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
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
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
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
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
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.