will likely persuade new customers to become regulars.

 

Contact OppGen for more information

Google reviews matter a lot. They help customers choose where to go for products and services. They show that you care about customers and their feedback and genuinely try to make sure they receive the best possible service. They can create a certain image or perception of your business. These are all things that can affect the number of leads and customers coming into your business.

Being able to understand how Google reviews work is just the first step to getting more reviews. The next step is to contact OppGen. We can help you set up a Google My Business listing and discuss even more strategies and ideas for getting more Google reviews.

By OppGen

5 Ways to Get Clinic Reviews

Reviews are important when ordering a product online, but they are also incredibly important for clinics. 77% of patients rely on online reviews as their first step to find a new doctor. Seeing high ratings and reading reviews and the responses from clinics can give prospective patients a general idea of what they can expect from a healthcare provider.

The importance of reviews are one thing, and getting your clinic reviews is another thing entirely. At first, it may feel uncomfortable to focus on getting reviews for your clinic, but it will only help more patients find you, and then you can help these patients in return.

 

1. Create multiple places for patients to leave clinic reviews

Patients cannot leave reviews if there are no places for them to do so. Claiming your clinic or creating a page at the following websites can make it easy for patients to review your clinic. Not only does it increase the likelihood of getting a review but it is also an easy way to do some link-building for your clinic’s website.

Many of the following third-party review sites have badges you can add to your website that will redirect patients to a page that lets them easily read and leave reviews. This is also useful for prospective patients who may be in the research process and is seriously considering going to your clinic for their healthcare needs.

Keep in mind that with these third-party sites that you may not be able to reproduce them, as both the third-party site and patient own these reviews. Not to mention that reproducing these reviews without your patient’s permission is a violation of HIPAA laws.

If you want to be able to quote or share parts of a patient’s review to your clinic’s social media page, create a survey using SurveyMonkey or Google Forms and link to it when requesting reviews from patients who have consented to you sharing their review. You can also create a landing page for your website requesting this information as well.

 

Google My Business

When you search for a specific service on Google, one of the first results you’ll see is a rich snippet with Google Maps and a list of nearby services, most of which have reviews.

If you want your clinic to appear on a search, you should make a Google My Business account. It’s free and ensures that your clinic pops up on relevant Google searches. Google My Business allows your patients to leave reviews and lets you respond to their reviews. On top of those features, you can include your address, phone number, and hours of operation, and post updates about your business.

 

Facebook

If you’ve been creating Facebook ads for your clinic, then you have a Facebook business page for your clinic. If you don’t have a Facebook business page, don’t wait around — make one ASAP! Like Google My Business accounts, Facebook business pages are free. You can post updates and include your address, contact information, and hours of operation. You can even utilize Facebook Messenger to chat with current and prospective patients.

And of course, it allows patients to leave reviews.

 

Yelp

Yelp allows reviews regardless of whether or not you have an account with them, so you should certainly take the time to claim your business. This allows you to respond to reviews via direct messages or reply to the review itself, track views and leads coming from Yelp, and update information (i.e., hours of operation, address, contact information, etc.).

 

Healthgrades

Healthgrades is perfect for any and all healthcare providers, and many prospects find it useful, too, especially because it allows providers to list accepted insurances. Plus, it has the largest audience of healthcare consumers online. Healthgrades could be an option that could be considered to be further down the marketing funnel, maybe even more than Google, for prospective patients. The consumers there know what they’re looking for and are narrowing down options based on things like accepted insurance agencies, patient reviews, and so on. Like the other options, Healthgrades doesn’t cost a dime and is highly specific by field.

With all of these websites, make sure your clinic’s information is accurate and up to date. Incorrect information will only hurt your clinic.

 

2. Ask patients for a review of your clinic

Asking for a review is a bit of a no-brainer, but it still takes thought and consideration: When is the best time to ask? Where should I ask? How should I ask?

