Content may be king, but copied content certainly isn't.
It’s not even royalty.
It's plagiarism. In fact, it's safe to say that any content copied from another website - pictures, text, videos - is thrown right into the Internet’s dungeon. If you use it, you are absolutely consorting with a hardened criminal.
A while back, Google changed the way we search with algorithm updates called Penguin, Pigeon, and Panda. One of the major caveats of these web commandments from Panda was that websites caught using “duplicate content” would be sent straight to the bottom of the search results pile. Conversely, those writing original content would receive a pat on the head and (potentially) higher rankings.
Why did they decide that the time right to bring the thunder? Well, for one thing there were millions of websites out there brazenly stealing other people’s hard-written, exceptionally-original content, posting it as their own, and reaping all the search (and monetary) benefits. When a hard stop was put to all of those shenanigans, those type of websites dropped off in droves, and the Internet was a cleaner and more honest place.
Google giveth and Google taketh away.
What Can You Do? If that sounds like you, or what you’re planning to do, STOP. Write your own unique content. Show your customers that you have a human voice and show up in search when you are relevant to a searcher's interest. Alternatively, if you just don’t have the time, talent, or energy (completely understandable), hire someone who does!
Ultimately, you need to get your message out into the world - a message that is truly your own. Presenting your business honestly and thoroughly offers not only higher search rankings but also better customer experience and, eventually, sales.
The use of images online - especially when promoting your business - is a delicate process. If done wrong, it can often become a prickly situation that can shut you down before your site is even up. In some cases, it can cost you THOUSANDS of dollars in fines and lawyer’s fees because you could get sued.
That’s right, SUED.
What infringers don’t understand is that copyright laws are in place for a reason. In the United States Constitution, it says these laws exist to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
This means that if you take an image from Google, Pinterest, Tumblr, or another resource, use it anywhere on your website or your blog, and it is copyrighted, you’re running a serious risk of being completely ruined.
What Can You Do? Take your own photos. Chances are, you have a smartphone that you bring with you to every customer interaction or job site. Snap a few quick pics of your handiwork and your team, and add some credibility to your site by using original, fantastic photos that are all your own.
Barring that, find legal sources for your images. Make use of sites websites like ShutterStock and pay small amounts for stock photos, or try sites like Creative Commons or Wikipedia Commons. This will save you more than just money (it also saves time and heartache) in the long run. They will save you long before you do something you’ll regret.
Even video - a relatively new medium in digital marketing - is not immune to the ways of Internet pirates. There are cases where videos have been used and shared illegally and their owners - not happy about it - have taken swift and decisive action. No using someone else's hard work for your commercial benefit, and no copying someone else's video and posting it to your own channel. Today, YouTube shuts down anyone using copyrighted materials and removes the video from the system, rendering it useless to anyone for that point on.
What Can I Do? Having a video production team on standby isn’t on every business owner’s to-do list. Neither is setting up the tripod and the GoPro to film a product in action. To make successful promotional videos, talk to a professional! Many marketing companies out there offer affordable, high-quality video production services, and can create an original 30-60 second video, with music, for you with ease.
The moral of the story is: be original. Be you. If you can’t create the content you want, there are others out there who will help at a price you can afford.
If not, you can be sure that customers will recognize when your “spectacular” content has been taken from somewhere else, and they may respond by opting for other companies that aren’t afraid to do their own, original thing.