Are you sick of people copying your content without your permission or attribution?8 tips and tools to stop content thieves

I am sure you are…

Plagiarism has been an issue on the web for years and with every new generation of bloggers come another group of lazy people who are prepared just to copy your content and then paste it all over their own websites. However, there are people who automate this process using plugins or automated software that can steal the content from your RSS feed and then plaster it all over their website seconds after you have pressed publish.

I think it’s important to understand the differences between scraping and syndication; scraping is when someone automatically reproduces your content without your permission, where as syndication is when there is an agreement between two parties for an article to be used under a commercial or attribution agreement.

Every publisher suffers from scrapers, just look at this search result for a sentence I copied from a news story on the BBC website which was published a few hours ago.

ways to stop content thieves

Your website’s content didn’t come for free, you spent hours, perhaps days finding the perfect words for your blog post, or you may have paid a professional copy writer to write a wonderful product description that would sell your product on the spot. You have every right to protect it.

Here are 7 tips and tools you can use to protect yourself from plagiarists and perhaps get a few links to your website in the process.

#1. Ping Pubsubhubbub

I have had a number of blogging clients approach me for SEO advice in the past because the content that someone has stolen from them is ranking higher in the search engines than they are. I’m not going to go into the complexities of search engine rankings or bore you with the ways Google indexes content but suffice to say this can happen because Google might find the copied version of your post before it finds yours, and therefore they are not 100% certain which is the original. By pinging Pubsubhubub you are informing a trusted source that you are the original source of the content and that you wrote it first.

If you use Blogger or as your blogging platform of choice then you can skip this step however, if you are using a self hosted version of WordPress, as millions of people are, then you can install the Pubsubhubbub plugin for free.

#2. Add Links to your Content

As experienced bloggers I am sure you already link to your old posts in any new articles. Not only is this good for your readers and the search engines, it also means that if anyone does steal your content they may keep the links to your site intact – thanks for the free links content thieves.

You can also install a piece of code on your website from a service called Tynt, which will not only tell you how often people have copied a section of text from your website but it will also create a link back to the original post.

Another way to make sure you get attribution for the original article is to install the Yoast SEO plugin or the Yoast RSS Footer Plugin on your blog. These plugins let you add some customised HTML code to your RSS feed so you can add links to your site or social media profiles; below is a screenshot of my blog’s custom footer.

another way to stop content thieves

#3. Setup Google Authorship

One of the added benefits of authorship, beyond having your photo showing next to your articles in the search results, is that Google can be confident as to the original author of the article, which will mean your content is likely to end up being out ranked by a scraper.

Here is a video showing how to setup Google authorship for your articles.

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin installed on your website this is easy to implement.

There are several ways you can keep a look out for people who may have stolen your content online. This can be a very time consuming process so here are some tips and tools you can use to speed up the process.

#4. Stop Image Hotlinking

If you find that people are scraping your content from your RSS feed then it is very likely that they are stealing your bandwidth as they will be copying your images from your site too. You can make some amendments in your .htaccess file to disable image hot linking or if you are feeling a little devious you could instead return an image that point out that the post is stolen, which is what they do at DailySEOtip.

tips for finding stolen content

#5. Check your Backlinks

If you have Trackbacks setup in WordPress then you will get a notification every time someone links to you, if you have setup the RSS footer and link to your old posts you will get a notification every time someone republishes your post.

You can also check your links in Google Webmaster Tools, and see if anyone who has linked to you has copied your content.

Simply go to Traffic > Links to Your Site

Links to your site

And you will see a list of sites/pages that are linking to you.

#6. Setup Google Alerts

Every time I publish a new post I setup a new Google Alert to send me a notification when either the exact title of my post has been republished online or a unique sentence from the post has been published.

Google Alert

Google Alerts are very easy to setup and as a free service they are great way to monitor any positive or negative mentions of your brand or blog too.

You can also carry out manual searches in Google or use a service such as Copyscape to check for duplicate content.

#7. How to deal with a content thief

If you ever find a content thief then it’s important to remain calm and level headed. I know you want to grab them by the throat and shake them into next week but sending angry emails isn’t going to help you.

Firstly try to contact the site owner, sometimes they may not be aware the content was stolen so it’s best to be professional. If it is a good quality site then I might ask the webmaster to:

  1. Give me an attribution link as the original source
  2. Allow me to rewrite the content in exchange for a link

If it is a very low quality site then I will ask that the content is removed immediately, and wait for a response. I will usually allow a few days to pass before I follow up with a stern warning that unless the content is removed in 48 hours I will take matters further.

If the site owner refuses to remove my content or fails to respond to my warning I use this free tool to find who their hosting company are.

hosting company

Once you know who the hosting company is you can then file a formal complaint called a DMCA request with them to have the stolen content removed from the website, web hosting companies take this very seriously and will act quickly.

You can also file a DMCA request with Google to have the content removed from their search results and if they are using Adsense on their site and making money from your content then you can also lodge a complaint there too.

What about you?

Have you ever had issues with content thieves? How did you deal with it?

I’d love to discuss this more in the comments.