When developing content, don't follow the crowd

It’s one thing to create content that the market wants to read. It’s a completely different thing to create content that mimics what the market sees. Even the press has a hard time with that.

At the end of the Iowa Caucuses this year there was only one thing that was perfectly clear: the polls do not reflect how things are going to turn out. Yet for months now, the political press has been bombarding us with reports about who was doing well and who was not based on the latest of a plethora of polling agencies. Even though that was plainly clear, they have not yet stopped reporting on what the polls say.

The very simple reason the press continues to report faulty information is … everyone in the press is reporting it, therefore it must be reported. News is supposed to be about whatever is not usual. It is supposed to alert us to the extraordinary and it is supposed to be vetted before it goes out.

I had the opportunity to cover a presidential race in 1976 and was stunned to find out that the information I discovered with relatively little effort was not what the rest of the press wanted to report on, simply because no one else was writing about it. More specifically, if it wasn’t covered by a network, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post, then it was not covered by anyone else (This was before CNN and cable news, by the way. Yes, I’m that old).

There are other examples of the press not letting a dead story lie, but let’s not use this time to gang up on the press. The rest of the world is not much better, especially in B2B content.

Plagiarism is an ugly word, but I have found it to be quite common within the tech world when it comes to marketing and collateral content. In almost every case it is unintentional, but in every case it really messes up your program. Not only does it tend to destroy credibility when people recognize you are “re-using” someone else’s content, it’s a great way to drive your content lower in searches. I constantly see the same document published under different bylines on behalf of different companies. I’ve even seen stuff I originally wrote decades ago popping up under someone else’s byline, who got it from a client I originally ghostwrote it for. Let me explain why this is a really bad thing.

First, all the major search engines will scan new content and if they find large sections of a piece of content duplicated in another, newer piece, they newer piece will be driven down in the search listings, along with the URL of the company that publishes it. Original content is the number one, most important measurement for search engine rankings. That is followed by the number of people who actually take time to read it, and whether they share it and comment on it. It’s tough to get people to do those three things if they have already read it somewhere else.

Second, your content is what differentiates you from all your competitors. If you are the larger, more established player in the market, and every smaller competitor is duplicating and appropriating your content then there is no clear differentiator, and customers will always go with who they know. If you are the smaller player they probably don’t know you. So don’t copy the big player’s style or wording. Find your own.

You may think that isn’t you. You may think you have written the most important text document ever produced. That is generally not the case.

Footwasher Media evaluates all its potential clients according to their content and one of the first things we do is take their most recent content and run it through a plagiarism engine (there are many available and most for free). Nineteen of 20 companies have less than 10 percent original content in their material and are, frankly, surprised when we tell them that. If they don’t believe us, we don’t take their business. In many cases, they plagiarize their own content, but that, too, is not good. If you publish an article on your blog and then republish it on Linkedin, you will get dinged by all the search engines and by Linkedin. So just re-publishing content is just as bad as stealing it to the internet. Don’t do it.

There are ways to get around this and even re-use material effectively, but that’s a conversation that comes with an evaluation. Click here to get one.