In all honesty, the answer to these questions is “it depends.” Context matters. Asking for a review at the wrong time or place, or simply asking in the wrong way might result in a negative review that might detract prospects from your clinic.

A good rule of thumb is to ask your patients to leave a review using the same medium of communication: in-person, over calls or text messages, your website, social media, email, and so on. Be sure to read the room — if your patient does not seem pleased with your clinic’s treatment or procedure, it may be wise to refrain from requesting a review. On the flip side, it’s a great idea to ask a patient who thanks you and compliments your services is prime to write a review.

Don’t forget about privacy and remaining HIPAA-compliant in how you gather reviews. If a patient has not consented to be contacted via email or text message, do not request a review through those channels. It is a good idea to tell patients they can submit reviews anonymously (when and where possible) and that they do not have to go into depth about the details of their visit. Give them some examples of what they can include in a review (“they took a lot of time to answer my questions”).

Last but not least, keep track of which patients have already left reviews so you don’t request another review from them again.

 

In-person

You don’t have to ask a patient for a review while they’re sitting on the exam table — there are other times, places, and ways you can ask in-person. The end of a visit or during waits between appointments (patients often wait for a doctor after seeing a nurse) are excellent times to request a review.

Consider printing appointment reminder cards with an active link to a review website and having your office employees say they can leave a review with the link on the card. Patients often keep reminder cards in places where they’ll see them so they remember when they have the appointment, like on their refrigerators, calendars, or desk.

Another print option to look into is take-home care instructions. Obviously you don’t want the review request to be the main focus of these instructions. The health and safety of your patients always comes first. Specifically with take-home instructions, keep a neutral and professional tone in the call to action.

Promotional items, like pens or magnets, can keep your clinic at the forefront of patients’ minds and can encourage them to leave reviews. Use a short call to action: “Tell us about your visit!”

With any printed review reminders, use a link shortener like bit.ly. It’s much easier than typing out the entire address.

 

Phone calls

It’s common for clinics to call patients for appointment reminders a day or two ahead of the appointment. Some clinics may also call to follow-up with a patient after a procedure. That follow-up call should be utilized more often for patients who did not undergo a medical procedure. Calling to check in with someone is always a thoughtful thing to do, but you should also use that follow-up call to request a review and direct patients to a landing page or third-party website.

 

Text messages

Fewer and fewer people own landlines and have cell phones instead. As a result, some clinics have started to move away from phone call reminders and follow-ups, and are using text reminders and follow-ups more often. Some of these reminders and follow-up text messages are automated, which can make this an easier process for your clinic.

Since smartphones are commonplace, patients can be sent a review request that includes a link to your landing page, where they can fill out and submit a review form right from their phone!

 

Your clinic’s website

If your patients tend to schedule appointments through your website, add a call to action button  in a visible place on your most popular pages that links to a landing page, survey form, or third-party review website page.

Be sure to include third-party website badges on your website, too — you can easily link to your clinic’s Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp, Healthgrades pages, and more.

 

Social media

Create a post that links to your landing page or favorite third-party review website. You should make this post more than once, but try to change up the language and when you post it to see when you’ll get the most reviews. Use best practices depending on the social media platform you’re using, and don’t use the exact same content on each platform. Every platform has different “rules” for what’s considered appropriate in a post.

 

Email

Sending a personalized thank-you email after an appointment is one way to ask for a review without really asking. Along with the thank you message, there should be a link for third-party review websites and/or your clinic website’s landing page form.

Automated emails may be a better option for bigger practices, but be sure the email software you’re using is HIPAA-compliant. Only email patients who have consented to be contacted via email.

Automated emails can be done well and don’t take as much time as a personalized email. However, a personal touch is always a nice touch and can make a big difference in how your patients perceive you and your clinic.

Emails are great in that they are not limited in terms of text, so you can easily share an example review for patients who don’t know what to write about in their review, along with reminders that they do not need to go too in-depth about their exam, and that they can submit an anonymous review or that you’ll remove their name upon request. Be honest about where their review will be shown and how it will be used, and that reviews are not required but greatly appreciated.

