Advisor Products creates great financial articles for advisor clients and prospects. Should you copy and paste some of those articles and use them as blog posts? Here are some issues advisors need to know about when using other people's content.
Content posted to many websites does you no good with search engines. To benefit from search engines, you need unique content. To be clear, Advisor Products articles about wealth management are posted on hundreds of advisor websites. They’re not unique. So they do not help you with search engine optimization. Nor do they hurt you. The point is, if you buy articles from a vendor and post them on your website and other advisors also post the same exact articles to their websites, the articles may be great reading but they do not help you with search engines.
Making Articles Written By Others Your Own. The way to use articles by written by other people to gain search engine benefits is to make them your own. That does not mean changing a couple of words. It means using the article written by someone else as the basis for your own story -- pulling a few key facts but rewriting it to your specific audience.
For example, we recently posted an article for advisors to use on their websites about Section 179 deductions. Yesterday I was speaking with an advisor who specializes in working with veterinarians and suggested he rewrite that article and make it pertain specifically to vets. Write about the equipment they typically might be using a 179 deduction for. Write about a local vendor who sells that equipment and how it helps to document the purchases. Localizing the story will also help you with search engines.
Don't game the search engines because they could penalize you for that. If you just change a few words in an article and try to outsmart the search engine robots that crawl your site, you put yourself at risk of being penalized. From my research, it seems there is no exact formula about how much an article can be duplicated without the search engines ignoring it. But Google and the other search engines are getting used and being relied upon on the Web because they provide authentically good information. So my personal take on this is to be honest and credible and rewrite an article written by others to really make it your own.
Ethical And Regulatory Considerations. Apart from the search engine considerations, using an article written by someone else on your website raises ethical and could raise regulatory issues. About 15 years ago, Bob Plaze, the outgoing Deputy Director of the Investment Management Division of the SEC, told me that RIAs should not take credit for writing articles that other people write. Ever since then, Advisor Products policy has been to post a disclosure on websites and newsletters we create for advisors saying that articles we provide are written by someone other than the advisor. For me, it was as much an ethical issue as a regulatory one.
Not all vendors serving advisors do this, however. Some vendors appear not to know about the regulatory risk that could be involved when an advisor posts an article written by someone else as it were written by him, and other seem oblivious to the ethical issues.
Advisor Products makes no compromises on ethical and regulatory issues. We tell advisors when we feel like they may be doing something that could land them in trouble. We also submit all articles made available on websites and in newsletters to FINRA for review -- even though so many of our users are RIAs that do not need FINRA review of content -- because it's the prudent thing to do. FINRA's advertising rules aimed at protecting consumers are similar in most ways to the SEC rules regulating RIAs, so it is good practice for RIAs to use FINRA-reviewed content. Since the SEC does not review content, the only way you'll know when you've published advertising without necessary disclosures is when you're being cited by the agency or a state regulator for a deficiency.
Taking positions like this has sometimes opened Advisor Products to criticism and we've probably lost some business because of it, but we don't cut corners when it comes to ethics and compliance.