The Dangers of Bargain Basement Copywriting

emily October 15, 2014client storiesfreelance writersmall business

Let me tell you a story . . . .

A while ago I was in talks with a potential client about writing weekly blog posts for her business website. She was snowed under with the usual ins and outs of actually running her business, and although she was keen to have a regular blog to establish her brand, connect with customers and boost the SEO of her site, she simply didn’t have the time to do it herself.

After we spoke over the phone, and talked about the direction she wanted her blog to go in and what her brand’s ‘voice’ was, the client (I’m going to call her Barbara for the purposes of this story) decided to go ahead and hire me to write her blog on a weekly basis.

Before I’d had a chance to get a contract written up and sent over to Barbara, she called me to say that she’d found a friend of a friend who was offering to write her blog posts for £15 each, which is a lot lower than my blogging rates, so she’d decided to go with her instead.

We amicably parted ways, and you’d think that would have been the end of it . . .

It wasn’t!

A couple of months later, Barbara contacted me again for help. Her writer had been delivering weekly blog posts to her, and all seemed OK. There were some minor spelling and grammar errors, and the blog posts didn’t totally capture the voice of Barbara’s business, but she wasn’t too worried about having to edit them herself. After all, she was only paying £15 per post.

After six weeks of her new blog being up and running, a colleague let Barbara know there might be a problem. The colleague had been looking at competitors’ blogs, and realised that what he was reading on one rang a bell. Yes, you’ve guessed it, it was very similar . . . too similar . . . to one of Barbara’s blog posts. Barbara immediately started reading through competitors’ blogs and pasting snippets of her blog posts into Google, and was shocked to find that the majority of her blog posts had been spun (using different words or sentence structure of an existing piece of writing) or outright copied from existing blogs. In fact, she found one paragraph from one of her posts, word for word, on a blog from 2008. Her ‘writer’ had obviously decided it was long enough ago that it didn’t need to be changed at all.

No wonder she was able to charge Barbara such rock-bottom prices!

How Can Cheap Copywriting Affect You?

  • Your reputation – If the original authors of Barbara’s re-written content found out, they could have done a lot of damage to her new business. Can you imagine if her customers discovered that she was posting plagiarised content on her website, albeit through no fault of her own? Readers of her blog wouldn’t know that it had been ghost-written, they would assume it was Barbara herself writing it. Her reputation among her peers could have also been damaged, particularly if their own content had been stolen to be recycled in Barbara’s blog.
  • Your business – Barbara had obviously taken down her blog as soon as she realised what had happened, and was worried about fielding questions from customers who’d subscribed to it about why it disappeared. Whether she told the truth or cited ‘technical issues’, she faced losing business through it.
  • Your search engine results – If the original owner of the content discovers the theft and wants to take action, it can affect your ranking in search engines. If your website is hosted in the US, you might be hit with a DMCA takedown notice, where the content has to be removed from site either by the website owner or by the ISP. If owner doesn’t comply with the notice, the entire website can be taken offline by the ISP. Barbara’s website is hosted in the UK, and although a DMCA takedown notice is a US provision that can’t necessarily be upheld in the UK, some ISPs will still enforce it. It’s not just the original author that can cause a problem with your website’s search results, Google states: “In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.

Barbara had realised that what at first seemed like a real bargain was actually a false economy, and I’ve been writing her blog posts ever since.

When you use the services of a professional writer for your blog posts, website copy or marketing materials, you’re paying for the following:

  • Experience
  • Original content
  • Research time
  • Time taken to understand your business
  • Time taken to understand your customers
  • Quality and ability
  • Professionalism

If your budget doesn’t yet stretch to paying a freelance writer, and you have the time, it’s usually best to write your content yourself. If you’re not 100% confident in your abilities, ask friends and family to read through what you’ve written – it usually pays to have a second pair of eyes to catch any mistakes.

You’ve worked hard at building your business, so don’t let bargain basement copywriting damage it.





Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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