Creating meaningful content has always represented a strategy for accounting firms to build differentiation and stand apart from their peers. But in our increasingly digital world, a winning content strategy is more important than ever before.
Today, there are many platforms, alliances, and agencies where an accounting firm can go to buy content. Many firms are actively using these services to buy content for their website. But what many firms fail to account for is that if you can buy this content, so can your competitors.
That could easily lead to you and your competitors producing very similar content. In some instances, this content may be plagiarized. This is especially true given the growing popularity of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools among content marketers. Tools like ChatGPT are powered by Large Language Models (LLMs) that produce content based on existing resources already published on the internet.
Of course, the output is far from identical, but whether you’re getting your content from a professional writer or an AI-based chatbot, it’s vital to ensure that you’re avoiding plagiarism. But what exactly is plagiarism, and why is it so important to avoid it and instead embrace original content? Read on to discover the answers to those questions and more.
What Exactly Do We Mean by Plagiarism?
When you plagiarize content, you represent another individual or firm’s original ideas as your own. Now, this does not necessarily mean that your content is copied from another firm’s site word-for-word. That would be considered egregious plagiarism and does happen, but in practice, determining plagiarism is often much more nuanced.
One example of this is paraphrased plagiarism. This occurs when your firm publishes an article that takes content from someone else and repeats the same ideas, albeit using different language and sentence structure. Your article might follow the same structure and answer the same questions, essentially presenting the same information in a slightly different format.
There are tools available that help firms determine the level of plagiarism in their current content. Software platforms like Grammarly have a built-in plagiarism checker, and standalone tools including Quetext also offer this option. Bear in mind that results may be inconsistent between different tools.
However, it’s important to note that given the amount of content on the internet today, some level of plagiarism is unavoidable. It’s entirely possible to write an article in a complete vacuum and still have plagiarism-checking software flag some percentage of the content as plagiarized.
The chances of that increase further when an article references content that’s already out there, including articles on your own site, quotes, interesting statistics, or even sections of the Internal Revenue Code. Articles about popular topics many people are writing about, such as outsourced accounting, are also more likely to have higher plagiarism scores.
While at first glance, plagiarism might seem like a black-and-white issue, the reality is significantly more complicated. Given this complexity, exercise judgment in determining whether your content is plagiarized.
4 Reasons Not to Plagiarize Content
Accounting firms should not adopt content strategies solely for the sake of having one. Content strategies work best when the entire firm is bought into sharing fresh, new perspectives on exciting topics: not plagiarizing and reheating other firms’ content.
Here are several important reasons to avoid plagiarized content.
1. Google May Penalize Your Site
In many content strategies, one of the primary goals is to increase the firm’s ranking on Google Search through a process known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This attracts more traffic to the firm’s website, generates new leads, and ultimately results in increased revenue.
Google’s position on plagiarism is very clear. Plagiarized content will be deprioritized in search results in favor of higher-quality, original content. If your goal is to grow traffic to your firm’s website, then that’s what you need to invest in: not plagiarized content.
2. No Value For Your Audience
Remember, content serves as a differentiator for your firm. Done right, a content strategy helps cast your firm, and your people, as experts, luminaries, and thought leaders that a client would be foolish not to hire. Plagiarized content, by definition, does not serve that goal.
Rehashing another firm’s content and presenting it as your own adds no value to your audience. However, it is perfectly acceptable to take inspiration from existing content and share your own firm’s views on it.
Here’s an example: whenever any major tax law passes, hundreds of accounting firms release an article summarizing the legislation. Every article will have some level of plagiarism since they all discuss the same subject. To differentiate your firm and stand out, take a unique approach that shows thoughtful consideration for how this legislation will affect your clients and target audience.
3. Reputational Damage
Repeatedly publishing plagiarized content does not build your reputation as a firm: it erodes it.
Plagiarizing causes clients to see your firm as a follower, not a leader. Rather than being seen as a practitioner on the bleeding edge of changing tax regulations or accounting standards, your firm will be perceived as a laggard with unoriginal ideas. That causes lasting reputational damage that drives current and potential clients away from your firm, never to return.
4. It’s Just Bad Business
Plagiarism is cheating. And nobody likes a cheat.
Operating your business with a clear set of values and code of ethics is important. It’s crucial in building a culture founded in integrity, which is a central component of trusting client relationships. Plagiarizing content runs counter to all of that.
The Value of an Original Content Strategy
As you evaluate your content strategy, and the role content purchased from external vendors plays in it, it’s important to make sure your firm isn’t unintentionally engaging in plagiarism. The potential risks of doing so can be very damaging, and it’s extremely unlikely a content strategy anchored in copying others will result in long-term success.
Putting in the work to develop and implement an original content strategy is an investment that compounds significantly over time. With the right execution, firms can realize a wide variety of benefits: from stickier relationships with clients to a reliable flow of inbound leads.
Successful content strategies serve as moats for your business. They’re near-impossible for competitors to imitate and build an enduring competitive advantage that enables your firm to unlock increased growth velocity.
Building a winning strategy demands a thoughtful, measured approach driven by content marketers with real expertise in the accounting industry. At Winding River Consulting, these strategies form a key element of our digital growth frameworks for accounting firms.
To learn more about how we can help you create a winning content strategy for your firm, contact us today.