Here's a scenario for you. You're a small-to-medium sized financial advisory firm (or any other business) and you've decided enough's enough, you're going to revamp your website and focus your marketing efforts online for the next 12 months. You engage with an agency to build you a stunning website, with awesome animations and clear call-to-actions and everyone you show it to compliments you on your new marketing machine. Between you and your team you've rustled up enough content to populate the site for launch, but you're conscious that ordinarily you wouldn't really have time to write blogs or produce your own content around your other work. After all, you run a small business and running a business is time-consuming and fraught with plate-spinning.
You decide that in order to keep the website fresh, you'll offload producing regular content and instead buy-in some pre-written topical content that costs peanuts compared to the time it would take for you to write it. You load the content up on the site, sitting there thinking "hey hey, we'll be flying in the search rankings soon with all this topical content!" and you keep loading the content up, every week a new post about investing, the effects of Brexit, mortgage rate changes.. woah, this content is good.
Except it isn't. It really isn't. It's bloody awful, but you just don't know it yet.
It all went wrong when this fictitious company bought in the pre-written content, but why? Why is it such a big problem?
Simply put, the content isn't unique to you and everyone knows it. Google (and the other search engines) love content and they're clever sausages too. They know if content has been used somewhere before and their view on duplicate content is pretty tough; we won't give you any kudos for this content and we may even penalise your site in search rankings.
Whilst you thought loading content up on the site would help your site appear in topical searches, it might actually have the reverse effect; it might actually stop your site from appearing in most searches, topical or not.
Here's an extract from Google's own guidance on the matter:
"Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you'd prefer."
There are other issues too. Let's say every time you update your website it triggers a tweet to be sent out with a link to the new blog post. A potential customer clicks that link, reads the article on their lunch break and was impressed by the points being made. They didn't bookmark the link, but they remember the title as it was catchy and clever. Later that evening they fire up their laptop or iPad, jump on Google and search for the title of your blog.
Shock horror, another advisory firm has also published the same article, with the same headline and the same imagery. How could this be? Oh, but hang on, this firm is even closer to me than the original firm, I'll get in touch with them.
And that, right there, is why non-unique content sucks. Big time.
Not only do you get a beating from Google you then open the door to losing enquiries from anyone who searches for the content online.
Now we're not poo-poo-ing using pre-written content (after all, it does save time) but just bear in mind that if you're looking to use your website to drive business and enquiries your way the only way you'll be able to achieve that is most likely from pay-per-click, as opposed to organic searches. Ultimately, that means it'll become a lot more expensive in the long run to get value from your site.
If you want success in the search engines, think twice before becoming a content-sheep. Invest the time, and write your own content; you don't have to be a wordsmith but your own voice is better than duplicate content.