The copywriter is a victim of the digital age. The Internet has given consumers an insatiable appetite for fresh content and plenty of places to get it from. It is estimated that by 2017, there will be more internet traffic than all prior internet years combined. This means more users and more competition for their attention. Copywriters are going to have to act quickly to stay ‘on trend’ and work to tight deadlines. Whilst quality is always more important than quantity, copywriters can still struggle to write the perfect piece in the available time.
In a world full of tight deadlines and copious competition, copying other people’s work may seem like your only option, but is that OK?
In short, no. Copying other people’s work verbatim is never OK – a couple of detentions in secondary school taught us that. But taking ‘inspiration’ from others’ work, and maybe quoting phrases and linking back to the original source could help get your mind buzzing and the ideas flowing.
Why is copying content so bad?
Aside from the whole legal argument about plagiarism, there are moral implications of copying that most people just don’t agree with. From a young age, we are encouraged to have our own individual thoughts and embrace the uniqueness of our ideas. To most, copying suggests that we’re not smart or creative enough to think up our own ideas.
Of course, this isn’t strictly true. Copying is a major part of everyday survival – it’s how we learn to do things as both a child and an adult.
What? So no copying at all?
Still no, I’m afraid. But, what you can do is use other people’s work as starting points. Seize upon their ideas and write your own, much better, more detailed, more thoroughly researched piece.
Look at a competitors’ piece and ask yourself how you can write something better. Write your own piece containing your original thoughts, answer the concerns of your primary audience, and add lots more detail, including statistics, sources and links for further reading, if appropriate.
Be imaginative with your additions to create a new and interesting piece based on a topic that has been well thought out by others so you don’t have to. Add your own personal perspective to other people’s content to create non-generic articles of a high quality. This is also known as ‘human copying’ – an ethical means for copywriters to re-interpret articles with variation; by fixing problems and including perspectives from related industries, your content will include substance, depth and insight – all of which deliver extra value to the reader, and help position your brand as a trusted source of information in your niche.
Tip: to give your piece the edge, look at ways to make your layout interesting.
Take a look at the following examples:
HubSpot using a breakout image and text to break up blog article
Buffer using a breakout quote to add meaning to the text
What does Google think?
Be careful when taking influences from other sources, because Google will penalise you if it thinks that you have been pinching content. Also, if you fail to add anything new to previous discussions of the topic, your content will be deemed as ‘generic’, and you won’t be in Google’s good books.
It’s not enough just to have ‘good content’ anymore. Say you’ve written a decent article, hit all the standard SEO points and given the piece a bit of advertising oomph to get things moving: this still might not be enough if Google’s Hummingbird algorithm can’t determine the value of the piece.
The basic problem is this: if your piece entirely comprises other people’s ideas, even if you’ve reworded them to make them sound original, there is no reason for your content to perform. It’s essential to bring something new to the table.
There are thought to be over 200 factors in Google’s ranking algorithm, so if you want to keep your content SEO-friendly it’s a good idea to stick to these quality guidelines.
You see? You don’t have to be a copycat. Copying is an effective tool to help copywriters create interesting and effective content in a short space of time, but original insight is the only way that you’ll be able to engage users and keep them coming back for more. Don’t be afraid to be different!