As a content marketing agency, we see all kinds of marketing content: good, bad and meh. Unfortunately, we also see content that’s been copied from other sites without giving credit to the original source. That’s why, in this article, we answer the question: What is plagiarism?
Dictionary.com defines plagiarism as: (noun)
“An act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization [sic] and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.”
And while most people think that plagiarism means copying another’s work word-for-word, accusations can be levelled if one piece of work is very similar to another.
For instance, if you chose to rewrite someone else’s work, but the format was the same, the sources were the same and the structure was the same, you could still be accused of plagiarism. In fact, if you cobbled together pieces of lots of other articles, it’s plagiarism – even if it’s not conscious.
There are a number of potential consequences of plagiarism, especially in marketing.
For one thing, it can damage both your reputation and the reputation of your organisation. It signals that you are happy to copy the work of others without credit. It also suggests that your work is substandard and that you don’t understand your topic.
It can also lead to legal action. The original source of the content may pursue you or your business for copyright infringement. They may even attempt to claim any profits gained as a result of the plagiarism.
On top of all that, plagiarism is bad for SEO. For one thing, your content will be of low quality because it has copied. Also, Google can detect when two (or more!) web pages are similar. It may penalise the site that it believes is a copy.
See, we told you it was bad!
Our top tip is to create original marketing content wherever possible. One of the best ways of doing that is by interviewing subject matter experts.
For instance, if a member of your team has a unique take on a topic – or has a specialism – speak to them about it. Ask them to explain the topic in their own words. They will give you a unique take, which can be used as the basis of an article.
If you choose to record the interview, you could even share the recording as a video or podcast (just be sure to ask for their permission in advance!).
If you’re commissioning marketing content and want to be sure it’s 100% original, there are tools that can help.
Our go-to is Plagiarism Detector. Just paste your text onto the site and it will give you a score for uniqueness. It will also highlight areas that seem to have been copied from elsewhere.
Often it can be as simple as spotting a sentence or paragraph that reads differently from the rest of the piece. For instance, the sentence structure is different or the vocabulary is unusual. In these instances, we often turn to Google. We paste the text in question into the search bar (or a portion of it) and see if Google returns a page with that wording. It often brings up websites that use the same – or very similar – wording.
Where this is the case, it’s important to return to the creator and explain that the content isn’t unique. Some writers – especially if it’s not their day job – may not realise the potential problems with plagiarism. Suggest that they quote their sources (and include links) to give credit to the original and explain the reasons why.
We hope this article helps you to understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. If you need help creating original content, don’t hesitate to get in touch.