May 14, 2018
“There is nothing new under the sun.”
It’s an ancient pearl of wisdom, dating back to the book of Ecclesiastes and repeated by millions in the generations since. But if you’re a marketing manager at a law firm, you might wonder whether the maxim ever made its way to the guys at Google.
The search engine giant prizes originality. Google rewards the creators of new and unique content — especially written content — if it can assist or inform their users.
“New and unique” doesn’t exactly describe the average Boise Car Crash Lawyer webpage, though, does it?
But it’s your job to get webpages like that to move up the Google rank for your law firm. So how do you do it?
Today, we explore the murky issue of reusing, replicating, or rewriting old blogs (and other web content) for the purposes of search rank and SEO.
We’ll look at all that and more, but at the outset, a warning: this article won’t give you the easy answer you might be hoping for.
It is a general rule in life that the only shortcuts that actually work are the ones paved in asphalt. But “life hacks” can help you make the most of what you have, including the resources you’ve already created in the past.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to do just about everything. Our goal here is to illuminate the right one.
But first, let’s look at the wrong way.
Oh, the temptation. To do again what one has done before… it’s an appealing prospect because it means reducing your efforts and your costs at the same time, and it offers that gratifying feeling of reaping one’s harvest.
There’s just that pesky Google rule. Duplicate content is a no-no, plain and simple. Thou shalt not copy and paste.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, though. In several of the sections to follow, we’ll highlight ways to drink from the same well more than once without angering the search engine gods.
But before we get there, some ground rules:
It probably goes without saying, but then again, this happens so often on law firm websites that it bears repeating. Plagiarism is bad.
But plagiarism isn’t always obvious, either — not even to the plagiarizer.
It’s all too easy to accidentally incorporate someone else’s language during your research, or to forget that your notes from last week were actually copied and pasted from someone else’s website.
Actually, Google might be better at identifying plagiarism than humans are.
For law firm marketing managers, there’s an added layer of concern here. Putting plagiarized or duplicated content on a law firm website can get the attorneys in trouble — not only with the owner of the infringed-upon content but also with the state bar’s ethics board. It’s also ruinous to a professional reputation. And if the content is copied from a local competitor, it’s an egregious embarrassment for the firm. You don’t want to be the marketer who made that mistake… or the one who green-lit someone else’s infringing work.
To that point, a word of caution: be careful who you trust with your copywriting. Pennies-per-word typists may be easier on your budget, but they might also lack the expertise required to write competently about legal issues. That’s problematic in numerous ways, not the least of which is the concern that writers who are in over their heads might be more inclined to dip into someone else’s content and put their own “polish” on it… and polish is rarely enough to avoid plagiarizing.
You’ve heard of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Let’s add one more “re” to your arsenal: re-mine.
C.S. Lewis had some thoughts on this. He wrote:
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
That is, in essence, the concept of re-mining.
As a marketing manager, even if you don’t do the actual copywriting for your law firm, you’ve probably been involved in topic development at some point. We don’t have to tell you, then, that topic development is one of the most challenging and time-consuming parts of content creation for attorneys.
So here’s some good news: topic development is the part of this process that can be “reused” (that is, re-mined) again and again.
Wondering how you can dust off your old ideas and rework them into something new? Here are some tips:
There are times when it makes sense to duplicate content — verbatim, even. Google understands this (as do most other search engine algorithms). For example:
Whenever repurposing content, your goal is to create a new version of what you’ve done before. And that isn’t as hard as it sounds.
If your intention is simply to write about the same thing in a new way, you will most likely end up with content that works.
But if you’re attempting to manipulate search engines or “get away with” plagiarism, it will show in the results. Besides, meticulously trying to reword an old article paragraph-for-paragraph takes infinitely longer and makes you feel a little dead inside.
Creativity is what makes writing fulfilling!
You’ll find plenty of advice online telling you that duplicate content is totally okay. Ask yourself: does that really make sense? Does it seem likely that your website can get ahead of its competitors by just re-posting the same stuff all the time?
While it is true that Google’s penalties are chiefly intended for those who are acting maliciously or in bad faith, duplicate content is never going to get you very far. Even if you don’t earn a penalty per se, duplicate content will not rank well because Google filters it out in the search results. You’ll just be competing against yourself, meaning all the time and money you put into the content creation was a waste.
Repurposed content, though? Not even Google has a problem with that, provided it’s done in the spirit we’ve outlined above. So re-mine your heart out!
Black Fin is a digital marketing agency that works exclusively with attorneys and law firms. Our only goal: getting you bigger cases and better clients by using the web.
We talk with law firm marketing managers every day. We understand the pressure to improve your Google search rank, as well as the critical role that great content (whether entirely original or uniquely rewritten) plays in achieving that goal. In fact, content marketing is the #1 thing we do as an attorney SEO agency. So let us help you get there. Call the legal marketing experts at Black Fin today.