There’s been a lot of talk the past year about content marketing, and rightly so. The internet is the place people go to find information and if you provide what searchers are seeking, you reap benefits in the form of more eyeballs on your website, mostly through Google ranking you well in their search engine results.
Plus, you derive direct traffic from others, who find your content compelling, and want to share your information with their readers. They can share through their own website (e.g., they can blog about it) or they can share via social sharing in the form of Facebook shares and likes, posting or giving you “plus ones” on Google+, and tweeting out links back to your content.
It’s all good stuff.
Of course, people go nuts when they hear “content marketing” nowadays and think that they need to build “authority sites” with hundreds, if not thousands, of pages. If their quest for all this content, publishers soon find that they cannot create all this content themselves, so they seek out shortcuts.
Shortcuts are usually pathways to trouble.
Let’s get that out there right in the open. In short, publishers–knowingly or not–begin to look for ways to steal other people’s content. There are many variations on this theme, but it goes something like this:
- Pick a keyword phrase (KWP)
- Search for it on Google
- Look at results and visit some of the sites
- Copy the content from those sites
That’s stealing, otherwise known as plagiarism.
Now, I am not saying that you cannot quote passages from websites; of course, you can. Copy small snippets from various websites to support an idea or contention that you have. Attribute (i.e., give credit) your sources by linking back to the original content, stating the author, and make sure you don’t quote too much.
“Too much” is entirely subjective, but there is a rule of thumb you can use to ensure you aren’t doing it. Simply use the shortest quote possible to support your point. Any more is just being lazy. Any less won’t support your point.
What inspired this little “mini rant,” you may ask?
First, last week I got an email from an internet marketer whom I believe to be one of the best and most ethical out there. He broached this subject, but from the point of view of the publisher. He was basically saying “watch out” and be very careful about using other people’s intellectual property. Failing to do that could get you in a lot of hot water.
Second, I just got an email from another marketer whose main purpose is to sell you crap you don’t need and shouldn’t buy. He was pimping a new tool (“same as the other ones”) where you enter a KWP and the tool goes out and literally rips a paragraph out of several websites and brings the results back for you to “spin.”
Now, I’m telling you this: First off, the “article” that results from this process will read like utter shit. I make no bones about that. Second, you are stealing other people’s content and you’re definitely not giving them credit for the hard work they’ve done, unwittingly on your behalf.
Sure, this “content” give you material to publish on your website. But it won’t be good and it won’t be yours. You may derive some Google benefits, until they figure out that your content sucks. Remember, for the most part, the Google bots and algorithm are pretty stupid computer programs that cannot really “read” your content. They see words on a page but they are getting better at separating quality content from junk content. But they are still not perfect (nowhere close).
And I will admit this: Google still ranks junk content well sometimes.
But here’s the deal: Quality will always trump quantity. If you are trying to create an authority site with engaged users, a tight knit community, you must publish super high quality content. Ideally, most of it should be unique. Of course, you can curate some content. But please don’t take other people’s work, call it your own, and publish it without adding your own unique commentary to it.
In short, stealing content is a bad idea. Not only does it produce crap output that nobody wants to read, but it could land you in big trouble on the copyright front. It’s not worth it.