Businesses are getting on the content train and taking their marketing for a ride, by developing brilliant web, newsletter, and blog copy, showcasing themselves on social media, and by creating lead magnets like e-books and guides. And like any other exploding industry, there are going to be those that take advantage and try to get their piece of the pie without contributing any of the apples, and that’s why plagiarism is bad.
In the content industry, one of the biggest sources of fraud is plagiarism. Plagiarists are everywhere and businesses that aren’t protecting themselves could be liable for copyright infringement, SEO penalties, and lost revenue. Plagiarism is alive and well in this industry. Here’s how to protect your business and yourself.
What is plagiarism?
Normally when you think of plagiarism, you imagine students buying essays from other students or even those who fail to cite a reference. Disciplinary committees don’t tolerate the stealing of another person’s work, but in the real world, the consequences can be much larger. Essentially, plagiarism is the wrongful appropriation and the stealing of someone else’s thoughts while claiming it to be their own. There are many reasons that someone would plagiarize, but the most obvious is that the writer is lazy and wants to be paid for work they did not do.
Plagiarism doesn’t just include articles that are copied fully from another source. Some scammers in the industry will piece together articles by copying sentences or paragraphs from several different sources. The writer will change just what they think they need to in order to get the article accepted, when they’ve written no more than a few sentences in the entire article.
Another form of plagiarism is called “patchwriting” and is where a writer will just rewrite an article they found on the web in their own words. They are basically just rehashing posts and aren’t adding value to the article that you are paying them to write. Because Google looks for unique and relevant content to rank on the search engine, any content written in this form will be penalized and rank low. If Google recognizes that it is wrong, you should too.
Plagiarists aren’t just the newbie writers on your team but can even be your most-trusted writers. Some plagiarists will write original content a large majority of the time and then slip in copied content at regular intervals, knowing that the trust the client has built in them will supersede the fact that they should be checking each and every piece submitted.
What harm does plagiarism cause?
When the content you use for your business is not 100% original, it has the effect of causing lost revenue, diminishing your reputation, wasting time, losing clients, and there will be a hit to your SEO. Here’s how:
If you’ve already paid the writer, you’ve paid them for services they did not perform. In 99% of cases, they won’t offer that money back to you. They’ll be gone quicker than you can say “not your work”. You can try to get them to rewrite the work, but with your trust fractured, you may just want to cut your losses and move on with a different writer – or worse – rewrite all of the plagiarized content yourself.
Once a writer is deemed to be a plagiarist, all their past work must be checked to ensure it is all original. This is a very time-consuming task and never comes at a good time. Whether they’ve worked for you for days or for years, your time will inevitably be lost to a task that is tedious and most likely, anger-provoking. All plagiarized work will have to be rewritten, which again takes time away from your business. You’ll have to hire a new writer and spend time training them, and you won’t have that two weeks of notice that you normally have. Expect to work some long hours after finding a plagiarist on your team.
If you publish work for other clients, you’ll have to let them know that their work was written by a plagiarist. If some of that work has been copied, you will need to do damage control to keep the client. These clients will lose trust in your business and your processes and you may see them walking out the door if you can’t prove that this won’t happen again. At Article-writing.co, our proactive measures have ensured that no plagiarized content has ever been published, but we have had to let our clients know that a person who is now known to copy content from other sources has worked on their content.
In some cases, the writer will actually try to defend themselves and call you out as the one who is a scammer. We’ve had incidences of plagiarists defaming us by publishing reviews saying we don’t pay our writers after they’ve been caught copying someone else’s work. Hiring a copywriter for your content is a difficult task and truly takes some know-how. You’re taking a risk every time you invite a copywriter to know the inner workings of your business and your client’s business.
One of the worst outcomes of having a plagiarist on your team is that your content will take an SEO hit, and unfortunately you may not even know it. If the content on your site is directly copied from another site and the original publisher finds out, they can report it to Google. Your site can then be blacklisted, and the copied pages will be removed from search engines. If your site has enough copied content, your entire site might be removed from the search engines, resulting in a traffic drop by as much as 90% overnight.
