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How Free Web Content Can Cost You

By: Jessica Cox at Harvest Media

Submitted on Fri, Nov 3rd, 2006 12:00 am

How Free Web Content Can Cost You

Would you wear a suit from a thrift store to a meeting with your clients? Then why settle for recycling free content on your website? Your website message effects inbound links, dictates your online reputation, and can land you on the wrong side of a lawsuit. Most importantly, web content impacts customer trust. These directly affect your bottom line, yet many companies don’t see the dangers of using "free" content on their websites.

Recycling web content damages your credibility
Your company is unique and so are your customers. They are looking for services that fit them like a glove, not something cobbled together from spare parts. Clients make value judgments about your company based on the quality of your website. They will be measuring you against the competition, so provide a compelling reason for them to choose you.
Custom content showcases your expertise and capabilities. When you provide these resources, customers learn to turn to you for answers. This gives you a foundation of trust to build on. Trust is critical to any online endeavor. Your website message must reflect the same level of excellence as your services. Propping up your site with off-target content and clashing voices can ruin the cohesive, seamless feel of your website.

Free articles cripple online public relations
A well-written article increases visibility and attracts qualified customers to your site for free. You gain a wide audience and instant credibility by submitting your articles to e-zines and other publications. However, free articles are useless for getting your name into e-zines.
Editors are looking for quality content with a fresh perspective. Why would they want to publish materials that have been passed around, crumpled and finally ended up in the lost-and-found? E-zine editors know their way around the free article databases. Don’t risk damaging your relationship with them by re-submitting old content as your own.

Lack of unique content means lost links
Articles also provide a powerful resource for generating quality inbound links. By offering useful resources leading back to your website, you will see an increase in natural links. However, recycling free articles on your website can actually hamper link-building efforts.
Other websites link to yours when you offer unique and interesting resources. Why would they give you a second glance when hundreds of other sites post the exact same content?

A word about copyright
Passing off copyrighted material as your own work can seriously damage your reputation and your bottom line. Don’t make the mistake of thinking no one will notice. Writers regularly use sites like Copyscape.com to pick up copyright infringements. Aside from substantial legal ramifications, the last thing you want is to give a well-spoken author a reason to blast your company on their blog and every forum across the web. For details on the legal aspects of copying internet content, I recommend this excellent article from the Franklin Pierce Law Center: http://www.fplc.edu/tfield/copynet.htm

How to utilize free articles
Expression is protected by copyright, not facts and ideas. Free article databases are an excellent place to look for ideas and topics that might suit your audience. Once the creative juices are flowing, you can create resources tailored to your customer’s needs and desires.

Web content – a double-edged sword
Web content is a powerful marketing tool. If used correctly, quality web content can boost traffic, encourage links, and increase conversions. On the other hand, off-target content can transform a promising site into a resource drain. Don’t let "free" content damage the potential of your website.

About the Author

Jessica Cox
Harvest Media
Jessica Cox is the founder and CEO of Harvest Media. Maximize returns on your website investment with custom SEO content solutions. Get a head start on SEO for your website and find out if your website meets basic Google Quality Guidelines.

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