Plagiarism is rife on the Internet and if you keep producing content, sooner or later someone is going to steal it. Personally I think content thieves should be tied to a post and lashed! But maybe I’m just bitter. I’ve experienced first hand what can happen when content gets copied, and it’s not nice.
What Do Content Thieves Look Like?
How Serious Is Copied Content?
More serious than you can possibly imagine! I worked as an SEO in a highly competitive niche. I worked for almost a year to get my clients website into the top 5 for a massive keyword, and was generating ridiculous amounts of traffic and conversions. It was back slapping all round, and we were making great money. Then the negative SEO started.
One day we looked at Google and our website had dropped from 3rd position on page 1, down to page 2. This had a massive impact on traffic and sales and can be devastating for any company relying on Google for their income. I couldn’t figure out why it dropped, so I did a Copyscape check and discovered our content had been duplicated on another website. According to Google this won’t hurt your rankings, as it’s obvious that your content has been around for longer than the copied version. But unfortunately it does hurt your rankings. This is an area that Google still haven’t got a grip on, despite the protestations of people like Matt Cutts.
I’ve seen first hand where copied content has hurt the rankings of the original owners website.
It doesn’t happen all the time, but it can and does happen, and when it does, the effects can be devastating.
So what can you do about it?
Here’s my method for getting a content bandit’s stolen goods removed from the Internet.
Safety First: Keep An Eye On Your Content
Don’t make the same mistake I did and find out when your rankings have already dropped. You need to protect yourself and know quickly when your content has been copied, so you can act in the first instance.
You can usually find this out by setting up a Google Alert for the name of your website, and for unique phrases on your page. If you set up a Google Alert for your company name, or the name of your blog, you’ll get a nice email every time you get mentioned on Google.
Set up an alert for a unique phrase in your article, and you’ll be alerted every time that phrase appears on Google.
This will give you a good indication of anyone copying your article.
Secondly there is a handy tool called Copyscape, where you can add a URL, or chunk of content and it crawls the web looking for duplicates. If it comes back clean you know you’re good. If it finds copies, it’ll show you where they are. It’s an essential tool we’ve been using in SEO for years, as duplicate content is a highly serious issue in SEO. It’s not 100% accurate, I’m not sure anything on the Internet is, but it’s a good tool to use as a guide.
There are other tools available to alert you when duplicate content is found on the web. Copygator is a service that monitors your content and alerts you for free when duplicates are found. Plagspotter allows you to check multiple pages, or even a whole website at a time.
The main thing here is to be vigilant so you know when your content has been copied.
Register at DMCA.com
DMCA stands for the ‘Digital Millennium Copyright Act’ and deals with the protection of copywrited works. As soon as you add unique content to your website, you are protected by copyright law, regardless whether you have a copyright symbol attached or not. You can join the DMCA for as little as $10 a month and it gives you considerable clout when it comes to a ‘takedown’ of your stolen content. They also offer badges that can work as a deterrent to would be plagiarists.
Find The Culprit!
When you have all the above in place, sooner or later you’ll discover that some underhanded cheat has copied your content. What do you do then? You need to sniff them out!
You’ll be armed with their domain name, so you can use a ‘whois‘ checker to find out who owns it, and who it’s hosted by.
If the host isn’t immediately apparent you can go here and find out exactly who the host is.
I usually try to contact the owner
before going to the host.
Sometimes you can get hold of the owner and explain the situation and they’ll remove it. Often you’ll find you get no response, or simply can’t get hold of the owner. If this is the case then you have no alternative but to contact the company who host the website, and snitch.
Snitch Contact The Host
By now you should be armed with the offending domain name and the name of the company hosting it. First of all you should try to find out if the host has any specific procedures for dealing with copyright infringements. Head over to Google and search the hosting name followed by ‘copyright infringement‘.
On there you’ll find all the policies and explanations of what you need to do to file a copyright claim. Other hosts may have different procedures, so try to find out before you contact them directly. In the case of GoDaddy, they’ll ask you to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and provide all the details of your claim. This includes the URL of your original content and the URL of the offending content.
You need to state in your email that “the information in the notification is accurate and under penalty of perjury that the Complaining Party is the owner or is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.” These exact words are legally required before they can act on your claim.
When you’ve done all this you’ll receive an email back stating they’ve received your claim and will notify you on any developments. It can then take around a week before you receive an email back. If your claim is successful you’ll receive something like this:
Thank you for contacting GoDaddy’s Copyright Claims Department. We have suspended the website in question. Please allow up to an hour for this change to take effect.
Please understand that as a web hosting provider, we are not able to make legal determinations as to who is right or wrong in an infringement claim.
If the website owner indicates they are prepared to remove the allegedly infringing content, we will re-activate the hosting account in order to allow that to happen. If they complete a counter notification regarding the work(s) in question, in accordance with our Copyright Infringement Policy, a copy of that counter notification will be sent to you. Unless we receive official notice that you have initiated court proceedings, we will reactivate the website 10 days after that notice. If we do receive such official notice, the website will remain down according to the directions of the court(s) at that time.
Let me tell you, it’s a great feeling to have your plagiarised content removed. Personally I think there should be harsher penalties for offenders, as stealing peoples content isn’t to be taken lightly.
Remember the tough guy in the Halloween mask at the top of the page? This was him when he got caught.
As I explained before, duplicate content can have a serious impact on your Google rankings. Dropping from page 1 to page 2 can cost a fortune in lost visitors and sales. There are unscrupulous people out there who deliberately copy content in order to hurt their competitors rankings. You can get the offending content removed, but sometimes they’ll just set up another 5 or 6 domains and do it again.
It’s completely unfair and there should be strong punishments for people like this. Unfortunately no matter how far the Internet has come it’s still a Wild West, with rooting tooting cowboys thinking they’re above the law. It’ll be a long time before anyone can regulate things like this effectively.
I think they should be publicly flogged and banned from ever owning a website again. Or hung up by their gizzards, so us town folk can point and laugh. But that’s just me.
What do you think?