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Your content is your most precious asset. It takes efforts and time not only to create it but also to protect it from thieves. Unfortunately, content theft is way too common and there is hardly a site that hasn't been affected.

On the other hand, as my experience shows, when there are thousands of articles to be looked after, this process takes too much time and in practice makes sense to do only for important articles. Anyway, you can't let thieves go with your content – you must know what to do when you encounter theft. Here are the steps how to protect your content.

Why Your Content Is Your Most Important Asset

Unless you are new to SEO, the answer to this question is obvious. As we say, “Content Is King”. You need original content in order to rank well in Google and this is why you chunk articles, images, videos, etc. to publish on your site. However, it is so easy to copy+paste content and this is why content theft is so common.

If it weren't bad enough that you feed somebody else's site for free, the duplicate content penalty adds insult to injury. Google is trying really hard to deal with duplicates but it is way too common to see stolen articles rank higher than your original. This is why it is so important to protect your content in any way you can.

Place Copyright Notices and Watermarks

As naïve as it might sound, sometimes thieves aren't aware they are stealing. There are many articles, images, videos, etc. in the public domain that are free to use even commercially. In order to avoid confusion your content isn't in the public domain, be sure to place a Copyright notice in the footer of your site, or even better – under the copyrighted piece of content itself.

It also makes sense to add physical barriers to theft. For instance, you can add watermarks for images and videos – these aren't 100% secure but they will stop some of the thieves because with your watermark it will be awkward to use the stuff elsewhere.

For articles, you may want to disable text selection. This will make it harder to copy content directly and will stop many thieves because now copying your content involves more efforts. Unfortunately, there are other ways to copy your content (though they do require more effort), so if somebody really wants your content, disabled copying won't stop them but it's more than nothing.

Use Google Authorship to Guard Your Content

Google Authorship is a very useful tool when it comes to content protection and building your online reputation. Basically, the idea is simple – you enter your online stuff and claim authorship about it.

The only issue is that you must use your real name – this is a problem, if you write under a pseudonym, or ghost write, or simply don't want to disclose your authorship because of privacy concerns. If your site has multiple writers, you still can use Google Authorship but each of them must claim his or her articles separately.

Once your content is entered in Google Authorship, Google knows it's you who created it, so even if it gets copied somewhere else, you won't get the duplicate content punishment.

Set Google Alerts to Watch for Copied Content

Protecting your content from theft is one thing, catching thieves is another. Even if you do a good job in guarding your content, there will always be thieves. The easiest way to catch them is with the help of Google Alerts.

Google Alerts is another useful service from Google. Without going into too much detail, the logic is this:

You copy sentences from your text and create alerts to be notified when they appear online. You need to make them a direct match (i.e. use quotations), so that when your words get discovered somewhere else, you get an alert. It's best if you create 2 or 3 alerts per article – one for the first paragraph and some more from random places in the text.

Your first paragraph might be copied more – for instance as an intro to your article, followed by a link to your site. This isn't theft but you still might want to be aware of it. Also, if your content is published and you are quoted as the author, this technically isn't theft either, though you certainly might not like it.

Steps to Take to Deal with the Theft

After you get an alert and discover that content of yours has been stolen, here is what you can do next.

Prepare Your Evidence

The first step is to gather your evidence. This means to make screenshots and prepare the original files. Of course, it's hard to prove you were the first to publish this particular piece because having the drafts for an article doesn't mean much – they could have been created afterwards in attempt to frame the original author. For images and videos, if you have the source files, this could be more of a proof.

If your content is indexed in Google and it has a date (and of course this date is prior to the date the copy was indexed), you can use this as well as an evidence the content was stolen from you, not vice versa.

Contact the Thief (and Their Host, If Necessary)

After you have your evidence, now it's time to take real steps. You might be tempted to but don't start biting right away. First, send a friendly email to the infringing party. Even if the probability isn't high, it's possible the theft wasn't on deliberately. It's possible that after your friendly email the blog owner removes your content and the problem is solved.

If the friendly email to the blog owner doesn't help, contact their hosting provider. Attach the evidence you have and if the infringement is blatant, it's quite possible their hosting provider might even close their account, if they don't want to remove the stolen content on their own.

File a DMCA Complaint

Very often the steps in the previous sections suffice to deal with thieves but if they don't do the job for you, you will have to use the heavy artillery – i.e. file a DMCA complaint with Google.

You submit a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint with Google to tell them to deindex content stolen from you. In this case 'stolen' means used without your permission or without crediting you. Google is usually quick in removing stolen content, so you can expect that shortly after you submit the complaint, it will be removed from Google's index.

Dealing with content theft is very time-consuming but if you want to protect your rights (and your SEO rankings), you need to do it. It's a never ending battle but with the right tools, as described in this article, your chance of success is good.



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