 

3. Offer incentives

Sometimes simply requesting a review isn’t enough to get your clinic a review. People get busy and forget, and after a certain period of time passes, they’re not going to be able to give the best review possible. The best reviews tend to be written on the day of the appointment, when your service and treatment is still fresh in patients’ minds.

Make a review worth your patients’ time with an incentive. An incentive can be a lot of things: it could be a discount on their next exam or entering reviewers into a drawing or raffle for cash, prizes, or a gift card. You could run a contest for the best review, and the winner receives a prize or discount.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for how you can incentivize patients to write a review for your clinic.

 

4. Respond to all clinic reviews

Responding to each and every single review is a must, even if the review does not do your clinic any favors. In fact, a good response to a negative review can be insightful to prospects and may lead them to choose your clinic for their medical needs.

 

Responding to negative reviews

When you respond to negative reviews, you must acknowledge the issue, even if you don’t think it exists. Acknowledge it anyways.

Apologize. Do not say “we are sorry if this happened.” The “if” goes against the acknowledgment of the issue. Stick to “we are sorry this happened.” It affirms the reviewer’s experience and acknowledges they did not receive the experience they expected from your clinic. If there is any reason why they had an issue, explain what that reason may have been (i.e., “Our nurse had a family emergency and had to leave on short notice, so we were short-staffed when you came in”).

Compensate the reviewer in some way; maybe this means giving them a discount on their next appointment or a free exam. Decide what works best for your clinic and the situation. Depending on the situation, you may wish to have the reviewer discuss matters offline.

While you should take some negative reviews with a grain of salt, it is worth seeing if there are any consistencies or similarities with the content of more middle-of-the-road reviews or smaller complaints in positive reviews. If so, this means you have found an area where your clinic can improve, and you should make changes accordingly. Patients, particularly those who mentioned issues in their reviews, are likely to notice those improvements and feel better knowing they go to a clinic where their issues are not only heard but are listened to as well.

 

Responding to all types of reviews

When responding to any review, do not use a copied and pasted template. To patients and prospects, those cookie-cutter responses do not read as sincere. It takes less than a minute to copy and paste and fill in the blanks and suggests that you do not truly care about your patients’ concerns — that’s definitely not something any medical professional would want prospects or current patients to believe about their clinic!

If you’re able to recall some minor detail about the patient that would not give their personal information or share any potentially identifying information, include that. Never reveal any personal details or information about the patient when you’re responding to publicly posted reviews, regardless of whether or not the reviewer is anonymous. A review response should never, ever be the same.

 

5. Highlight the best reviews for your clinic

Sharing an incredibly positive review on your website’s testimonial page or social media accounts makes more people want to review your clinic’s services and draws the attention of more prospective patients.

To ensure HIPAA compliance, always get permission from patients if you can share a quote from their review on social media. If there is any information in a review that may reveal the identity of a patient, either do not use the review at all or redact that information using ellipses (these 3 little dots: …).

The best way to ensure that your clinic’s patient review policy and strategy are HIPAA-compliant is to work with a HIPAA-trained digital marketing agency. OppGen’s HIPAA-trained team of analysts has worked with a wide variety of medical clinics to great success. Contact us today for more information about our medical marketing strategies and fill out our free digital audit.

By OppGen

What to Look for in Affordable Small Business SEO Services

Many marketing agencies offer affordable small business SEO services, but not all of the offerings these agencies have are equal.

The best affordable small business SEO services tend to have the following qualities and features.

 

Flexibility

Most affordable small business SEO services are not flexible — many require small businesses to sign a contract for an extended period of time. 

At OppGen, we understand that running a business can be difficult and that investing your small business’s resources in SEO feels like a big risk, particularly since the return on investment is not immediate.

