As a blogger or website owner, you likely put a lot of effort into creating unique, relevant content for your followers. So, if you find that another site is copying your content, you need to respond immediately.
Content theft is a growing issue as more and more businesses rely on their online presence to generate and convert leads. Blogs, podcasts, Youtube channels, etc. are all popular ways online businesses reach their target audiences and promote their brands. Let’s look at the issue of content theft and explore how you can protect your content and report copycats.
Why monitor for copied content?
With so much online success tied to SEO and web traffic, content theft runs rampant. Content scraping, or the process of harvesting information from one site to use on another, is an easy way for knock-off sites to imitate the success of legitimate ones. This is problematic because content creation is a never-ending cycle, and content thieves can financially benefit from your hard work.
It’s important for eCommerce businesses and bloggers to protect themselves from this kind of infringement. A blogger’s whole business model rests on generating unique content. This is why as a content creator, you should work on developing a distinctive style to your writing or design to ensure your voice is clear in your work. Alternatively, you could also hire a freelance ghostwriter to create quality content for you, for which you could reasonably expect to pay between $15 to $45 an hour based on the freelancer’s experience, and likewise ask them to write their content with their own, distinct style.
Creating content with a consistent, unique voice simply makes it easier to pinpoint when another site is copying your content. It also ensures you are not unknowingly plagiarizing other sources, which could cost you both your reputation and your position at the top of SERPs.
When checking for uniqueness or looking for stolen content, you can always do it manually. Tools like Copyscape and Grammarly will let you enter your website URL and return possible copycat sites if there are any. However, if you have a popular site with a high volume of posts, you are better off automating the process of checking for stolen content.
How to automate detection
You can set up Google Alerts to scan the web and let you know if some of your content is appearing elsewhere. Simply go to the Google Alerts website and paste a portion of your post, select what types of sites to search, and provide contact info so Google can email you with results. You can receive regular updates or only get an alert when copying is detected.
You can also use reverse image lookup if you’re concerned about theft of original photos or digital art. Google has been updating its image search settings to decrease fraud issues, so content creators should be aware of this when dealing with image licensing.
How to report stolen content
If you do detect copied content, there are a number of ways to address content theft and prevent it from happening again.
1. Contact the site owner
It’s always possible that content was reposted in error. Some new bloggers and site owners are not aware of copyright laws or licensing. So, you might want to contact the website owner directly if you see someone reusing your content. If you provide evidence of your ownership, they might simply take it down to avoid legal liability, whether the action was intentional or not.
However, this tip is assuming the site is moderated by humans. Keep in mind that a lot of content theft happens at the hands of web crawling bots, which complicates the process.
2. Contact the host provider
If nothing comes of contacting the site owner, another option is to contact the offending website’s host provider and request that the content be taken down. Many hosts have a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) process and claim forms readily available.
Reporting can be more challenging if the thief is actually a bot, as there won’t be a human to contact or report. But you can still try to find the website host, particularly if it is hosted by a well-known provider. For example, WordPress has a search mechanism to find out if sites are built with WordPress, making it easier to discover and report to the host.
If the hosting provider is outside the US, they might not honor DMCA. But you can still contact them by email to report the incident. It is in a hosting company’s best interest to prohibit the criminal activity, so results are usually positive if you can prove the content is yours.
In addition, you can also contact the customer service department of the site’s hosting provider as well. According to an online marketer and web developer Gary Stevens from Hosting Canada, strong customer service is offered with most of the top providers, and likewise is one of the most important features to look for when choosing a host for your own site.
“Customer support gets overlooked sometimes with all the attention paid to the features web hosts offer,” says Stevens. “but it’s an important item to consider because there can be a huge difference when it comes to customer support quality. When trying to find the best web host, you’ll need to consider customer support seriously as part of your evaluation.”
3. Submit a Google request
If the first two options fail, you can go straight to the search engine. Google (and others) have an option to file takedown requests. Search engines are pretty strict about DMCA and unique content, so, again, it’s just a matter of proving yours is the original.
How to prevent future content theft
You only need to suffer one incident of content theft to want to prevent it in the future. There are a few steps you can take to protect your content and be well-situated to get proper redress in the event of theft.
Get the law on your side
If you copyright your original work and post a copyright notice on your site, anyone in violation of it can be held legally responsible. Similarly, if you have digital art or other visual content, a watermark, logo, or metadata tag proving your ownership is useful.
Copyright violation is a significant legal issue, and seeing that you are protecting your work may deter human thieves (though not bots). Even if it doesn’t actually prevent theft, it will offer recourse should you see theft occurring. And you should also employ the same strategy in reverse: always check a site’s copyright rules before reposting their work to ensure your content is completely unique.
Prevent web scraping
There are some steps you can take on your own to decrease the risk of web scraping, such as requiring users to register accounts and monitoring account activity. Measuring product views or server requests for abnormally high volumes can also be a sign that a bot rather than a human is accessing your site.
You may also want to invest in a bot detention solution. Any good anti-scraping technology should analyze data to identify fraudulent activity without disturbing the experience of legitimate (human) visitors. Harnessing automation for SEO and security is a good strategy for any website owner, independent of the industry.
You should also consider plugins specifically geared towards content protection. WordPress, for example, has a plugin that creates a digital certificate for every post you create, time-stamping your work so you have proof of when you posted the original. There are also solutions available to protect your content delivery networks from threats of malware and other hacks.
To prevent your content creation efforts from going to waste, it’s important to regularly scan the web for sites trying to imitate you through illegitimate means. Automating detection and reporting theft quickly are critical tips to save yourself a headache. This will leave you more time to get back to what you do best: generating exciting and unique content to keep your audience engaged and boost your online following.