It is possible to have too much of a good thing. For example, you do not want a blog to have the same content as a practice area page or landing page, no matter how informative and well-researched the content.

Content that appears on two or more pages of a website or across multiple websites is known as duplicate content, and it is not good for SEO.

Below, PMP explains what law firms need to know about duplicate content, including how it happens, the SEO implications and how to address the issue. Given the complexity of this problem, you should consider working with an experienced marketing firm that knows how to manage every aspect of duplicate content.

PMP has been managing the website content needs of law firms across the nation for more than 15 years. We work with our clients to develop custom marketing plans that fit their needs and goals.

Contact PMP to discuss how we could assist you in reaching more clients and helping your firm grow.

What is Duplicate Content on a Website?

Duplicate content refers to content that is identical or substantially like content that appears on another webpage. This content could appear on another page under the same domain or on a webpage under a different domain.

On a law firm website, this might mean the same blog post, attorney bio or practice area description appears on multiple pages or across different sites. Sometimes this is an oversight, but other times it may be intentional, often because those who posted the content do not understand the SEO implications.

How Does Content Get Duplicated on a Law Firm Website?

There are many reasons why duplicate content gets created on law firm websites.

Duplicating Practice Area Pages

For example, many law firms have multiple offices – your main office may be in one city while you have another office an hour north and a third office a half hour south. Firms like these often segment their websites based on these different office locations – website visitors can click a locations tab on your nav menu and be taken to a page that lists practice areas for that location.

Oftentimes, each location has the same practice areas, or most of the same practice areas. While it is easier to create practice area pages for the main location and duplicate those for the other locations and simply change the city, this is not the best practice for SEO. Google will view the practice area pages for those other cities as duplicate content.

If you are going to allow Google to index all your practice area pages for all three cities, you need to create unique content for each of them. For example, if you practice personal injury law in all three cities, you need three unique pages on personal injury law.

Another strategy is to add canonical tags to duplicate practice area pages. Canonical tags tell Google which page you want to prioritize for SEO. This way you can have duplicate content without getting penalized by Google, and you can have one page get all the SEO benefits from links.

You could also no-index, no-follow the pages that are duplicates. This means they will not appear in search results, so they will not hurt your SEO efforts.

Technical Issues

Sometimes there are technical issues that could result in duplicate content, such as if a 301 redirect is not done correctly. Sometimes a content management system creates multiple versions of the same page and all of them are indexed.

Syndication and Copy Content From Other Sites

Surprising as it may sound, some law firms copy content from other law firm websites. This is both a duplicate content issue and a copyright issue, but law firms still do it.

Syndication of blog posts or other content on other websites may help more people see the content, but it is still duplicate content. You can still share your content; you just need to make sure it has the proper canonical tag.

What Is the SEO Impact of Duplicate Content?

Google and other search engines want to provide answers to users’ questions by delivering unique, relevant content. This task becomes more difficult when bots encounter duplicate content. They need to determine which version of the content is the most relevant to the search query.

Bots do not always do the best job sorting this out. More importantly, Google may penalize your site for having duplicate content.

Here are two of the main negative effects of duplicate content:

  • Diluted link equity: You may have heard that content is king. However, content needs to have links to move higher in search results. The problem with duplicate content is the link equity from backlinks could get spread across multiple pages. It is better to consolidate the link equity on a single, authoritative page.
  • Ranking lower in search results: Search engines often demote websites that have duplicate pages. In rare cases, domains may get no indexed by Google.

Duplicate content provides a poor user experience. People do not want to read the same thing over and over again, and if they see the same content multiple times on your website, they may lose trust in your firm.

How To Handle Duplicate Content

These are some of the steps you can take to deal with duplicate content on your website:

  • Review and update duplicate content: When possible, update duplicate content to make it unique. This involves not only rewording what is already there, but also adding additional content. However, sometimes this is not worth the effort. It depends on the importance of the page to your website and SEO efforts.
  • Use 301 redirects: If multiple pages serve the same purpose, consider using 301 redirects to guide both users and search engines to a single, authoritative page.
  • Use canonical tags: Canonical tags tell search engines which version of a page to prioritize. For example, say you want to have practice area pages that are focused on the state rather than a city. These pages could be duplicates of city pages, you just need to add the canonical tag.

Content is critical in SEO, but the content needs to be unique. That is why law firms need to be proactive about dealing with duplicate content to help mitigate the SEO impact.

If you are having issues with duplicate content on your website, contact PMP to find out how we may be able to help you. We manage the website content needs of plaintiff law firms throughout the nation, helping them improve SEO and generate more website traffic.