That’s why we don’t lock you in with a contract. Our SEO packages are charged on a monthly basis, and you can back out without paying any fees. If you decide to go somewhere else for affordable small business SEO services and aren’t pleased with the results, you can come right back to us. In situations where your small business is taking a hit and you need to cut back digital marketing costs, let us know. We’ll always work with your small business, not against it.

 

Value

Suppose you’re in a contract and have agreed to pay $200 a month for a small business SEO package that includes technical and local SEO strategies, but you’re on your own when it comes to creating content and link building.

How much time do you have to take out of your typical work week to write a blog post? Or are you hiring freelancers from Fiverr without actually looking at what they’ve written? Is it worth being stuck with this company for $200 a month when you haven’t seen any results within 9 months?

Even though $200 is affordable, it doesn’t put in the value your small business needs to succeed. Affordable doesn’t (and probably shouldn’t) mean you should go with the least expensive package; it also doesn’t mean you have to break the bank, either.

There needs to be a happy medium, where the value of the services and their effectiveness pay off for your small business. You need to find the best affordable small business SEO that works for your budget and gets the most bang out of your buck.

 

Full SEO package

SEO packages vary from agency to agency. Some may focus on optimizing websites for speed and device usage. Others may focus on link building.

Our affordable small business SEO package goes above and beyond because it covers the four main components of a successful SEO strategy. We don’t just optimize websites for speed or focus on link building alone. We continuously monitor your small business’s website ranking, research relevant keywords and phrases, and create content with those keywords and phrases in mind.

The OppGen small business SEO package covers the four main aspects of SEO.

 

1. Technical SEO

Technical SEO focuses on your small business website’s speed and design. If your website isn’t designed to perform well and quickly on mobile devices, it simply won’t rank where you want it to be.

If this means building you a new site from scratch, we’ll do that — and even give you ownership of the site. When you’re locked into a contract with other SEO companies, your small business doesn’t retain ownership of the website. Once the contract is up and you want to go elsewhere, chances are that the website belongs to that SEO company now. This can make recreating a website and getting the domain name you want a mess.

 

2. Local SEO

Most small businesses are local businesses, first and foremost. If your small business doesn’t rank high in local search results, you’re in trouble.

Luckily, local SEO is our specialty. We’ll help you build a listing in relevant directories and set up a Google My Business listing that’ll put your small business on the map — Google Maps, that is. And that’s only the start of what we can do for your small business on a local scale.

 

3. On-page SEO and content creation

If there’s no content on your website, it doesn’t matter how much you do to optimize your website’s speed on multiple kinds of devices. You need to write good original content that contains useful and relevant information for prospects. But not everyone’s a writer, and you need a writer if you’re going to have the kind of content that can get your small business’s website to rank high on the Google search results pages.

Our on-page SEO efforts are truly what set us apart from the competition. Rather than requiring you to outsource a freelance writer with questionable writing and research skills or having to take the time out of your business’s typical operations to write something yourself, we have in-house content writers. These writers have been vetted in their writing and researching abilities and have been trained in on-page SEO strategies.

 

4. Off-page SEO

The more excellent content your website has, the more likely people will begin to see it and share it. This process is referred to as “link building.” 

When many people share your content on social media or when authoritative resources in your industry link back to your site, search engines take notice of this as a sign that your content is useful and helpful and will start ranking your website higher up on the search results page.

SEO is a process that doesn’t really end or stop anywhere. There’s always an opportunity for improvement and to put out the best content you can.

 

For more information 

To find out more about our affordable small business SEO services and packages, contact us today. We’ll be more than happy to discuss pricing and plan options to figure out which of our SEO packages is the best one for your small business.

By OppGen

Benefits of Keeping Google My Business Up to Date

As the COVID–19 shelter-in-place orders begin to lift, more and more businesses are going to start opening up their doors to the public. But not every business will right away, and the types of businesses that are allowed to open up vary from state to state.

This has resulted in confusion for both business owners and consumers, but it doesn’t have to. One of the best things you can do for your business and customers right now is ensure the information on your Google My Business listing is up to date. COVID–19 or no COVID–19, it’s important to keep Google My Business information updated. Here’s why.

