Choosing Between Free Articles and Original Content
The debate over whether to buy original content or use free articles that are provided online continues to heat emotions on the webmaster circuit. Free is free and no one can compete with that, but as the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for", on the web free articles almost always come with a cost. This cost is typically referred to as the duplicate content penalty.
In an ideal world, there would be no duplicate content penalty for posting articles provided by article directories or other free content sources. Search engines would merely credit the owners of original content and would only penalize those who copied the content without permission or without reference to the original source. After all the web was formed to share information and free content allows you to do just that. One day we may reach web utopia, but for now we have to play by the rules which are in large part written by search engines.
Keep in mind that search engines have a vested interest in providing results that are free of duplication and clutter. Their mission is to provide surfers with answers to the questions they are searching for. The better the engines do this, the more they are used. This is why the penalties exist for content that is found on several different sites - it lacks originality and provides no added value to the search engine's surfers. Engines do believe in being fair, however, and just as there are penalties for duplicate content, there are also rewards for original content.
In the eyes and minds of search engine creators, website owners that really care populate their sites with relevant, timely, non-duplicated content. Instead of penalties, this group of site owners enjoy the rewards of having improved placement on the search engine results pages (SERPS) which leads to increased chances of online visibility. The other rewards bestowed such as increased sales, improved company image and the turning of visitors into customers relies heavily on what happens after the search engines deliver the surfers to the site.
In closing, whether or not to upload free content to your website really depends on what you want your website to do online. If your site's visitors come from sources other than search engines, then free content versus original content is a moot point. However, if you are like the majority of website owners that are trying to increase the page they are shown on in search engine results, one of the key components your site must have is original content. Not only will this allow you to avoid duplicate content penalties, but it also improves your chances of being the website that uniquely answers the questions asked by the search engine surfer.