Content On The Cheap – Stealing From the Internet

by admin on February 2, 2009

I was busy today; buzzing along with articles, blogs, editing, proofreading, Twitter and anything else that came across my never-empty desk. Then Gabriella, the owner of BestSEO and, dropped a link on my desktop and all work stopped. 

The link: What Is Content Development To An SEO
The writer: Dan Zarella – Social and Viral Marketing Scientist
The summary: Don’t bother paying an optimizer to write your content. Steal it off the Internet and rewrite it.

I’m not sure if my reaction is “outrage”, but it does come close. Am I worried about the business or money we may lose? Not at all. We have plenty of business, and many people may read his article and agree with him, but still don’t have the time to put it into practice. This is not about business and losing clients.

Mr. Zarella is on Twitter with over 6,000 people following him. Over 6,000 people following his advice. If you’re in that type of situation, you have a responsibility to your readership – a responsibility to lead them the right way. To me, this post of his is tantamount to me saying to my followers and readers, “Go ahead, throw keywords out the window. You don’t need those.”

Mr. Zarella makes a point of saying that there is plenty of content on the Internet if you just look. He advocates going through the content, putting it together to build your article and then changing certain key places to create your own article. He calls it “content on the cheap”.

Okay, so I’m admittedly biased. We write a lot of the content you’ll see out there. Chances are, if you look up green building, real estate, freelance, website design, makeup tips, wood flooring and many other subjects, you’ll come across something that our writers or I have written. This means that Mr. Zarella is advocating using the content we’ve written, that our clients have paid for – our original, researched work – and copying it. (Okay, okay – and other SEO copywriters’ work as well.)

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Zarella is right about one thing. There is indeed a way to get “content on the cheap”. It’s called research. If you’re going to take the time to look for the content, you might as well take the time to learn about the subject. For that matter, since the subject is probably about something you already know, write it from your point of view. How much longer would it take to write an article about your chosen profession, business, etc.?

Everyone has a trick up their sleeve to get things done faster and cheaper. However, the question is this: if you follow what Mr. Zarella advocates, would you be willing to tell people about it? Would you honestly say, “I’m glad you like the article. I took it from a bunch of other articles and rearranged things until it couldn’t count as plagiarism.” For that matter, doesn’t it detract from the power of the article, knowing that it’s nothing more – and much less – than regurgitated material?

Finally, I’d like to pass on Gabriella’s response to the article:
Hey Dan – I have been reading your posts, and for the most part, I agree. This one, however, I had to read a few times. The thing I don’t get is how you can advise people to “re-write” content that is already out there. I am sure people with enough education can paraphrase any article and make it pass through Copyscape.

However, I’m an old-timer. I’ve been on the Internet since 1992, and quite honestly am tired of seeing so many rewritten articles. We have enough regurgitated information out there. I would think, with as many followers and readers you have, that you would advise them to write something original and/or controversial – not to rewrite something that’s already out there. The beauty of this is that it may not get high traffic to start with, but the “information” will be more than content. It will be original, thought-out content.

Well said, Gabriella.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Orsini April 20, 2009 at 1:13 pm

You make an excellent distinction between research (i.e., citing your sources) and stealing (i.e., lifting and rewriting). Thanks for this important post!

DazzlinDonna January 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

While I agree that stealing content from others and reworking it is wrong, that’s not what Dan was recommending (unless I missed something in that post). One of the examples he gave was using public domain works. While the end result may or may not be worth anything, that’s a far cry from stealing someone else’s work. I’m fairly certain he didn’t mean to imply that anyone should do this: “This means that Mr. Zarella is advocating using the content we’ve written, that our clients have paid for – our original, researched work – and copying it”. So, a discussion centered around “value” of legitimate content reuse is good, but let’s not get upset about something that Dan didn’t suggest.

Health-info-tips February 11, 2010 at 6:55 am

I understand the predicament of a writer. After having spent time researching, writing a good article and at the end of the day, some ‘smart’ dude plagiarised your hardwork and claim ownership of it. That really sucks!

Part of the blame should be shifted to the so called “Marketing Gurus” that invented scripts which could rewrite ‘stolen’ articles turning them into ‘unique’ articles selling these scripts like hot cakes to newbies! So who started plagiarism in the first place?

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