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Warning All Content Marketers! The Hidden Cost of Creating Online Content

James Perrin

by James Perrin on 18th October 2012

PenniesThe value of content couldn’t be greater. Whether it’s for SEO Social Media or Brand purposes, it seems as though Copywriters and Content Marketers are in high demand. However, there’s a hidden cost to cutting corners and creating poor quality content. Let’s take a look.

Guest Blogging: Small charges that could cost you the world

Any good SEOer or Content Marketer knows the value of a guest post. Done correctly, this is an excellent way of building high quality links, as well as driving highly targeted traffic to your website. It helps position you brand within your chosen industry and generally generates a great deal of exposure within strong industry websites, blogs and publications. Done incorrectly and it could have very limited value, or worse, it could end up costing you a penalty.

The issue with guest blogging is not with the practice itself, but rather the guest posts site looking to monetise off the back of it. The post-penguin environment has caused a surge in guest blogging activity. You don’t have to look too hard to find a guest blogging service, or a website with a write-for-us section. This is absolutely fine. However, the site you choose to post on may be an issue, especially if you choose to pay the site owner for the privilege of providing them with a quality post.

Such sites are asking SEOers and Content Marketers anything from a £10 – 15 administration fee to a £100 advertorial cost. It is not recommended that you pay anything, no matter how good the site is. But therein lies the problem. It’s not usually the good quality sites that are asking for a fee. It’s usually the sites with poor a PageRank, a weak backlink profile and below par content. Something else that you have to be wary of are those sites which have separate sections for Guest Posts and Advertorials. Such pages are blatantly flouting Google’s guidelines.

“The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results: Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.” (Webmaster Tools Support: Link Schemes)

By having a section highlighting advertorials or paid guest pots, such sites may as well be waving a big flag in front of Google’s face. Whilst there have been no cases whereby Google have punished someone for paying for a Guest Post, you can’t help feel that it’s only a matter of time, especially given that most of these sites are really poor in quality.

Therefore, if you are participating in Guest blogging, don’t stop. It’s a fantastic tool to have in any Content Marketer’s or SEOs armoury. But you have to make sure the site you are writing on is of a decent quality, and are not charging for guest posts.

Content Marketing: Wonga and the targeting of students

Image source: Inside The Rings and Flickr

This story made national news. Wonga were caught creating content targeted towards students and later admitted that the entire thing was for SEO purposes. [See: Wonga branded 'morally offensive' for targeting students].

The idea being that the more content you create around a specific topic (e.g. payday loans), the more links you have pointed towards the site you’re looking to optimise. Wonga’s argument at the time was that the content they created was not meant to be read, but rather purely created for search engines. Unfortunately, this was something of a warped outlook of what Content Marketing is. Your content will get read and shared, that’s the whole point of Content Marketing.

Now, in fairness, SEO has been undergoing something of a makeover in recent times. Content used to be created just for a link, without a real regard as to who was reading the content. As long as the search engines found the link, that’s all that mattered. This has now changed, dramatically. The quality of what you are saying is the main thing. The quality of the site you are getting a link from is just as important. Additionally, the content is aimed to enhance traffic referral, social signals, as well as conversions.

For Wonga, the true cost is not known. They received a whole host on negative publicity that went nationwide. This would have harmed their brand immensely.

Copywriting: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Website Rulings

Back in March 2011, the ASA’s powers were extended to cover companies’ own marketing claims on their websites as well as other non-paid spaces that they control. [See: ASA's online remit].

The first action they took came one month later with the Maperton Trust website receiving a warning from the ASA to remove content from its site. The website claimed to offer, “The latest technology to repel lice form infesting children and adults”. However, the ASA found the statement to be misleading and thus breached their CAP Code rules. See: Lice Advert Scratched: ASA Issues First Website Ruling for more information.

A detailed list of the latest websites to have been named and shamed can be found on the ASA’s Non-complaint online advertisers list. Now, there’s a lot to consider when creating websites, but when it comes to any sort of copywriting, you must ensure any claims can be substantiated. The Maperton trust found out the hard way, and so too did the 007 Magazine website.

The website found themselves in breach of three different codes from the ASA, all due to the language used within their copy. The company failed to substantiate claims about its international circulation – it claimed it was, “purchased internationally in over 40 countries since 1979″. There was a comparative claim about its archive which failed to meet guidelines – “Number One James Bond archive source”. And finally the ASA believed that a testimonial on the site was not genuine – “No real James Bond fan can ever miss a copy of 007 MAGAZINE”.

As a result, the website can be found in breach of the ASAs guidelines, and will be listed as non-compliant until further notice. The unsubstantiated claims can still be found on the website.

What’s the moral of the story? Don’t fall foul of the ASAs guidelines. Just like Google have their own set of rules, they are there for a reason. Ensuring what you are saying is 100% accurate, without making any unsubstantiated claims will help. You won’t receive unwanted attention and bad publicity. Instead, make sure you write accurate, but also quality and compelling content. The idea for website copywriting is for search engines to build relevance around a page, but also for your customers to convert. Skilled and experienced writers can achieve this, so if in doubt, consider website copywriters.

Copywriting: and Copyright Infringement

Whilst it was quite unknown at the time, during the Olympic Games the Middletons (the family of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton) were investigated by LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games).

Pippa Middleton and her family run a party supply business, in which their website was deemed to have violated the Olympic copyright protection act. They were selling Olympic themed items within a section titled, “Celebrate the Games”. Pippa, who wrote the website content, was investigated over the use of the Olympic rings as well as the association with Olympic sports including sprinting and javelin throwing.

The business escaped a fine of up to £20,000 simply by rewording the content. Whilst the Middleton family got away without any significant penalties, any other site infringing copyright laws may not be so lucky. When it comes to copyright laws, there’s much more to consider than just copywriting. There’s image use, video uploads and use of music on sites or in videos. So, if you’ve used an image that you shouldn’t have, or uploaded a video containing music that doesn’t belong to you, if it isn’t removed swiftly, further penalties could come your way.

Final thoughts

As you can see, no matter what format or method of content creation that you choose, you must be careful when publishing anything online – you have been warned. If there is anything else you’d like to add to the pot, I’d love to hear your stories or case studies. Anything else we can add to highlight areas of caution for content creators will be most welcome :-) Over to you…

Image Source

Out with the old via BigStock

James Perrin

James Perrin

Content Marketing Manager, James Perrin is a regular contributor to the Koozai blog. Well experienced in sales and marketing, James also has a passion for journalism and media, especially new media. From the latest industry related new stories to copywriting advice, James will provide you with plenty of digital marketing information.

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2 Comments

  • Mark @ lead MD 8th November 2012

    Thank You James for sharing this post. I find this post as example of what happened with me earlier. I just paid for guest posting and that website rank was too poor. I think it might help other people to get aware of these things.

    Reply to this comment

  • Philip Polaski 29th August 2013

    I’m just starting out in SEO and web design so I’m eally enjoy reading all the posts on this website. So glad I found your site. Thanks!

    Reply to this comment

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