When you think about someone stealing your online content, you need to realize that it goes much further than the content itself. The fact of the matter is that when your content is stolen, the thief has also degraded your SEO ranking by duplicating the content.
Not to mention they have taken hours’ worth of your hard work in a few clicks of the mouse. While it’s not easy to protect online content, there are some steps that you can take to ensure that if your content is stolen, the culprit pays the price.
How to identify stolen content
Before you can take any action against content theft you have to check where the content has actually been duplicated. The best way is to use a plagiarism checker, which will identify websites that have the same, or very similar, content to you.
You should note however that these websites work based on search engine results, so if the theft is relatively recent it may not show up. There is also the possibility that the website is not yet ranked, and they are using the ranking to boost their ranking while damaging yours.
The first step
Before you try and of the other techniques listed here, you need to get in-touch with the person who stole the content and try to reach an agreement. There is a large chance that they are not aware they are using stolen content, but rather were duped into purchasing the content from an online writer who copied it straight from your website.
Remember to be careful; if you are overly aggressive you will find the person less likely to reach a reasonable settlement with you. It’s a good idea to think of the person you are contacting as a victim just as much as you are.
If you find the owner of the website not willing to cooperate, you should send a cease and desist email immediately. This is usually enough to get them to remove the content, especially if you write that you are going to seek legal advice on the matter.
Remember that these people have probably stolen or purchased the content because they want to improve their ranking – if you suggest that you will take the matter further with Google for theft, they may be more inclined to remove the content for you.
Use Whois to find the website owner
Whois is a website where you can find details of who owns a website, including contact information and registration addresses. This should only be used if you aren’t getting a response from the details listed on the website page, or if you cannot find any details.
Some of the more dodgy websites will avoid associating a name with their website, so make sure that you do a thorough search to find the thief.
The next step: legal advice
Stolen content is plagiarism, which is in breach of international law. If you are experienced with how the law works – bearing in mind that some websites are hosted in foreign countries and will be subject to that country’s law – then you should try to do as much of the filing yourself as you possibly can. Lawyer’s fees are very expensive, and having to pay hundreds of dollars is sometimes not worth it in the long-run.
One way of limiting the cost is to get a document drawn up that you can re-use if the situation ever occurs gain. This means that you don’t have to pay a lawyer for every time your content is stolen.
The threat of reporting to Google is usually enough to get content removed, but if it is not then go ahead and contact Google. Seek their advice on the matter and ask if the website can be taken down while the issue is resolved.
They might not remove the website, but they can offer advice about the steps you can take to ensure that your ranking isn’t harmed because of the theft such as using a 503 redirect, which will stop Google from indexing your website while the duplicate is out there.
Last resort: remove the content
While you might see it as giving in to the thief, it’s sometimes a good idea to temporarily remove the content from your website. The last thing you want is the theft causing your own ranking to decline, and if Google cannot help you then this should be the very last resort. Don’t give up; keep fighting with the hope of reinstating the content eventually.
You should note that these steps aren’t the most ethical, but they are the most effective in terms of getting the thief punished. It’s very hard to get anyone punished on the internet, but by taking things into your own hands you should be able to do just that.
The first thing you should do is anonymously sign into a public computer, such as an internet café or a library computer. Don’t use your name: while what you’re doing isn’t illegal, it may be something Google frowns upon and you don’t want them tracing it back to you. If you go to the trouble of using a public computer, don’t then use your real name!
If you are willing to concede your content to the thief, you need to start posting it everywhere. Post it in the comments sections of popular websites, on free websites and all over Facebook pages.
The more places, the more damage you will do to that website’s ranking. This is especially effective if the website in question is a well-ranked website rather than a new start-up, as they will hate nothing more than losing a Google ranking.
What you do next is up to you. If you think that you have done enough, then go home and make yourself a cup of coffee. If you want to carry on with the revenge, then open up the thief’s website and start to copy the content onto these free websites you were using.
Remember that the more places you use, the more likely it is that Google will index the content as duplicates. Even if you notice that the website isn’t indexed by Google – which most social media websites are not – it’s still worth posting in the hope that others will use the content on their own website.
Turn it up a notch
One thing that Google hates is spammed backlinks, so they are good way of getting the thief’s website ranked badly. Use the same phrase with an anchor link and post it everywhere you can think of. Google will notice that these links have been appearing suddenly and will investigate, removing the website’s ranking if they deem the website to be abusing the algorithm.
The final nail in the coffin of the thief’s website will come from you creating a social media account and spamming the link from there also. Facebook fan pages are great places because they are very popular and it will get noticed.
After you have taken all of these steps you can sit back and hope that you’ve done enough to teach them a lesson. The odds are they’ll never want to mess with you again!