 

An updated Google My Business listing keeps consumers informed

Informed consumers are typically good consumers, and hopefully, they’ll become the best customers you can find. But if your Google My Business listing fails to keep consumers up to date on what’s happening, you’re missing out on those customers. 

Some common pieces of Google My Business information that can affect the number of customers coming through your doors include:

 

Business hours

There are few things more frustrating than going to an establishment that says they are open during certain hours, only to find out that they are closed when you arrive. It’s a waste of your time and it doesn’t exactly make you feel fond about that business.

Not every business runs on a 9 to 5 schedule, and your Google My Business listing should have the hours your business is up and running for each day of the week. This is especially beneficial for businesses that operate during odd hours or run on unusual weekly schedules and for consumers on a tight schedule. This gives consumers an idea of what to expect and when they can make the time to make an appointment or reservation or shop at your business.

Don’t forget to update seasonal hours if your business extends how long it’s open during certain times of the year. This doesn’t just have to apply to holiday seasons, either. For example, some locally owned ice cream parlors or shaved ice stands are open in the summer and are closed during the colder months.

 

Locations

You’ve probably heard the adage “Location is everything” at some point or another. It’s a little cliché, but it’s also true. In fact, it’s more true than ever, since people can find a business’s location based on their physical location, thanks to their smartphones.

And that’s why it’s so important to ensure your Google My Business listing’s address is correct, regardless of whether or not your business has moved locations or has opened up another location or two.

 

Contact information

Management can change, location can change, and phone numbers can change. Make sure that customers are able to easily reach your business via phone, email, or social media accounts.

In the case of a location change, be sure to update your business’s main landline number. If there are different people managing different locations, make sure the email contact information is addressed to the right person at the right location. Having a centralized email address for all of your business’s locations can be an easy solution, but just because it’s the easy solution doesn’t necessarily make it the best solution.

 

Posts

You can update more than just your business’s hours, locations, and contact information on Google My Business — you can post status updates as well. This could be information about an upcoming sale, an event, new products or services, and so on. A Google My Business post can include images, video, text, offers, and a button. Posting shows consumers that you’re an active business, and that activity can help bump you up higher in local search results.

 

Customer review responses

While responding to customer reviews does not necessarily relate to updating your business’s Google My Business information, it does show that you care about your customers and are actively trying to improve their experiences.

When responding to reviews, don’t have a copied and pasted message with blank spaces for customer names ready to go. Your responses to customer reviews should never be exactly the same. A cut-and-paste apology isn’t a good apology, so why would a cut-and-paste response to an upset customer be a good response? Simply put: it’s not.

You don’t have to respond to negative reviews alone; in fact, responding to most, if not all, reviews is ideal. It shows consumers that you care about your customers and their experiences, which makes them more likely to convert from a consumer to one of your customers.

 

Updated information increases visibility in local search results

One of the best things about having a Google My Business listing is that it makes your business easy for consumers in the area to find. If you have a Google My Business listing, you’re going to show up on Google Maps searches when consumers are searching for products and services your business offers.

Keep in mind that Google searches take consumers’ physical locations into account, so when they search for certain products or services, you want to make sure your business shows up on the map for those local search results. If you have the wrong location or haven’t added your newest location, consumers will think your business no longer exists or they won’t know that it exists in more than one place. 

 

Keeping your Google My Business listing updated can put you on top of your competition

Google is not going to penalize your business for updating its Google My Business listing’s information. In fact, it’s more accurate to say that there are technically self-inflicted penalties for failing to keep your listing up to date. Incorrect or outdated information on a listing hurts your business far more than it helps.

It’s easy to forget to update your listing, and there’s a good chance that other businesses forget to do so as well. Get ahead of these other businesses by posting updates on a regular basis. This can generate more traffic to your business’s website and physical location. Include photos and videos in your posts when you can. Be authentic to your business and customers. Communicate with reviewers, both the positive and the negative. Take their suggestions and complaints seriously.

