Blogging Battles: How to Handle Virtual Malice and Content Theft
Blogging is hard as it is. You read everyday, write like your life depends on it, put your experience, thoughts, insights, and opinions into each blog post, not to mention back them up by research.
You’ve been marketing your blog and getting traffic in spades. Ever so slowly, your blog seems to be growing in popularity and reach. Your readers begin to engage with you, comments seem to be flowing in, and a community begins to develop.
All of that is good until you hit the point most bloggers dread: you also begin to receive malicious comments or hate mail.
While you are struggling to deal with flames, you also realize that others have been gleefully stealing some or most of your blog posts.
Now, that’s bad.
How do you handle that? What do you when you receive a comment aimed straight at your ego? What do you do to stop content theft? Let’s address some questions on virtual malice first and then move on to investigate ways of handling content theft.
Focus on Your Posts
Let’s get this straight: To begin with, keep your blogs free of advertisements and sponsorships. Until your blog gets decent traffic, there’s really no point in attempting to “monetize” it. You define “decent” – I leave that to your judgment. Until then, focus exclusively on writing articles that matter. Bring out the best of your writing, box it into categories, and just let people just consume it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Likewise, you have a choice to keep comments closed, especially if you’re a business, until your blog grows in size, popularity and reach. Take a long, hard look at this choice. Anyway, these days it’s spammers who’re the first to comment on any fledgling blog that cares to leave comments open.
For a while, let your blog function like a book. You don’t leave comments on your paperback, do you?
Ignore Rejection, Disregard Malice
Sales professionals and business owners face rejection all the time. Journos who want to get their articles published in magazines and book authors pursuing editors of publishing houses face even more rejection. Almost everyone who is successful has had a string of rejections to his or her credit.
Rejections are a part of life.
You might be thinking: “Ok, I get that. I am not in sales and I am not looking to write my autobiography. Why, I am not even running a business here. It’s just a blog with my own opinions, for heaven’s sake!”
False. You are selling already. Your posts are advocacy pieces. Your writing is an expressive form of your opinions and insights – you are communicating these to others.
Chances are that you could be scorned, snubbed and disdained. Your ideas might not be acceptable to everyone who reads your blog. That’s why you get varying opinions (in response to yours).
That’s good news. What’s not good is the visible, outright malice in the comment stream or hate mail that’ll suddenly land in your inbox one day.
What do you do about it? One word: Nothing.
If you are getting such comments and emails, you are doing well enough. Take it as a compliment and move on. While you are at it, try not to get too involved in any conversations that flare out of control. Just benefit from the traffic and keep quiet.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~ Gandhi
And on the outside chance you have Gandhi’s temperament as well as time on your hands, you could respond, or even try and blog about it.
Protect Your Content
If someone steals your content, you’d send out an email to take that content down. You’d send in another email or two. Beyond that, there are only two things left for you to do: either let it go or fight it out with IP lawsuits and legalese for as long as it takes. Yet again, we leave you to make a decision on that.
One (free) idea is to simply put up a “Protected with Copyscape” banner in your footer, regardless of whether you’re using it or not. WMDs are the best deterrents of war.
Alternatively, you can actively protect your content before any of it is stolen. Keep your posts behind a CAPTCHA protected, “sign up to access” wall (there should be just one hoop, mind you). After you gain enough traffic and credibility, run your blog like a membership website. That should keep a lot of those lazy blog post thieves away.
If your blog is so good that your readers can’t do without it, you might even consider a paywall.
Take the Fight to the Enemy
If you’re up to it and love your content badly enough, you can get tough and initiate a take-down process against a site that has copied your content.
“If you know your enemy, and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.” ~ Sun Tzu
First, verify that they’ve indeed copied your content intentionally, and that it’s not a general phenomenon. You might just find out that your content is sitting not just on the site you’re investigating, but on a thousand other similar sites (hey, maybe you went viral).
Then find out everything you can about the website and its owner. You can use Whois to dig into their domain registration, site ownership details and administrator contact. You can put the site through Who Is Hosting This to gather web hosting, server and IP information, which will help you form a case, which you can use to contact the site’s host directly.
Learn all about DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) from this government site for copyright issues. You can, with some effort, send a DMCA notice to the other blogger, web master, or online publication that steals content from your site.
You could do this yourself by paying $10 for their Website Protection Pro service. Alternatively, you may want to use their professional service, where they take the stress out of DMCA claims and let you benefit from their effective content removal process.
Then, you head over to Google and tell them to stop showing the infringing content in their search results and de-index the pages from their database.
It’s hard enough to work so hard for your blog, see it grow, put your soul into writing, only to watch your content being stolen from right under your nose. Just like Google, Oracle, Apple and other major technology companies, universities, research organizations, pharma companies, and possibly every other business protect their own intellectual property, you should protect your own creative work.
Put up those banners, warn others of possible litigation, embed browser cookies for add protection, and get tools that grab IP addresses of everyone who visits your site.
If push comes to shove, it’s all blood and guts (virtually speaking).
Tracy Vides is a content strategist and researcher who gives small business and entrepreneurs marketing and social media advice. Tracy is also a prolific blogger – her posts are featured on Techvibes, She Owns It and Business2Community. Connect with her on Twitter @TracyVides for a chat anytime!