Does Boilerplate Content Affect SEO?



Good morning Internet fans, Ryan Perry here, Simple Biz Support. Today is Thursday, August 4th. I think Christmas is right around the corner, at least it feels that way with how fast this year has gone by. It is Internet Marketing Thursday and I have Virginie Dorn, the CEO of Business Website Center on the other side. Good morning Virginie.

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Virginie Dorn: Good morning Ryan, how are you on this beautiful Thursday morning?

Ryan: I’m doing very well, thank you. I’ve been wearing shorts and polo shirts the last week or so, but the last couple days it has really cooled down in Sonoma County. The coastal fog has kicked in and so I’m back in pants and polos. I almost wore a sweatshirt this morning, it was a little chilly, getting to the office.

VD: Yes, for those who don’t know the Bay Area in California which is near San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, is we get bad fog in the morning from the ocean, so it gets really cool in the morning but then it can be in the hundreds of degrees in the afternoon. There’s a huge temperature difference from one hour to the other. But anyway, as always we cannot complain. We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Ryan: Yep, and the grapes love the fog, that’s what makes Sonoma Napa Valley so special for the wine country, or wine folk.

VD: I think we should do our webinars of different wine tasting every single Thursday. And we could promote our beautiful local wineries here, they could just volunteer their wine


Ryan: We would definitely have to turn it into an afternoon session, not a morning session, maybe 4:00 o’clock?

VD: That sounds good.

Ryan: We’ll have to plate that for a future episode. Today we’re going to talk about boilerplate content and when I think about boilerplate content, I think of regular generic… It’s just the same stuff if you go and get a lease for a property, you get a boilerplate rental agreement, or you get a boilerplate loan, it’s kind of that generic copy. However, on your website and the way Google looks at boilerplate content is the same but similar as far as what that content is. So what exactly is boilerplate content? Then we can talk about the SEO ramifications or non-ramifications.

VD: Boilerplate content is actual text, textual content that has no big importance into the meaning of a page. So the same thing in a contract, you might have a 100-page legal contract, and 90 pages are just stuff, it’s non-essential, it’s there because it needs to be there. But it brings no value to the contract. Same thing for web pages, there are times when you need to have content or text or paragraphs that really don’t bring much to the purpose of that page. So for some law offices, it could be the legal disclaimer at the very bottom of the footer. It doesn’t have to be, sometimes it’s non-essential text that needs to be there on every page, it seems repetitive, it is truly not duplicated content but nonetheless, it might need to be there for one reason or the other. So again, this boilerplate content is not very important to users, not very important to search engines like Google. So the question has always been… And recently it’s come back as a discussion among web masters, is: How does Google and other major search engines look at that text that is non-essential but nonetheless presents on a lot of pages? Does it penalize the pages? Does it look at it? Does it index it? Does it ignore it? And this is what we’re going to talk about today. So it’s not that interesting of a show today but nonetheless, if you’re interested in understanding what that is and how Google handles it, please listen up.

Ryan: Yeah, and one of the things that jumps out at me is if you actually look at the Google Support Page that talks about boilerplate content is that it also says that your header and your footer is considered boilerplate, and that typically, Google is able to recognize what that boilerplate content is and therefore it will ignore it. Now back in the day, we used to do keyword stuffing in the footer, we made sure we put extra links so that we had link juice in the footer, and a lot of that has gone away. But I still know a lot of the companies will put… Let’s say they’re a local service, I’m a service company, an attorney, a dentist, electrician, a plumber and I’m located in Rohnart Park, but I will also want to be found in Santa Rosa, so a lot of times down in the footer, we would always put also…

Ryan: This page is correctly and this is about boilerplate, is our conversation that we had before we went on air this morning. If I’m understanding it correctly, those tags may not really have any SEO value. If Google is saying “Your footer is boilerplate content.” And we’re basically going to ignore that content because all the critical information that your viewers should be concerned about is actually in the body of the text and that’s where we’re really putting the emphasis from a search relevancy point of view.

VD: True. So a few years ago, if you looked at a footer and you were really into SEO for your website, a web master might have recommended to have a different footer on each page. So you might have 50 pages and we wanted that footer to be slightly different, so it didn’t get penalized as duplicate content, or Google didn’t see it as keyword stuffing so we were doing a lot of hard work. Eventually, Google got smarter and said, “Okay, you can have the same footer, we won’t penalize you. So that’s the key thing today to understand. Then the Google search engine has come such a long way now that even though in my tag the piece of your content as boilerplate, it’s not going to penalize you in terms of ranking. It’s just going to skip over it and ignore it totally or understand then, okay, if it’s good enough of a homepage, I don’t have to take it in consideration for the other hundred pages because it’s repeated and it just needs to be there, again, as boilerplates. So again, it is not creating a penalty in terms of your ranking, it’s just going to be, simply passed over by Google, which is good news. So that means you don’t have to worry about having different headers, and different footers on every single page of your website like we used to a few years back.

