Google Webmaster Help

Cutts to Webmasters: Don’t stitch-up your users…

In his latest YouTube video for GoogleWebmasterHelp, Google Head of Webspam Matt Cutts answers the question, ‘Is it a good practice to combine small portions of content from other sites?’ You can watch his response in full at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z13-yP3Zhns, but the thrust behind the answer is a resounding ‘no’.

‘Stitching’, as the practice is often called, is not favoured by the search engines or by users. It basically involves cutting and pasting blocks of text from lots of different websites and putting them together on your own page, perhaps with an occasional line to cite the source. Cutts points out that Google and other search engines view such content as particularly low value, and he specifically references Yahoo as having an aversion to these methods.

“If all you’re doing is just taking quotes from everybody else, that’s probably not a lot of added value,” says Cutts.

Don’t be lazy

Why would anyone want to stitch together articles from across the internet to create their own page? Presumably the primary purpose would be to save time and money. But this is of course counter-intuitive, because as the ubiquitous Mr Cutts has clarified, such pages will not rank highly and are unlikely to gain you any substantial amount of traffic.

In addition to these search engine-related reasons, content which is simply a cut and paste mosaic of other websites is of little use to your visitors. It also looks sloppy, unprofessional and lazy – not characteristics that endear a brand to online consumers.

You could also be running the risk of breach of copyright. And don’t think that just because it’s on the web, it’s open season on other people’s work. Companies take ownership of their content seriously – start plagiarising it and it could land you in court!

Finding your own way to skin the cybercat

So what should you be doing? Creating your own original content that will provide something of value to web users that they can’t get elsewhere. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t take ideas and inspiration from other places across the web, but as Cutts suggests, bringing them together should really be a ‘synthesis’ that brings such ideas together in a unique way with your own added insight. Most importantly, The words you use should be different.

Cutts rounds off by citing Wikipedia as a website that generally synthesises information well by combining different sources in a unique and genuinely useful way. And you might have noticed that Wikipedia ranks at or near the top for most queries.