In school, we learn to not plagiarize. To use someone else’s words is punishable by a failing grade, or even expulsion. Now you have your own private practice, and you still follow the rules and create original content for your website, so you’re fine—right?
It’s not that simple. Google punishes websites that have duplicate content, which means any large block of content on multiple domains that is identical or appreciably alike.
What does this mean? It means that even original content, if on multiple website pages, will be seen by Google as duplicate. Some duplicate content, such as the same header on every page, is expected and can slide by; however, a large amount will hurt your ranking.
Here are five mistakes therapists make that cause duplicate content.
1 – Copy Other People’s Content: Just like in your school days, copying content is unacceptable. Google searches for duplicate content to avoid stolen content and to punish plagiarizers by not ranking their sites. To copy other people’s content is not only illegal, but also unprofessional and damaging to your business.
Keep this in mind for images as well. Using a random image from Google search is copyright infringement. The best way to find images is to purchase them or find copyright free images. We have a blog post on that, too.
2 – Posting Your Stuff Twice: This part can be confusing. Even if you write your own content, or hire someone to write it for you, it will hurt your ranking if you post that same content on multiple websites. Often, we have clients who have blog posts or articles published on other sites, such as Huffington Post. While publications are exciting for everyone involved, it is not good practice to have the same post on your site AND on the other website.
How do you get around this? The easiest option is to write a short blurb about the article on your blog. Then link that introduction to the webpage where the article is published. The other option would be to rewrite and expand the article so the same wording does not appear on both websites.
3 – Having Two Websites: If you decide to replace your website with a new one, you may use some of the same content on your new website. That is great (and resourceful!), but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. While the new website is being built in development mode, set it to be unindexed. This means that it won’t appear in searches and prevents duplicate content between the two sites.
Then, once the new website is live, take the old website down. Redirect the url of the old site to the new site. Now potential clients can still see the content, and it is only published on one website.
If you have two live websites—for instance, a group practice therapy site and a personal therapy site—ensure they do not have the same content (see also ‘Starting A Group Therapy Practice‘). Rework the pages so they have different wording and expand on the ideas differently. You can also link one site to the other. That way Google won’t penalize both of your sites!
4 – Categories and Tags: Understand that categories and tags serve to help your user more easily access information.
Categories and tags are a way to organize your blog posts. Categories are the broader of the two, and are required for blog posts. You should have one for each specialty. For instance, if you have pages for anxiety treatment, depression treatment, and teen therapy, the blog will have categories for anxiety, depression and teen therapy.
Tags are more specific, and not required. They are below categories, so posts that are in different categories can have the same tag. One example of a tag is “teen depression.” A post that is under the category ”Depression” can be tagged “teen depression.” post that is under the category “Teen Therapy” can also be tagged “teen depression.”
Every new category creates an additional page on your website.The new page url is www.yoursite.com/category/depression. Every post categorized under that will appear on the new page. The same goes with tags, and this is how categories and tags create duplicate content. One post categorized under “Depression” and tagged with “teen depression” will show up on the blog page, depression category page, and teen depression tag page.
Therefore, you don’t want to create unnecessary categories and tags. Use categories and tags applicable to multiples posts to improve user experience. Do not treat them like keywords, crammed into a post.
Using categories and tags responsibly will prevent a problem with duplicate content. However, the safest way to prevent it entirely is to unindex the category and tag pages. Then they won’t show up in search engines.
5 – Canonical URLs: This is an issue with the host and registrar. While uncommon, especially when purchasing a new domain, it is important to be aware of canonical issues. A canonical issue is when your website can be reached from multiple URLs.
How do you know? When you type in yoursite.com it should stay there. Then, when you type in www.yoursite.com (including the www.) it should redirect to yoursite.com (without the www, which is assumed—you are on the World Wide Web, after all!). If it doesn’t, your site is living on the internet twice and the entire site is duplicated. Thus, a whole lot of duplicate content. If that is the case, contact your project manager or your website host.
Now that you know the top mistakes therapists make that cause duplicate content, you know how to avoid it. If you have any questions about whether or not you are at fault with duplicate content, ask your project manager or put your site in the free Siteliner tool.
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