Ryan: Right. And then Google is also saying that sometimes it’s not able to, maybe depending on the way you’ve laid out the website and those type of things, to determine if this content is boilerplate. And so, there is code that you can actually embed in the page to go, “Look, this is just boilerplate content.” And I think you brought it up earlier, it’s going to be like attorneys. Typically, they need some sort of disclaimer and they should put that disclaimer on every single page, including blogs. We might have issues about duplicate content and as long as Google is able to recognize that, “Oh, this is just boilerplate content. It’s really not relevant to the topic, the main body of conversation, let’s just ignore it so that it doesn’t affect ranking.” And when we say ranking, we’re both talking positively, and negatively, ’cause if you try and load some keywords in there and Google is basically ignoring it, then it’s not gonig to help you in a positive or negative fashion.

VD: Yes. And you mentioned the codes. There’s actually coding technically, you can use to identify specific texts as being boilerplate. That’s done through CSS, and classes. So your webmaster should know about it. Truthfully, at Business Website Center, we’ve never seen great value of it. It’s not used often. And again, because the search engine algorithm has got so great at identifying on its own what boilerplate is in comparison to the good content on your webpages, then this code is almost obsolete. Two years ago perhaps… Nowadays, with the way the advancements have been with the search engines, you don’t even need to identify it. If you see you’re having an issue with that, of course, you can use the code. But again, it’s become a little bit obsolete and it’s not again that you’re going to be penalized, it’s just going to be skipped over. So, just have a discussion with your webmaster. They should know about the subject matter and should be able to explain to you if it’s something for you to worry about or not to worry about it at all for your type of website.

Ryan: Yeah, definitely. And just to clarify, what we’ve been talking about comes straight from a Google Support Page. So as far as how Bing handles it, Yahoo or any of the other search engines, I personally don’t know. You may have more input on this, but the conversation that we’re having today is specifically about Google, which hopefully is your primary source simply because typically, about seven out of 10 searches are still done through Google these days.

VD: Correct, and here at our company, we solely focus on Google and the way Google looks at webpages. Yahoo and Bing, it’s all fine and dandy, but they represent such a small percentage than… If we code for Google and do it properly the way they want us to do it, our clients are going to get the best result. So when you say it comes directly from Google, that’s absolutely true. Google has ongoing live blogs, and where people like myself and my team can participate in and ask questions. And this is when we hear those type of things. And again, boilerplate is identified automatically by their search engine, but does not penalize the ranking of the page. It just simply skip it over if it does tag it as boilerplate. So this comes directly from a Google employee. That’s why we feel confident about making such a fact or telling you during the webinar is because we heard it directly from them. Therefore, it must be true.

Ryan: There you go. So again, the key takeaway is that Google really getting smart. Every year they’re getting smarter and smarter and every time the Black Hat, Gray Hat SEO people try and manipulate the system, they have a way of figuring this stuff out and fixing it. And one of the big things, a couple of years ago, was the whole duplicate content issue. The Panda algorithm change really affected a lot of businesses, so everybody became scared about having duplicate content. And this is just the way of going, “Look, Google is smart enough to know that you’re going to have some duplicate content on your website.” Again, especially if you’re an attorney or if you have some sort of legalese or any type of content that has to be on every page, Google is pretty smart if you’re concerned that they may not be able to recognize it as boilerplate content, then simply put the code in and then they will exclude it. Just realize that Google has to index your page again in order to recognize that is codes there. So it’s not gonig to happen overnight. Any last thoughts on this?

VD: Yes. One thing I forgot to mention that in terms of ratio, if you have a long page or any page, as a matter of fact, you want to make sure that the good content, the one that is optimized, and the one you want to be indexed, is far greater than the boilerplate content. So if your legalese is twice the size of the good content, you’re going to have a problem with that page and its indexation. So, it’s all about ratio, and proportion. But beside that, in most cases, something not to worry about, again, Google is smart enough to recognize your boilerplate and again, still index your pages, accordingly.

Ryan: Alright, perfect. With that, I think that is the end of today’s show. Virginie, as always, I appreciate the time and energy that you put into it. And next week, is it AMP?

VD: Yes. Accelerated Mobile Pages, something brand new from Google again. It’s a hot topic on the Internet for webmaster, a new way of coding pages specifically for mobile devices. So, tune up with us next week.

Ryan: Yeah, and so this is definitely gonig to be a definite “want to see” because it is new technology. As we know of Google, they’re always testing new things. And the big question is, will this be something that they implement and move forward and integrate into analytics or is it gonig to be, “We tested it but we don’t see there’s a change”? No way of finding out until we try it and do it.

VD: I think it’s going to stay so, follow us next week.

Ryan: Alright, sounds good. Alright everybody, that’s it for today’s show. Thank you for watching. If you have any comments, we’d love to hear them below. Until then, we’ll see you next week. Take care.


About the Author:

Ryan Perry is the founder and CEO of Simple Biz Support, Inc. Ryan started video blogging in 2009 as an alternative to written blogs to create visibility and credibility online. During the workweek, he enjoys helping small business owners harness the power of video to grow their companies. On the weekends, he enjoys hiking and searching out waterfalls throughout the state of California.

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