When Unique Content Is Not “Unique”


This is meant for people striving to develop long term web properties. Those churning and burning can return to their regularly scheduled programming. ;-)

I was reading a recent entry on visibility over at the seomoz blog last night and in it was the tried and true suggestion of making your site stand out (both visibility wise and algorithmically wise) with content.

“Develop unique content” is almost always the first suggestion given by people being asked how to make a site stand out from the others in a niche. Matt and other Googler’s are constantly preaching it as something Google wants.

So why the hell do webmasters and online marketers find this concept so difficult to understand?

I think one of the bigger reasons is not fully getting what “unique content” means. When “experts” and engine reps preach it, they mean it from a conceptual standpoint and not a literal one. So, what does that mean?

There are two possibilities for unique content. The first is the literal one. A page of content that is technically unique from those found on other websites on the web. I’d be more likely to call this unique *text* as that’s really what it is. The topic/gist of the page is the exact same as one thousand other pages on the web.

An example of creating literal unique content would go something like this:

1. Webmaster needs to add more content

2. Webmaster goes to a top ranking site and writes down all the topics the site has or uses the keyword research tool at Overture to come up with a list of potential topics

3. Webmaster either writes a dictionary style explanation of the content or reads another article on the topic and writes basically the same thing in their own words

While this content is full of unique text, it certainly doesn’t have any unique value. The same information is available all over the web, the above is just written using the webmaster’s own words.

The second version of unique content (in my head anyway) is conceptually unique content. Something that either no other site has, something that you’ve written to be better than the current information that is available or something that uses what is already available, but with a twist to make your version either more interesting or adds value to the original concept or topic of the “article”.

As an example, I saw a site selling internet services that was not a “big brand”. The site had seen a ton of complaints about people trying to cancel service with one of their larger competitors. So, the non big brand site wrote a cancellation guide for canceling service with their competitor.

Not only is the content ranking in the engines because no one else had thought to do it prior to them, but they received a lot of links on message boards, homepages and blogs as well as traffic from frustrated customers of their competitor who happened to be in the market for a new internet provider.

“Content is king”. I laugh most of the time when I see this phrase. I think the people swearing by its success are those creating unique content from a conceptual standpoint. I think those who think content is a moot point are probably creating sites with unique content from a literal standpoint.

Think of content like movie plots. When a movie is predictable or the basic plot has been done ten times before, you want to see something new – a new spin from the director, a better level of special effects or an unexpected twist to the plotline to name a few. If a movie is a repeat of five others you’ve seen before – and it doesn’t give you anything new aside from different actors, how likely are you to see it again or recommend it to others?

Content follows the same concept in my mind. If you re-hash the same crap already out there, with no added value – the site can be as *literally* unique as it wants, but that alone isn’t going to earn it recommendations (links) and therefore ranks in the engines and word of mouth with people for being conceptually unique.

Of course, don’t just create true unique content and then sit on your ass. Content is not a magic pill. You still need to do link development, advertising and promotion for your site. But, having content that is unique from a conceptual standpoint will give you a strong advantage – and with today’s competition on the web, advantages are something you can’t afford to be without.

About Rae Hoffman

Rae Hoffman aka "Sugarrae" is an affiliate marketing veteran and the CEO of PushFire, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audits and link building strategies. She is also the author of the often controversial Sugarrae blog. You can connect with Rae via Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Sugarrae runs on the Genesis Framework

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  1. Brandon Halliburton says:

    This was very helpful. Thank you for taking the time write it. I will be sure to share this!

    One of the challenges that I have come across is finding topics that have been already written in my niche. I guess that’s just part of the game. I hope to get more involved into blogging for my business. Now I am deciding if I want to create a blog on business site or have a blog separate from by business.

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