Digital marketing and SEO blogs agree: Using duplicate content is a practice that should always be avoided. Duplicate content is one of the easiest, most common mistakes to make when building a website and consequently one of the most frequently penalized mistakes we see. Along with spammy inbound links, duplicate content has been a major focus of the last few search engine algorithm updates. Given the potential negative impact that non-unique content can have, eliminating duplicate content now will ensure that your site is unique, authoritative and protected from impact of future algorithm changes.
Fathom Healthcare works with a number of large healthcare systems, community hospitals, healthcare advocacy and awareness groups, and assisted living companies. Duplicate content is a major issue within the healthcare space, because many healthcare providers choose to purchase ‘syndicated content feeds’ to fill out their content catalog. The challenge with purchasing content feeds such as ADAM, Staywell, NIH and Mayo is that other healthcare providers have paid for and posted the same content on their site, which creates duplicate content when crawled.
For example, the following phrase is taken from a piece of syndicated content. Copy and paste this exact phrase into your web browser to see how many sites feature this exact phrase:
“There are many causes of conjunctivitis. Viruses are the most common cause. Viral conjuctivitis is referred to as “pink eye.” Pink eye can spread easily among children.”
Over 2100 sites posted the same or similar content on their site, including the NY Times, Walgreens, Yahoo Answers, and several healthcare organizations. While there is perceived value to posting this type of content online, the value is undermined by the fact that this content feed creates duplicate content on a large scale.
How to Fix Duplicate Content Issues
There are a few ways to deal with duplicate content from syndicated sites, listed in order of effort from least to greatest:
Option 1 – Add the root folder containing the content feed to the robots.txt file to discourage the search engines from crawling and indexing. For example, if the syndicated content is hosted at http://myhealthcaresystem.com/health-library, adding the /health-library to the robots.txt file. This will block the search engines from crawl and indexing the content and consequently from sending organic traffic to these pages. If you choose this option, the content should be prominently featured as users will only find it while navigating your site.
Option 2 – Add a canonical tag to the header of each page that points to the originating content source. For example, pages using the Mayo feed, can add <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://mayoclinic.org”> to the page header. This still allows the crawlers to crawl and index the page, however it acknowledges that your site is not the originating source and consequently avoids the penalty, while providing valuable content to your users.
Option 3 – Write additional content! For the pink eye article, the syndicated content can be used as a base. Writing additional content about how your hospital or urgent care facility deals with pink eye will help reduce the percentage of duplicate content and create separation from the other sites.
Ultimately the goal for your healthcare websites is to provide content that matches demand for users search queries. Unfortunately, creating useful, unique content can be cumbersome, expensive and a nightmare to manage. By using one of the three options above, healthcare systems can reduce the negative impact of duplicate content on their website and still meet the search demand with valuable, informative content.
If you are in the healthcare industry and this scenario sounds familiar, Fathom Healthcare can evaluate your content, provide a plan to help de-duplicate your content and create new, engaging content for your users.