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Breaking the website company’s code.

Today I feel like that guy on the TV show Magic’s Biggest Secrets Revealed. I was doing some competitive research for a client and noticed two sites that looked almost exactly the same. Viewing the pages, I quickly realized that most of the wording on the two sites was also very similar.

Assuming this was just a lucky catch, I pasted a phrase from the homepages, “we provide fanatical support” into my Google search bar. The websites of at least four other firms had the exact same content. Looks like a website company was “reselling” content, to put it politely. I wonder if their clients know…

To see if this was a widespread occurrence, I visited 50 law and accounting firm websites, checking homepage text phrases using Google searches. Here are a few of the phrases that showed duplicate use (whole paragraphs, not just the phrases):

“Unfortunately it’s more expensive to support two households than one”

“We are dedicated to keeping clients abreast”

“minimize the disruption caused by the family law issues”

“suffer because of someone else’s carelessness”

“In addition to drive, ambition and a great deal of planning”

Based on my unscientific research, about 10% of firm websites were guilty of using unoriginal content. This included websites managed by some major companies.The last phrase listed above was from an article posted on over a dozen sites. I looked at the vendor’s site, and to be fair those firms may have known they were purchasing the same content.

Is this reused content really a bad thing? Who cares if other attorneys or accountants in other cities have website with the same information, right? No one would ever catch it because no one conducts crazy searches like Dave.

I think it’s very wrong for these 4 reasons:

  1. Trust. If you paid for original website content, you got ripped off. If your vendor is lying to you about something as simple to create as content, what else could be wrong?
  2. Differentiation. How can this type of generic message really differentiate you? You need to stand out from your competitors, not blend in like a commodity provider. Get your own message.
  3. Creativity. Whether or not you get caught, what kind of message are you sending to your clients? Essentially, you are saying that you cut a corner, aren’t particularly creative, or fell for someone’s trick.
  4. SEO. I’ll let the search engine optimization experts comment on the details, but I do know that Google expects websites to have original content. If your content shows up on other sites, you may get downgraded or worse. That’s only if you get caught, of course. Want to roll the dice?

To check for yourself, pick a few seemingly original phrases on your site and paste them into a Google search box using quotation marks. I hope you see only one search result – your own site.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.SM

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