It’s hard to create completely original content all the time, and all of us rely on getting inspiration from other people and sources.
A variety of reasons exist why you’d use content on your food blog that isn’t completely original to you, and that’s okay. Your readers will often benefit from this addition, and it won’t impact your SEO ranking if done correctly.
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Just be sure to make sure to think through all the ramifications, both from a content and legal perspective.
This post is part of a series I’m writing looking at the 20 questions Google suggests for digital content creators asking themselves when to optimize for SEO, and they all focus on delivering great content to your reader.
Here are their two questions that focus on using content that’s not original to you:
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
Do you add substantial value and originality when using other sources?
A good way to make sure you add value around any content you source is to be clear on what kind of value you add to your blog.
For instance, on this blog, I use stock photography to enhance the look, but that is fine because that’s not the type of value I’m adding since generally, I talk about ideas, thoughts and principles that can’t be photographed. So, using stock photography to round out the look on my blog makes sense.
When I talk about something more tangible, I always try to take a screenshot or video so I can also share that in my post, adding value and originality for my reader.
But, for something like a food blog, where the thing you are blogging about is very tangible and can easily be photographed, you need to actually take those photos yourself.
Sometimes, you may share a recipe from another site or source with permission, and that will be okay if you add value. (But read below about recipe content mills.)
To add value and originality, I’d suggest making the recipe yourself, take your own photos, and write about that process. Note any changes you made, and always give a prominent link back to the original owner.
Is the content mass-produced?
Google’s SEO algorithm looks unfavorably on content that appears on many websites, especially since it’s a trick by spammers, spoofers and scrapers.
Don’t worry if you copy your own content into another platform once or twice. For instance, I often copy some of my blog content and share it across social platforms. This is not what Google is talking about, and if you want more details, read this post on 3 Myths About Duplicate Content from Neil Patel.
What Google is talking about isn’t the type of thing you do accidentally. You’ll know if you are doing it. If you want to double-check, and be more in-the-know on this topic, read Google’s article on duplicate content.
This is one of the many reasons why you shouldn’t buy your recipes, photos or content from a writing mill. They make generic content and sell it to everyone. It adds no value to your site, does not help your readers and will not rank well in search.
About plagiarism and copyright infringement
Another part of the conversation around using sourced or duplicate content is the issue of plagiarism and copyright infringement. I find while some people fully know they are violating the law, many don’t understand all of the intricacies.
Below, I cover some basic details. It’s an area where you should develop knowledge and understanding.
Copying a sentence or paragraph from somewhere without quoting the source is plagiarism.
Copying an image from somewhere, such as Google’s image search, is almost always illegal. It’s copyright infringement.
This doesn’t just apply to blog content. It applies to all content, whether in print, digital or on social media.
On social media
For social media outlets that let you share, such as Facebook, doing so is great, and helpful to the original creator! Just ensure the content actually links back to their site or page, or that they receive credit.
For an outlet like Instagram that restricts how you can share, always contact the original poster first unless you are sharing in the few ways the platform natively allows you. (Such as sharing a post to stories.)
Officially trademarked names, graphics, characters
You need to use caution for names, names of events or similar.
For instance, Kleenex is a brand name, and you should use the generic term tissue if you are referring to a tissue that isn’t actually Kleenex. It’s unlikely this example would cause any problems, but Kleenex could potentially sue for libel or copyright infringement if you use their name inappropriately.
Many major events, especially sporting ones, are officially trademarked. For instance, you can’t (yes, I’m sure) use “Super Bowl” if you are writing a recipe about chips and dip for the football game played in late-winter. You have to use “big game” or something similar as the name is trademarked by the NFL.
The same goes for using any Disney characters or any other movie or TV-related content. Same for music, images, etc. It’s all owned by the originator and not by you!
If it happens to you
What should you do if someone steals your content?
I know it’s beyond frustrating, and sometimes actually causes real problems. But, I like to first always assume the person/organization in question doesn’t know any better.
If it’s a small scale steal, it’s often not worth the fight, but still up to you. It’s your content and you should feel empowered to take some sort of action.
Practically speaking though, you can try these tips:
- Contact the person/organization in question and ask them to take down/remove your content. First, assume they don’t know any better.
- If on social media, report the account for being out of the terms of service.
- Send a cease and desist letter. (Doesn’t have to be from a lawyer, but you can reference that you have one!)
- You can always try to sue, but this takes money and time and I wouldn’t recommend unless it’s a serious infraction. You have to decide if this is where you want to focus all your energy.
Sourcing some material is okay if it isn’t the main point of your content, but be sure to create value elsewhere.
Don’t use spammy content that is everywhere, as that will tank your SEO and adds no value to your reader.
Make sure you are aware of plagiarism, copyright and trademark laws and follow them. No excuses!
Doing all this makes sure your blog is giving value to your reader, will get you ranked well on search engines and will ultimately end up with you being more profitable.
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