As content marketing gains popularity, small businesses are seeing the value of website content to generate traffic and increase sales.
But not all content is good content. Good content is difficult to consistently produce, so some businesses resort to adding free content to their website.
This is a bad idea. Free website content is very bad for your business.
If free content is found on your website it could hurt your search engine rankings and lower your website traffic. This can translate to substantial financial losses and has even forced some companies out of business.
Why free content will hurt your business
Google succeeds by providing the best search results to its users. If Google stopped providing high quality search results people would start using a different search engine. Therefore, it’s in Google’s best interest to give high quality search results.
If content is free, it’s likely found on other websites like the place you found it and websites using the same free content. This is not quality content because it’s duplicate content and is found elsewhere. If you really want to share it, just link to it, don’t copy it.
Free content is typically of very low quality because nobody gives away their best content for free. Low quality, poorly written content is of little value to website visitors and provides a bad user experience.
Some businesses try to get around this by making changes and swapping out words. This is called “spinning” content and it doesn’t work very well because it’s still low quality content. In fact, the “spun” version of content is often worse than the original (which was probably bad to begin with).
There’s no way around it. If you use free content on your website you’ll eventually be penalized.
If free content is bad for business, why is it so popular?
In the past it was fairly easy to rank for certain keywords by throwing any kind of content on your website, even free content found on another website.
Over the last few years Google made changes to its algorithm to penalize search results for websites with low quality content like this. Sites penalized include websites with:
- Low quality content (of little value)
- Duplicate content (found elsewhere)
- Thin content (insufficient length to be of value)
Free content typically falls into two or more these categories.
These low quality penalties even extend to websites using their own content multiple times because this is also considered duplicate content.
Unfortunately, some so-called “SEO experts” haven’t done a very good job at keeping up with these changes and still recommend or offer services with these tactics. You can also still find plenty of websites recommending these tactics, so beware.
How to win
Remember, Google’s goal is to give high quality search results to users. If you want to rank in Google, your goal should always be to give value to your website visitors. Do this by offering high quality content that they can’t find anywhere else. If you always do this, you have nothing to worry about. It’s also the best way to protect yourself from future changes in the Google algorithm.
To lean more about how SEO really works, check out our article on the truth about SEO for small businesses.