Blogs are not only a valuable information source, they are also incredibly efficient vehicles for performing content marketing to promote a company or its products. In the line of professional services, many organizations want to use blog content created by experts in their own organization to prove to their potential customers that they are a viable business partner.
Unfortunately there are also companies who don’t possess the required expertise or haven’t assigned proper resources for content creation, but they still wish to drive traffic to their website through articles that contain keywords they expect potential customers to be searching for. As the web is already full of content, why not just grab a suitable piece of it and post it in your own name? Sure, it’s unethical and mostly illegal, but what’s the risk of getting caught on the wild wild west of the Internet?
Microsoft Dynamics CRM community has tons of great experts that choose to share their knowledge with others without asking for any direct monetary compensation for it. Lurking inside this community (or perhaps rather outside at the gates of the community) is a small number of players who are willing to take advantage of all this free content and use it to fill up their own blogs with direct copies of the original posts. Typically the only difference is the lack of reference to the original author of the content, because it wouldn’t look very smart if someone finds out you haven’t actually added any value in the copy-paste process. It’s not content sharing like posting links to articles by others, it is content theft with a very clear intention of benefiting from the works of others.
This week I ran into two cases where the posts from my Surviving CRM blog had been posted on another blog, word by word, without my permission. The first one was a blog by an individual, who apparently was trying to build up his profile as a Dynamics CRM expert. The second one, however, was a Microsoft Dynamics CRM consulting company that’s a listed partner on Microsoft’s Pinpoint service (I won’t post the name of the company, but this is their profile). Looking at their Blogger profile, it was apparent that this company was misusing blogs and stolen content from also many other sources in an effort to gain traffic for their own website.
I spotted that the company in question had hotlinked the article images from my web server, instead of re-posting them on Blogger. That’s of course the easiest way for them to steal content, but it also opened up an opportunity for me to teach them a lesson. See the slide deck below for the results of the little trick I played on them. If you’re interested in viewing the actual page and seeing if the modified images are still there, just open my original article about subgrids and associated views in CRM 2011, copy a sentence from it and paste it into Google to find the unauthorized copy of my article hosted on the company’s blog (tip: it’s the Blogger blog with a dynamics-crm2011 prefix in the URL, the article’s posted in September 2011).
Despite of me getting to have some fun at the expense of the content thief, it is of course a very sad thing to see such practices being utilized in selling services for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Out of all people, it’s CRM consultants who should understand the importance of building long term business relationships on trust, not short term money grabs from gaming the search engines with keywords to lure in customers. In this light, who in their right mind would consider ripping off content from others as a viable tactic to be used for selling services related to customer relationship management?
The unfortunate fact is that there are many people who work with CRM solutions purely from a technical perspective, without understanding the business problems that these solutions are meant to solve. For a customer looking for experts to guide them through the process of deploying Microsoft Dynamics CRM in their organization, it’s not easy to spot the bad apples and choose the right partner. So many professional organizations working with the Dynamics CRM product still today do not bring out their expertise online but rather just settle for having a brochure website with generic, static content about their products and services. This leaves the door open for unethical marketers to flood the net with their blogs and steal the top spots on search listings. It’s not something we can blame Google for; their tactics work because we allow them to work.
To quote myself (or rather the updated blog post image):
So, as a conclusion, when you’re looking for Dynamics CRM professionals to help you implement & develop your CRM system, do some background checks first. It’s all too easy to steal content from others and build up a web presence to lure in potential customers. Online content is easy to generate, building a reputation requires hard work. Some of us choose to skip that ”hard work” part.
Have you encountered content theft on Dynamics CRM blogs you’ve written, or consulting companies that take advantage of stolen content? Any thoughts or ideas on how the Dynamics CRM community could weed out this unwanted behavior?