Stolen Content?

A client contacted us on Friday to share that he’d gained a new customer through a blog post — but not on his website. Oh, the blog post was on his website to begin with, but the customer had actually seen it somewhere else.

Sure enough, we found that blog post on 166 different websites.

You don’t need any fancy tools to find out whether your blog posts are being pinched by other websites. Copy a fairly lengthy phrase and search for it in quotes. The chances that anyone else has innocently written exactly the same sentence as your blogger start at about 1 in 10,000,000,000 and lessen as your sentence becomes longer. So if you see the same sentence on another website, chances are excellent that your blog post has been lifted.

Should you care? Our client said, “Only if it’s on my competitor’s site!” Actually, that may not harm you.

  • The site that stole your blog post will be suffering because they have duplicate content. You’ll probably notice that sites that have stolen your content tend to be from bizarre machine-generated websites. One of the sites showing our client’s post served it up with the mystic heading, “You Would Like These Contents,” and most had Eastern European TLDs. This is because the old-school black hat technique of copying good content onto your website now has very negative consequences from the point of view of SEO. If your competitor is not aware of this, his company website can be severely damaged by that stolen content.
  • If your blog post has a call to action, as the post in the example did, automatic scraping often preserves it. The customer called our client, whose company information was in the blog post, not the owner of the site it was copied onto.
  • Nowadays, most scraped pages show up on websites that have been set up to show links to search results — in other words, small, specialized search engine pages. The post in this case is generally shown, even if it is posted in its entirety, with a link. The site may look like a competitor, but it is probably sending you traffic.

If you have reason to believe that your content is being plagiarized and your business is being harmed, it’s time to write a pleasant but firm email asking the other site to stop. That usually is enough. If they don’t respond, you can turn them in to Google and ask to have their website penalized for stolen content. Google recommends that you check with your attorney first and make sure you’re talking about stolen content and not fair use.

However, if it looks as though your stuff is being shared with no malicious intent, you could take another tack. Another client of ours recently found a reposted blog post, asked the other site’s owner to give credit with a link, and developed a positive relationship with a blogger. That’s not a bad thing to have.


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