Content is King

A friend of mine sent me an email and asked me the following question about content creation.

Instead of replying to him, I thought that would be a good case study about duplicate content and how to create good content for your site.

If you have questions you’d like me to answer, feel free to contact me.

I have an attorney friend who is looking to add a blog to their site. They were wondering if there was a way to add content articles to their blog, to keep it fresh, without them adding unique content each day.

I told him that it is best to try and write something weekly, but he was hoping to have the page update with some other law related articles… Is this possible?

The Rise and Fall of Duplicate Content

The short answer is “yes”. It is possible and fairly easy to do. Simply install FeedWordPress or WP-o-Matic to your WordPress blog and start leeching content left and right via RSS feeds. Is this a good thing to do? Certainly not!

First of all, replicating someone else’s content without their approval is called copyright infringement. While it is widely done everywhere online, it doesn’t necessarily means it is ok and you might get into trouble if you copy articles from other websites.

But now let’s assume you have the consent of the article’s writer to place their article on your site. In most cases, the author will ask you to link back to their site to give them credit, which is a common practice. You might think “great, free legit content populating my site every day/week/month”.

Well let me tell you that’s a big mistake because you are now generating duplicate content. And if there one thing Google doesn’t like, it’s duplicate content. Google sees duplicate content as a waste of space and while it might index both articles in the beginning (the original, and the one syndicated on your site), it will sooner or later realize that the content is coming from the author’s site and will start removing the duplicated articles from its index. Even worth, it might even “ban” your site and remove it completely from its index.

Think of it this way. Imagine that both the author’s site and your site are newspapers. Every time the original author writes something in his newspaper, it shows up in your newspaper the following day. Who would buy your newspaper? Right, no one would because they can have the same news from the original source before getting it from you. That’s exactly how Google sees the duplicate content issue.

You may still be a little skeptical about all this. Well, why not try it for a while. Find someone willing to share his articles with you, or use articles from an article directory such as GoArticles and you’ll see how your site will slowly but surely drop in search engines. Been there, done that!

Blogs Are About Hearing Your Voice

People or companies are always very quick at starting a blog because they read somewhere that it’s good for search engines. Yes, a GOOD blog is good for your search engine rankings. If you’re just blogging to replicate content, what value are you bringing to the table?

See, blogs are good for search engine rankings because if you have a good blog, people will comment on it, they will link back to it, and that is how a blog really helps search engine wise. People go back to a blog because they like what YOU have to say about XYZ topic. It’s all about the way YOU say things. They don’t care about reading rehashed articles from another site. They want to hear what YOU think.

On my iPhone blog for example, most people come back to it because they like how I go straight to the point without beating around the bush. They also know my voice. My voice is basically to complain about how restrictive Apple is with the iPhone. That’s my voice. That’s what I am known for and that’s why people keep coming back.

Blogging is about finding your voice and sharing what you have to say with others. It’s very probable some people will not like your voice. Who cares? You can’t please everyone. I know some people don’t like my voice and they call be a whiner. Fine, I’ll take that. I’m an iPhone whino but you know what? Even among people who don’t like my voice, many of them keep coming back to my site. I know that because they often leave comments (including their names) and after a while, I get to recognize them.

Create Your Own Content

Content is king! The best way to have Google love you and crawl your site on a regular basis is to create your own unique content. Yes, it does require some work from you but this is the best way to bring quality traffic to your site.

There are several ways you can easily create original content:

  • Write a mash-up of an article you read: you just read a good article? Simply write a little blurb about it and tell us why you liked/disliked this article.
  • Pay someone to write for you: you can find freelancers that can write articles for you for very cheap. The downside is you don’t really control the message or the quality of the writing.
  • Create a case study: this is what I’m doing here. I took a real life example to create a blog post.

Perhaps the hardest part about writing good content is to find good topics. Once you have the topic, the writing will come quickly. I have a few tricks to find topics when I don’t know what to blog about:

  • Yahoo Answers: look for questions asked about your expertise in Yahoo Answers. If someone asks the question there, it’s probably because they didn’t find the answer else where.
  • Forums: just like Yahoo Answers, forums can be a good way to find a topic.
  • Twitter: I usually find iPhone-related topics on Twitter in seconds. Just go to the search option and type “yourexpertisekeyword ?” If you have a blog about olive oil, search for “olive oil ?” on Twitter. You’ll be amazed to see what kind of questions people may have.
  • Other social networks: do the same as I do with Twitter on other sites such as Delicious, Digg, etc…
  • Ask: sometimes you can just simply ask your clients/friends/employees what they want to hear you talk about. I sometimes ask my Twitter followers what I should write about. If a similar topic comes back several times, I will write a post about it.

The Bottomline

The bottomline is, as I said above, if you have good content and you have an original way to deliver it (that’s your voice), people will read you, they will trust you, and they will recommend you. In the end you will gain from it not only in the search rankings of Google, but you might also generate new leads, maybe some consulting jobs, or whatever may apply to your industry.

If you’re not ready to make the effort of blogging and you just want to blog to create yet some more crappy content, just don’t do it. You will waste your time and money and it might hurt you more than you will benefit from it.