Abby Reimer joins the SEO Rant Podcast to share her thoughts on avoiding copycat content creation:
How copycat content can actually harm users
How to avoid creating copycat content
Why having the right intent is key to avoiding copycat content
Sure, copycat content is not a great user experience. I think we can all agree on that. Producing content that skims the surface of a topic in an overly superficial way is not good for users. But it goes beyond just a poor user experience. Copycat content can result in emotional and even physical harm.
Does that sound far-fetched? Well, in this episode we explore how copycat content can be exactly that, harmful.
Here's a synopsis of what we discussed.
What Is Copycat Content?
Copycat content, whether found through Search or on social, is your typical listicle (or another content format) content that offers no new information. This kind of content has been produced time and time again by multiple sources and is therefore very unoriginal. Moreover, such content lacks depth and thought which generally makes it unhelpful. As copycat content, it offers little value and can in certain cases be harmful to readers. Copycat content is superficial content, as a rule.
While creating copycat content is certainly not a best practice in any way, shape, or form, it is very easy to do. In fact, many content creators end up creating copycat content without the intent of doing so. This is why it's important to explore the reasons why you should avoid creating such content.
Why Is Copycat Content Harmful to Readers?
For very basic topics copycat might not harm anyone. The truth is, the reader might walk away with a superficial tip or two. However, for more complex topics that focus on health or emotional life, copycat content can harm those reading it.
Take adopting a dog for example. It sounds like a fun and simple process but dealing with a puppy is extremely hard and involved. It's something that can really impact your life. If you get search results that offer copycat content on a subject like adopting a dog you can end up with information that is inaccurate. Inaccurate information can lead you to make decisions that can add stress and imbalance to your life at both emotional and financial levels. In the case of adopting a dog, this also would impact the animal itself. Meaning, if you read an article that superficially analyzed the pet adoption process it's very likely you will walk away thinking the endeavor is far simpler than it is. But what happens to both your well-being and the well-being of the animal when it turns out the process is extremely difficult and time-consuming?
There are endless examples where superficial content that creates the wrong impression can seriously and negatively impact your life.
Copycat content, because it lacks a true understanding of the reader's life considerations can offer surface-like advice. This advice, to the unassuming reader, if taken, can cause serious harm. Because copycat content lacks in its thoughtfulness it can have readers walk away with advice that will cause anything from financial loss, to emotional stress, to physical harm.
Bad, and even superficial advice, has real consequences.
How To Avoid Creating Copycat Content
The biggest thing you can do to avoid creating copycat content is to create something based on empathy. When you create content that considers the life situation of your potential audience you naturally end up creating content that is nuanced and thoughtful. As a result, it is far less likely that your content will cause harm to your readers. At a minimum, your content will offer unique value as it is based on a genuine perspective.
To help you create empathetic content so as to avoid creating copycat content you can:
Scour social media to see what people are talking about
Read through the content on forums to see the real problems people are facing
Survey potential readers and interview them to understand their problems and thoughts
The Right Intent Matters When Creating Content
Part of not creating copycat content is being honest with yourself and the reasons why you are creating it. If your intent is fundamentally about acquiring new users, that will shine through. If you have no real interest in helping users, no matter how much research you do and how much you write, that piece of content will have an acquisitional tone.
Intent shines through. It can't be hidden.
Creating content that is helpful to users means being honest with yourself. You need to want to talk about this topic and want to help your audience. If deep down your writing something with acquiring traffic as your core goal, that will become manifest in the content. You can't hide your agenda.
Of course, there are different types of content and some content is a bit cookie-cutter. Recipe content would be a good example. From one recipe to the next, there is really not much that differentiates that.
However, outside of this sort of "cookie-cutter" content, your purpose matters, perhaps more than anything.
Unique Content Is the Only Effective Business Proposition
Copycat content is easy. It might even be effective in the short term. However, it does not work fundamentally. No one is going to sign up for your newsletter if they don't feel you are offering something unique. No one is going to follow your brand on social media if the posts you put out are full of fluff. People fail to realize your content is your brand. It's how people perceive you. If you create surface-like content that lacks depth, that's how people will see your brand.
The latent messaging your content leaves with people sticks with them. The subtle signals your content emits to your readers are an important part of how your business is perceived. If your content gives off the latent impression that you don't offer unique value, that your messaging lacks thought, etc. it will impact how people interact with your site. It may mean they never go back to your site again.
If, however, your content comes off as substantial and thoughtful that can result in users returning to your site and recommending it to others. Strong content sends the signal that you are trustworthy and knowledgeable. It can position your site as being known for offering unique value within a given niche.
Being satisfied with copycat content is a recipe for failure. Plain and simple.
For more of the SEO Rant Podcast check out our previous episode on setting SEO expectations with clients.