 

For more information

If you want some ideas or feedback for your current Google My Business listing, fill out our free digital audit. We’ll review your listing and your overall digital presence and discuss areas that need improvement and how you can improve them.

By OppGen

Why Duplicate Content is Bad for SEO

Duplicate content is content that appears on more than one web page. Duplicate content can be exact word-for-word copies or content that is similar or slightly rewritten. One example of duplicate content would be creating a page that has the exact same content as the original page, except the location(s) mentioned in the new page are different.

In most cases, duplicate content is not a malicious or intentional practice — nearly a third of the web is estimated to be duplicate content. In fact, most duplicate content is accidental and/or non-intentional. Still, it’s not something you want to have because it is bad for SEO.

 

How duplicate content affects SEO

Duplicate content confuses search engines

Search engines take several factors into account when ranking web pages for search results: the number and quality of backlinks, domain authority of inbound links, quality of content, page load times, and more.

Duplicate content makes it difficult for search engines to judge which page is going to be more useful or more relevant to users.

Ideally, search engines try to find the original content and have it rank, but that isn’t always going to work.

 

Duplicate content dilutes search results and hurts rankings

Search engines rarely show duplicate content results to provide the best experience for users. Instead, they show either the original content or the version that appears to be the best result.

This means most of the duplicate content will not be shown or ranked, which dilutes the visibility of each duplicate.

 

Duplicate content hurts organic traffic

If one of your web pages has duplicate content, it may not be shown on the first or second page of the search engine results pages (SERP) or even be shown on the SERP at all.

When this happens, you can be certain your website will experience a drop in organic traffic.

 

How to avoid duplicate content

On-page fixes

In the world of SEO, on-page refers to the content on a web page: text, images, videos, and so on. These “fixes” should help you avoid creating duplicate content.

Create original content

The simplest way to avoid duplicate content is to create original content. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s an issue we’ve seen with some of our clients. Before working with us, some have used boilerplate content offered to them. The problem with using pre-made or boilerplate content is that your website is not the only one using it, so you’ll be competing for visibility with other websites for the same keyword searches, effectively hurting your SERP position.

Writing your own content is a must if you want your site to rank on the first or second page of Google. If you’re not much of a writer, hire a content writer to do the writing for you.

Paraphrase

You don’t want your website repeating the same sections word for word too many times on different pages. When dealing with pages that host similar or related content, it may be best to paraphrase or rearrange sentences.

An easy way to do this is copy the text into a separate document (Google Docs is a great online word processor if you don’t have Microsoft Word or Pages; if you don’t have a Google account and don’t want to create one, Open Office is another free alternative) and start a new paragraph below each existing paragraph. Use that new paragraph to reword what the old paragraph says using different words or phrases.

Don’t worry if you use the same sentence here or there. The key here is not to have it be entirely the same or by changing things up by swapping out a word or two.

Don’t use a thesaurus for every word. It’s fine to use one every so often, particularly if there’s a word you want to use but can’t quite remember what that word is.

Google’s bots have the capability of reading websites similarly to how people do, so write like a human is reading your page. Using a thesaurus tool to change too many words can make your sentences awkward and unnatural and will likely lead to a drop in your SERP position.

Consolidate content

If you have a few web pages or blog posts that are very similar or highly relevant to one another, you can consolidate these pages or posts into a new page or post that combines the content all together.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not as difficult as you think. Consolidating relevant content into a new page or post is worth putting in the extra time because it’s creating something bigger and more in-depth than the original content would have done on its own. It’s also likely to give you a boost in the SERP rankings, as these pages aren’t competing with one another anymore.

Submit a DMCA takedown request

In the event that someone has plagiarized or stolen your content and placed it on their website, you can submit a DMCA complaint. DMCA is an acronym for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a U.S. law created in 1998 that criminalizes the theft of copyrighted works online.

