Earlier this year, a small business copied several blog posts from one of my clients, a real estate sales firm. Someone lifted word-for-word, content my client and I spent many hours cultivating.
While this anecdote is not unique, the first thing you should know is…
What is Content Scraping?
Content scraping (also known as web scraping or data scraping) is removing original or unique content from a website, a social media page, or another digital publication, then publishing that content somewhere else. Depending on where you are and/or what the content is, this can be an illegal offense, even if the ‘content thief’ attributes the content back to you.
Now you know what content scraping is, let’s discuss how you can reclaim your content.
1. Take a screenshot of the offense
The moment you see your content elsewhere, take a screenshot. The time and location where it was republished (web address) will be documented. Make note whether all content or just a portion of it was scraped.
2. Decide if you want to act
There is one instance where you may not want to repossess your content. In the above video, Matt Cutts from Google Webmasters discusses how a ‘content thief’ can link back to your website and offer much-needed web traffic that can improve your site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
If this is the case, I recommend you contact this individual or business who copied your content and point him/her/them to your republishing guidelines.
My real estate sales client has his firm’s ‘Republishing Guidelines’ on his website. Click here to learn more and to generate yours.
3. Contact the website’s owner
Sometimes, the individual who lifted your content may not know that you’re the original author. The individual could have been copied not from your website, but from another one. Go to the website’s contact page, call and send an email asking where the material was sourced and for the content to be removed.
If there is no “Contact” page, (or if there’s a broken link, or the phone is disconnected), you can perform a WHOIS lookup query and see who is the registered domain holder. This is the company/website listed as the “Registrar”.
4. Contact the website’s host
You’ve contacted the website’s owner, waited a couple of weeks, and nothing rectified the situation yet. The website owner didn’t return your voicemails and he has ignored your emails. Or worse yet… he lifted even more content without your permission. Now is the time to reach out to the website’s hosting company.
Return to the WHOIS lookup, and reach out to the website/business under “Name Server(s)”. If no telephone number is listed, you can perform a web search to obtain contact information.
5. Contact the web search engines like Bing and Google
You were nice, you gathered your photographic evidence, you made phone calls and sent emails to the website owner, then to the website’s hosting company.
Is that it?
Your final course of action is to reach out to search engines like Bing or Google and let them know about the theft of your content. The web search engines will understand that you are the original content creator and that any (positive) SEO traffic should be directed to your website.
Look up “Google Webmaster Tools” to utilize Google’s SPAM Report, and look up “Bing Webmaster Tools” to utilize Bing’s Content Removal Tool. These tools can help safeguard you against ‘content thieves’.
In most cases, a simple, polite email will rid someone from stealing your content. That’s what happened with my client, the real estate sales broker. A few days after reaching the marketing assistant of the competitor, the content was removed, and my client received an apology via email.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If you are concerned about your Google or Bing SEO ranking, please follow the above steps as soon as possible and be diligent.
If you would like to learn more about Content Scraping or about establishing your Republishing Guidelines, feel free to contact me.