June 25, 2012 / by Frank Salatto

Just last month, we got another case study in how plagiarism can kill your credibility.  Josh Linkner, a well-known writer and entrepreneur, wrote a piece for Fast Company using another writer’s content.  The paragraphs, lifted from Chris Dixon’s blog, carried no attribution or link back to Chris.

The result: an online reputation management nightmare.  The fiasco blew up on Twitter and Linkner was stuck having to apologize for using copy that he said had been provided to him by a friend.

This example is just one of many on the Internet.  There is so much content being repurposed by bloggers, journalists and small business marketers, that it seems hardly a crime to use content and not link back (or give credit) to the original source.

But it’s a bad idea, and as you saw in Linkner’s case, it can cause your online reputation to go into the ditch.

Borrowing content and giving credit is one thing.  Stealing it is another.  To be sure you don’t fall into the murky water of online plagiarism, follow these three basic rules.

1. Attribute Always. It may not be easy to find the original source of an article, especially when you’ve used another writer’s blog as a resource – but it’s important to try.

If all else fails, and you’re not sure who the original writer is, give credit to the place you found the information.

2. Link Away. When quoting statistics from the latest research study or survey, it makes sense to link to that source.  The same holds true for examples, opinions and expertise of other writers.

Show your respect for the originators of ideas by linking back to their blog post or article.  You’ll maintain your credibility and provide them an SEO boost at the same time.

3. Include Cited Works. In her recent blog post, How To Avoid Plagiarism In A Web 2.0 World, Alysha Dominico suggests that if you used other sources to create your content, include a list of the cited works at the end of your piece.

She also suggests keeping your own list of cited works so you can remember where and when you found the information.

Remember the viral nature of the Internet, and how any mistake you make can be broadcasted throughout the digital marketplace.  Your online reputation is much easier to protect when you avoid plagiarism altogether instead of struggling to repair damaged credibility after the fact.

For more help in creating brand-boosting content, check out our blog post: 7 Video Marketing Tips To Help Celebrate YouTube’s B-day!

Image: Krossbow (Creative Commons)

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