Even if the copied content isn’t reported by the original publisher, Google’s algorithm knows when content has been copied. It is considered duplicate content and will rank your site very low. Even your good content will start failing to rank.
While different countries vary on the fees for infringing on copyright, you really don’t want to get yourself into this spot, no matter where you reside. There is nothing worse than finding out that someone on your team plagiarized their work, except to find out that you are going to have to pay for that copied work and pay for a lawyer to help you navigate the hot water you find yourself in.
How to protect your business from plagiarists
At Article-writing.co, we have a zero-tolerance policy against plagiarism. We check each and every piece we receive from writers to ensure the work isn’t copied from another source. Writers sign a contract to state that if they are found to have plagiarized, they will forfeit all payment for their work. In this industry, this is a must-do, because the more a plagiarist gets away with copying another person’s work and pawning it off as their own, the more they’ll continue to do it. Richardson says, “I believe having strong systems in place and making sure to set very clear expectations with the writers, letting them know that no level of plagiarism is tolerated and that it will result in job loss”.
Use the available technology
Plagiarism checkers are going to be your best friend in this situation. There are many free options online, but the premium versions are much better at finding even the shortest snippets of copied text. All of our work is 100% Copyscaped using the premium version of this checker.
Have trustworthy editors
Editors are going to be invaluable, not just because they ensure a piece of work is quality writing, but because they’ll know if a piece is not original writing. Because technology has its limits, a reliable and capable editor will spot issues that the checkers may not have found. For example, career plagiarists will sometimes reuse their own work and pass it off as original. The online checkers might not catch this, especially if the work was only recently published. This is where a good editor comes in and recognizes that they’ve seen the work before. After working with a writer regularly, a good editor will come to recognize the level of skill and the intricacies of a certain writer. They can easily spot if something seems above that writer’s level of skill or if the writing doesn’t carry the same voice. Fact-checking and verifying all sources is another way editors will find out if the copy produced is not original.
Training your writing team
Encouraging your writing team to produce 100% original content can be a challenge, but it is a necessity in today’s digital world. Ask your writers to write content that provides audiences with value in the way that it is different from anything else out there. Not only is this going to prevent plagiarism, it is going to increase the worth of the piece to your audience. If you are more interested in cheap copy, know that you will get what you pay for.
Monitor content after its posted
Plagiarism goes both ways, and your own content online can be stolen. Ross Trittipo created a carpet cleaning website and was shocked to find out that another business had copied his site word for word. The perpetrator explained that they didn’t have any writing skills and was “jealous” of his copy. Fortunately for Trittipo, it worked out well for him. “I told the guy if he liked what I wrote, he should just hire me. So, he did. And since then I’ve done $20k worth of writing for him.” While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in the case of someone copying your work, it isn’t very gratifying.
There are a number of tools you can use to ensure the copy you paid a premium to get written doesn’t get stolen by plagiarists. Check out this list, from SEMrush:
- Copysentry – from the makers of Copyscape, monitors the web for content stolen from your website
- SEMrush Position Tracking – monitors your keywords to ensure your competitors aren’t using your content
- IFTTT – get email alerts when your keywords show up somewhere else online
While catching a plagiarist on your team is harrowing, it may be the wakeup call you need to improve how you do business. Richardson says, “On the positive side, it has forced us to improve our processes and put elements in place to help us catch plagiarism quickly”.
If you are having difficulty finding writers you trust, who produce 100% original and high-quality content, leave the job to us. Our article writers are vetted thoroughly and all of their work is Copyscaped and edited twice to ensure that every piece of content you publish is unique.
Jonathan Bessette is the General Manager at Article Writing Co. He’s been a writer, editor, and outreach specialist, has worked with clients in dozens of different industries, and has created engaging content, consistent growth, and exciting outcomes.