Someone Has Stolen My Website Content, What Shall I Do?
With over a billion websites on the internet and competition for higher rankings more intense than ever, it’s no wonder that content theft is rife.
Whether content is copied by a real person or scraped by a bot, whether it’s subtle or blatant, small-scale plagiarising of a single blog post or the lifting of an entire website verbatim, stealing words and pictures is the same as stealing material goods.
Greed and laziness are often the motivators for content theft and unscrupulous operators should be brought to book. But how easy is it to actually take action against the perpetrators?
How Does Stolen Content Impact You?
Apart from the fact that the thief is getting your time, effort and resources for free, they could be using your own content to do the opposite of what it was intended for. If the stolen content actually ranks higher than your original content, it may divert traffic away from your site. In other words, the thieves are stealing your web traffic.
The search engines have a hard enough job filtering all the billions of webpages without having to work out which version of duplicated content is the original. The reality is that sometimes they can’t distinguish between the two, which means your rankings may be negatively impacted.
What’s more, your brand authority may be compromised as a result of the wrong content appearing in the search engine rankings.
What Does Google do When Content is Stolen?
You won’t like the answer to this question, but the truth is that Google does not penalise duplicate content. The only time it will take action is if the content is pure spam, otherwise it’s up to the website owner to follow up.
How to Find Out if Your Content Has Been Stolen
Here are some of the easiest and most effective ways of finding stolen content:
1. Google Alerts
This free tool lets you quickly find copied content. Simply copy and paste some of the key phrases from your website content into the search query field and create an alert. You can decide how frequently you want to receive notifications. The downside is that Google scans for all the individual words in your search query, not just the sequence of words in order, so it can throw up a lot of unnecessary results but if you add “”marks around your content then this will help reduce the amount of inaccurate alerts.
This is a well-established and reliable search tool for discovering plagiarised versions of a URL and although the basic option is free, you will need to upgrade to their premium offering if you want more comprehensive results or ongoing monitoring. You can test this tool out here, just add your URL and Copyscape will show you any URL’s that have similar content, you can then click into each result and review.
3. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
This legislation was designed to protect copyright holders from online theft and it establishes the rights of content owners.
You can get two free scans of your website through DMCA.com or you can pay a monthly subscription to have your website checked for copied content.
I recommend that you get a DMCA Badge or website certificate (available for both the free and paid versions) as a seal of protection to deter thieves from stealing your authenticated content.
What to do if You Discover Your Content Has Been Stolen
Your content has been stolen, now what?
Before we go into the various ways you can approach the problem, you need to know a bit about a DCMA takedown notice.
This is essentially an official notice to inform a person, business, web host or other internet service provider that they are hosting material online that is infringing on someone’s else’s copyright.
You should always ascertain that the user doesn’t have a valid reason to use the material in question before sending a takedown notice.
Direct contact is always the best starting point. When you become aware that your copyright material appears on another website without your permission, you should get in contact with the website directly (usually via email) and politely request that the operator removes the infringing material immediately. Remember to include the link back to your original content in your email. You can also advise that you will lodge a DMCA takedown notice with their web hosting company if they don’t comply with your request.
People are often unaware that they are breaching copyright and will be more than happy to comply. You may even find that the website owner doesn’t even know that they have stolen content on their site! They may actually be victims themselves, having unwittingly bought stolen content from somewhere else, or their web developer took the lazy option.
Contact with the web hosting service. If there are no contact details on the website or you haven’t had any response from the webmaster, you should contact the web hosting service directly. It’s easy to look up this information through free sites such as Whois.com and Hostingchecker.com simply by typing in the URL of the offending website.
Filing a complaint through Google. You can also lodge a DMCA complaint against the offending website through Google Search Console. If Google verifies your claim, they will remove the stolen content from the search engine. Note that this is done on a page-by-page basis, so if you’re dealing with an entire website that has been duplicated, be prepared to spend some time on it.
Some final thoughts on what to do if your website content has been stolen
It’s a good idea to keep tabs on your content to make sure it’s not being duplicated and harming your reputation or your bottom-line. Luckily, there are some easy ways of finding out if your content has been stolen as well as some pretty straightforward options for resolving the issue.
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