In this article we look at website content and how this valuable asset is being targeted by unscrupulous people wanting to use it on their own websites. Or, more sinisterly, to deliberately use it somewhere else to sabotage your business. There’s no way of hiding from it – it’s happening right now, and has been happening for years. So, who’s doing it, and more importantly what can you do? We’ve got you covered – let’s look deeper into this very annoying online crime…

Having text copied is not a new problem for website owners, as mentioned it’s been happening for years. And yes, it is a crime called copyright infringement. Often the case, most business owners aren’t aware that their website text has been copied until they see fluctuations in their search engine ranking positions. And then down the rankings their website goes, until the situation is rectified. Well, of course it can be a complete nightmare, especially for those that rely on their websites to generate customer leads or sales.

Creating original, interesting, and engaging website content takes a lot of time and effort. Not all of us are natural writers, but most of us still persevere to produce something that we think is acceptable to readers. Then there are those who simply cannot be bothered; they just dip into someone else’s web pages and copy out large chunks of text. Without a care in the world. They then brazenly slap that text on their own websites, pretending it’s their own work.

So, what happens then?

Google is continuously scanning, evaluating and indexing website content. Original, relevant and fresh text content will definitely help a website score well in their algorithms. On the other hand, when Google comes across duplicated content – content that it has seen before – it flags it up straight away. It doesn’t matter if that offending text content is found on websites in different countries around the globe either. It sees it as problem, and all those websites using that same content will be scored down.

Was it ignorance…?

So, you’d think if people knew that using copied text on their website would cause issues for themselves, why do they do it? The answer is that they just don’t care, as it’s quicker and easier to get a website up and running using text content copied from someone else. Especially if that text content comes from a high-ranking successful website in the same industry as them. Within a few clicks the wicked deed is done and they have recreated something you have, but with the least effort possible.

…or was it calculated?

Then there are those who just want your website to fail, and duplicating your content is the perfect solution! These villains, often paid saboteurs providing negative SEO services, (yes – they are out there and thriving) will copy someone’s text content and post it willy nilly all over the Internet. Their mission of course to get a website flagged as using duplicated content, and for that business’s online rankings to tumble. Which of course means that their paying customer’s websites have a better chance of taking your place.

Are we serious, or just being paranoid?

Yes, it all sounds very macabre, but over the last decade or more, both of our web design companies in the UK and Canada have been the victims of website content plagiarism. And too many times to mention! On many occasions our content has been copied by other web design companies in the same country or further afield. Sometimes our copied content has been found on dubious websites that no-one would ever look for or find. The common indicator that our text has been copied, is that our normally high rankings suddenly drop.

So, how do you know text has been copied?

Luckily, there are ways for you find out who has copied your website text content and where it’s being displayed. Copyscape, an online plagiarism detection service, provides an easy-to-use service, where you can enter your website URL, sitemap, or just a block of text, and it will go away and find those offending websites. It all happens very quickly, and you will be able to see any of your copied text highlighted up. You will need to pay Copyscape upfront for a number of credits, which are used up bit by bit every time you undertake a search.

What if you find copied text?

You’ll see the offending websites that are using your text and should easily be able to make contact with them. An email is a good starting point, as you can emphasise that they have breached the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). You can also provide direct links back to Copyscape’s results showing the text they have copied. In the email, request the removal of the copied content within a specified time limit, and that failure to do so will be escalated with a complaint to Google. This could result in their website or webpages being removed from search results.

A phone call follow-up often works!

A follow-up phone call often works wonders. It shows that you are serious and have caught the copyright thief red-handed. Keep in mind, that sometimes a website owner doesn’t know that they are displaying copied content; they may have paid someone else to create it! Your phone call will often result in the offending content being promptly removed. Running some additional reports in Copyscape over the next few days will show any progress.

Taking things further

Occasionally copyright thieves don’t comply, so you’ll need to file for a DMCA takedown through Google. This can be done via Google Support – Legal Help, where you complete a request form that asks specific questions about the copyright offence. Answer all form fields as best you can using the information you’ve got from Copyscape. Once submitted, Google will look into the matter and let you know whether they need more information before they accept or reject your request.

All sounds too much?

Yes, it’s exhausting, time consuming and very inconvenient, but isn’t your website worth it? You’ve invested in having a website designed and built, then further time in creating unique content for it. Don’t make it easy for others to take that away from you and gain any kind of short-lived benefits. Being vigilant and proactive in taking action against copyright villains is the duty of every website owner, and in turn will help protect others from being targeted.