The Evils of Canned Content

real estate canned copy about fireplacesAs real estate agents, many of my clients are offered great “member benefits” for this association or that lead generation company … including canned content for them to use in their newsletters, blogs, on their websites. It’s packaged as a bonus for them and tied up in a little red bow of lies.

If your membership organization is offering you this, you may want to learn just a little more about why duplicate content doesn’t help and may actually hurt your site’s SEO, how easy it is to tell if copy on someone else’s site is canned, and what your alternatives are.

Case In Point:

I went to look over a certain real estate agent’s site on recommendation of one of my peers. I immediately noticed that the bio (which was on the index page) was a labored piece of text, obviously written by an individual uncomfortable writing for public consumption. The sentence structure was awkward, the punctuation was overly excited and the overall impression it left was “amateur.”

She did, however blog. And, according to the dates on her blog she did so regularly. I looked over her posts and it was immediately obvious that the individual who labored over the bio had no hand in the blogs. Out of curiosity, I and pulled the following quote from a blog post she “wrote” on the use of fireplaces: “plus you’ll feel like a regular Mary Poppins by having a chimney sweep in your home” – and Googled it with the quotes in place to be sure I would get identical text verbatim.

And guess what??!?! I got TWELVE pages of results. All of them realtor sites and all of them using this same canned copy source. They didn’t change the copy and quite often didn’t even tweak the title for their area. A few did, but very few. And many of those “bloggers” were posting this same canned copy over on ActiveRain. Seriously?!?!

I’ve been in this business for over 13 years now, working with real estate agents and helping them to do content marketing and I still get shocked by antics like this from my clients’ “competition.” (If only they knew how poorly they were competing!)

So, if you think you are benefiting yourself or improving your site by using “canned” content that someone has given you as a bogus benefit… stop it. STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

How to Effectively Use Canned Copy

If you have canned copy and you are too pressed for time to create your own blogs from scratch, there is a way to enjoy the best of both worlds — convenience and customization. Instead of dropping it in verbatim, use that content as a starting point. Read it, digest it, add your own personal experience, twist to it and make it sparkle with LOCAL and RELEVANT examples. Then offer that information in YOUR OWN WORDS. The idea of blogging is for visitors to get a feel for who you are. Canned copy alone won’t do that.

How to Personalize the Canned Copy

If, for example, you are using the canned content I mentioned above on the topic of getting your fireplace ready for wintertime use, try including the following information:

  • Statistics on the number of homes in your service area with functional fireplaces.
  • Interview a home builder on the pros and cons of fireplaces.
  • Offer a list of cleaning services in the area with links to their site or contact information in on a local directory or yellow pages listing.
  • Get a list of fireplace safety tips from your local fire chief (and give him credit for providing it).
  • Include your own current experiences or memories of living in a house with a fireplace.
  • Link to a website on the history of fireplaces.
  • Include uncommon (by modern standards) uses of fireplaces that are traditional (think popcorn and s’mores) and offer a quick “how to” for your readers to enjoy those uses safely in their own homes.

And when you end the blog, always invite interaction. “If you are looking for a new home with a fireplace, call me. I can help you find just the one to keep you toasty-warm this winter!”

It’s not hard (or harmful) to use canned copy as a springboard — but it’s a bad idea to use it as delivered. If you need a little help getting started with blogging or want advice on how to improve your current blog, hire a professional writer, blogger, or blog consultant. It’s what we do 😉

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