We all know that plagiarism is wrong. Whether you’ve nicked someone’s strapline or copied across a whole chunk of product text, deep down you know that really, you should have written it yourself.
Some businesses I come to work with have simply lifted copy from a competitor site – and (luckily) they’ve drafted me in to rewrite it. Yet some of those companies had pilfered copy up on their site for weeks – or months. Even if that text is there for just a day it could be seriously damaging your marketing efforts online – and puts you at risk of expensive plagiarism cases, depending on the vigilance of your ‘lender’. In this blog I explain why even the smallest, seemingly insignificant act of plagiarism could cause you problems – and how working with a copywriter or proofreader can help you to avoid making a mistake which could be costly in more ways than one.
Google penalises websites with duplicated copy
Putting the moral argument aside for a second let’s concentrate on how plagiarism directly affects you (and your business). Over the years Google has become more adept at rooting out duplicate copy (a good way to see whether your copy has been plagiarised is to copy and paste some of it into Google and see what comes up). Therefore Google has a policy only to list one site featuring the same text. This could be a problem if you’ve had your copy pinched by a competitor with greater web presence – but it also means you’re significantly disadvantaging yourself if you have copied across even the smallest paragraph of copy which is already in use elsewhere on the internet.
Plagiarism really does put you at risk of legal action
Copyright laws took a significant hit following the success of the internet. Previously it was fairly simple to determine whether your work had been plagiarised – now with such a vast amount of information and data which is easily accessible in the public domain it’s not so easy. That said, Google goes some way to helping writers and businesses who suspect their work has been copied – as it’s naturally in their interest to combat duplicated content in favour of unique, original copy. As above, simply copy a few sentences into the search bar to see whether any results appear which directly match the text. Copyscape is also a good way to determine whether your copy really is original.
Copyright law automatically protects authors (rightly) upon publication from having their work taken – and with Google indexing only one page of duplicate content more companies are choosing to protect their content assets. This puts you at real risk of recrimination if you choose to flout copyright law. In the best case scenario you may be able to pay off the company or simply apologise and remove the content to resolve the issue – in the worst case you’re liable for hefty court fees and compensation.
Customers get sick of seeing the ‘same old’
Last (but definitely not least) – plagiarism affects your customers. This is something that directly influences your success and could impact on the impression you give (and subsequently the selling power your website or marketing literature has). Quality content not only aids your SEO strategy – it also persuades your customers (almost subconsciously) to spend money with you. It gives them an idea of what your brand is all about, what you have to offer, how you run your business, why you’re different. This (along with visual content) is what helps them to form an opinion and make a decision to engage with your company (or not). The only way to know that you are reaching your target audience effectively is to have copy constructed uniquely for your business with them in mind – and content lifted from elsewhere simply won’t cut it.