It starts out as a simple thought. “Let’s hire an agency/vendor/outsourcer/firm to write some content for our website.”
Most of the time, the relationship is dreamy and you get the content you expected. But in some cases, like in Smith Plumbing & Heating’s experience, it can turn out to be a nightmare.
The working relationship starts out just fine. But as the weeks or months go on, deadlines get missed… targets are off… and no transparency into what’s getting accomplished. And you begin to wonder if you made the right choice.
What Exactly Does A Content Marketing Agency Deliver?
Businesses want leads from the web, and developing lots of pages and posts is one strategy to accomplish inbound calls and visits. New website pages, relevant content, timely blogs, all help to boost online Google rankings which leads to more traffic.
How A Content Marketing Agency Can Hurt Your Business
Some vendors, outsourcers, or agencies want your business relationship to last forever. Some expect their clients to know nothing about the industry, and want to cut corners to maximize their profits.
If a writer thinks you are none-the-wiser, they might decide to reuse the content they made for you and recycle for another business like yours. Or even worse, the content or output you think is original for you, is actually reused from another site.
They figure there is little chance the repercussions can come back and haunt them, so they can easily take advantage of the situation.
How This Happens To The Best Of Us
When businesses hire a content marketing specialist, there is often little precaution taken for legal protections. Most businesses don’t even realize that there can be a serious downside to using agencies.
Most businesses will default to simple contracts from searching “outsource writer contract”, that include few or no clauses that protect intellectual property. Even worse is an oral agreement that has literally zero legal protections.
There is also the agency problem- where outsourcers act in their own best interest. Once they’re already being paid and the contract they’ve signed doesn’t limit their actions, they act in their best interest. With little regard for their client- they might be inclined to resell the content or output to another unsuspecting client.
What Happens When A Freelance Content Writer Goes Rogue
It may sound innocuous enough, content being stolen would just enrage a business owner to know their product was sold to another company, the agency double dipping into one source of labor. But the reality is worse and has a much greater impact on a business’ finances.
Google is an algorithm that indexes content, associates it with keywords, makes calculations as to its relevance, and then delivers pages into the Search Results. They do not tolerate duplicate content- it means a website is stealing content, or delivering worthless (duplicate) information.
Once they identify the duplicate content (they will), then the websites with the content get penalized. A penalty is delivered in the form of deindexing the website from their search results.
This means that a website is essentially invisible to anyone searching in Google via those related keywords.
The site can be found through links and directly by entering the URL, but not to someone searching “local XYZ near me”.
If a business relies on Google Maps or SEO/search results for leads, then this will be instantly removed from their lead generation funnel.
But It’s My Content!
If Google does not recognize you as the original owner, then you may be in for a world of hurt. For many reasons, they might not identify the original site as the original publisher. In this case, it can be arduous and costly to get your issue straightened out… if not impossible.
In the meanwhile, while going through legal channels and communicating with Google for a DMCA violation, your website is invisible to prospects.
For weeks or months, you might not reach one new prospect through Google.
How To Resolve Duplicate Content Deindexing Penalties
If a site gets hit with a dexindexing penalty, here are the steps to follow, further detail here:
- Ask for content to be removed from the offending site. Have fun explaining how and why you are the original owner of the content and figuring out how they got the content (if not deliberately stolen).
- File DMCA violation. If you have receipts and a trail for the content showing you are the original owner, you can go through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and get protection.
- Ask the website’s web host to remove content. Web hosts must act on DMCA requests, so they might act to remove the content from the offending website.
- Get Google to remove the offending contact from their index. The last step is to get back in good graces with Google so they identify the issue has been resolved.
- If Google doesn’t deindex the site, lawyer up. If all previous steps are not reached, then find a lawyer with experience in DMCA takedowns. It will cost you.
Webfx details how to do that.
Obviously, this is not a simple and quick solution to resolving your deindexing. While it’s all being hopefully resolved, you are losing leads daily.
If you cannot make it clear to Google that your content has been ripped, and they are unresponsive to your claim (may take months) then your entire website may need to be redone, including a brand new domain name.
Tactics Outsourcers May Use To Watch Out For
Here’s some of the methods that content agencies and experts may use to cut corners or otherwise make more money with less effort.
Content spinning is when AI tools are used to take an original text and manipulate, add, remove, replace text to make it unique. A vendor might use this to make lots of content on one topic. What can happen is that the ‘spun’ content is not done effectively and remains similar to the original content. Then it’s used elsewhere and BOOM, duplicate content… and a subsequent penalty.
Oftentimes, an agent that distributes press releases will copy and paste large amounts of text from the client website. It gets syndicated out to dozens or hundreds of sites and all of a sudden Google flags all the duplicate content. If it is severe enough, the original site with the copied text will get deindexed.
This is the case of Smith Plumbing. They had a marketing agency working for them. It soured after delays and minimal results, so they paid out the contract and ended the business relationship.
Later, they found the content that they paid for had been sold by their vendor to other companies! Bam, duplicate content.
Protect Yourself and Your IP
Once your content is stolen, shared, or re-used, the cat is out of the bag. Sure you can get lawyers and DMCA the content for copyright, but the damage has been done. The algorithm has already identified the duplicate content and there’s nothing that you can do about that. Google will not respond to your inquiry and say “oh, we see the issue, we’ll fix right away!”
“So what to do? How to find a content marketing agency that I can trust?”
Watchdog Business Tools is a solution to protect yourself before the cat gets out of the bag. Clauses and contracts that allow you to protect yourself from agencies doing shady things. Once they sign the contract and see you are knowledgeable and serious about protecting your IP, suddenly, there is no issue in the future.