The moment you create an original work (in this case, content), you own the copyright to that work. If someone takes your original content and places it on their website, they are violating copyright law and the DMCA.

You can send the offending party’s internet service provider (ISP) and/or website host a DMCA takedown request, which asks the ISP or site host to remove or disable your content from the offending party’s website. If your DMCA takedown request is validated by the ISP or site host, your content will be removed or disabled.

For example, you can send a DMCA takedown request to Google that would remove the offending web page from its SERP.

In some cases, the offending party may file a counter request to reinstate your content. If this occurs, you have 10 days to submit evidence to the ISP or site host to show that you have filed a court action against the offending party asking to restrain their use of your content.

Additionally, you have the option to sue for copyright infringement, which can result in up to $150,000 in statutory damages per work infringed and possibly criminal penalties.

When dealing with potential copyright infringement, we recommend consulting with a lawyer to review your legal options.

 

Technical fixes

Even if you’re already creating original content and following the on-page fixes, it is still possible to accidentally create duplicate versions on your website.

For example, if you happen to have a HTTP site that you switched to HTTPS, you might be creating duplicate versions for both HTTP and HTTPS sites. If you also have a print-only version of your website, that may also explain why there’s more than one copy on your website.

301 redirects

If you’ve consolidated content, you will need to set up 301 redirects from old “duplicate” pages to the new “original” page. 301 redirects tell search engines to ignore these old duplicates to go to the new page with updated, consolidated information. They guide users to the updated page as well, which makes a website easier to navigate and find the best information — two things that search engines look for when it comes to ranking pages high on the results pages.

301 redirects also can be used for seamlessly changing website domains or for sites with multiple URLs (HTTP vs. HTTPS or www. or non-www. sites).

Yoast is a fantastic SEO plug-in for WordPress sites that creates 301 redirects for you whenever you remove or rename a page.

Canonical URLs

Search engines want to find the original, or canonical, source of content. If your original content has been published on guest blogs or other online publications, the search engine is not always able to tell which website hosts the original content.

Adding a canonical attribute in the <head> section of a web page informs search engines which page is the original page. Essentially, it’s telling search engines which page is the one it should be indexing on the search results pages.

The following HTML code should be placed on every duplicate page’s <head> section. The URL needs to be the page you want to be indexed. You should also implement this code on the head of the original page (known as a self-referential canonical). Note that the canonical attribute code only works for HTTPS pages.

 

<head>…[code]…

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://example.com/home/” />

…[code]…

</head>

 

Alternatively, adding the Yoast plug-in to your WordPress site makes it simple to add the canonical attribute without having to go through your WordPress site’s theme or source code.

Block search indexing

You can also use a <head> section code known as “meta robots” to prevent search engines from indexing duplicate pages. Like the canonical tag, this only works on HTTPS sites.

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

You can also make this specific to Google:

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

And to Bing:

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”bingbot” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

Or:

 

<head>…[code]…

<meta name=”msnbot” content=”noindex,follow”>

…[code]…

</head>

 

Note that this will not work if the page is blocked by a robots.txt file. If it is, crawlers will not be able to see the noindex tag, and the page will still be included in the search results.

The “follow” part of the tag indicates that even though crawlers won’t index the page for search results, they can still follow your site’s links, which can help determine where other indexed pages should be ranked.

Google Search Console

If you’re dealing with different domains (HTTP vs. HTTPS; www. or non-www sites), you can use Google Search Console to set the preferred domain you’d like Google to crawl.

As a general rule, Google prefers HTTPS over HTTP, so we recommend setting the HTTPS domain as the preferred domain. Plus, HTTPS offers site users extra security that HTTP lacks, making it the optimal choice.

 

For more information

If you’re not sure if duplicate content is an issue for your site, fill out our free digital audit form. We’ll let you know the areas where your website is strong and where it needs improvement — and if duplicate content appears to be one of those areas, you can start to create a plan to tackle those issues head-on.

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