Genuine bloggers and businesses use high quality articles to build high page rankings in Google and generate plenty of valuable organic search traffic.
The problem is that the better the content, the more likely it is that others will duplicate, copy, or spin those articles and publish them on their own sites (without permission or attribution).
Most of the time this is not an issue because low quality, article spinning sites generally tend not to rank well in Google search results.
However, Google doesn't get it right all the time, and I frequently come across my own content, on other sites, ranking on the first page for highly competitive SEO keywords.
This article will discuss the problem of protecting your blog or businesses valuable copyright content, and show practical examples of how to resolve content duplication or scraping issues as and when they arise.
Why check for plagiarism and issue DMCA take-downs?
The more high quality content a business or blogger creates, the more unscrupulous people out there will seek to scrape and spin that content for their own profit.
It's going to happen, so is there much point in trying to intervene? Isn't it better to let Google sort everything out in the page rankings?
I would say that, like everything, there is a happy medium.
There's no doubt that anyone who creates great content has to trust that Google will do a good job in sorting out which version is original and of better quality.
But, it also pays to be vigilant because not every scraped or spun article is the result of malicious intent on the part of the site that republished it. Many sites have to take articles from contributors, and it is virtually impossible to ensure that every contributor has written the article from scratch.
As a result, great content may be copied to a bigger site that has higher authority, and this can cause Google to rank the duplicate article above the original.
This means that any revenue or potential clients that should come to your blog or business is going to someone else.
Protecting your content is protecting your business and livelihood.
You can either spend a bit of time keeping and eye on it, or hand off the responsibility to Google entirely. But, read my three experiences below before making a decision.
3 examples of online copyright infringement
In the last few weeks, SME Pals has been required to issue a DMCA takedown (DMCA: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a law protecting, amongst other things, online copyright), and threaten another.
1. Negative SEO attack
While Google states that there is very little anyone can do to affect the page rankings of your site or blog in Google's search results, I think there are instances where it is possible.
I discovered an attack site set up purely with the intention of duplicating every single article on this site. All the registration information about the attack site was hidden, and the site itself offered no point of contact.
Now, Google won't penalize duplicate content unless it suspects the intention is to manipulate page rankings. Would you say that exactly duplicating a site on different domains, article for article, looks suspicious to Google?
All I know is that I was penalized about a month after the attack site starting operating - and traffic came back soon after the DMCA was issued and the site removed.
Talking of which, because it was not possible to determine who the owner was, or how to contact them, I had to issue a DMCA takedown notice to the domain registrar.
After verifying my claim, and providing the owner a few days to respond, the domain registrar took the domain down and my problem was solved.
Here's a copy of the DMCA notice issued to them (in fact, it was provided for me by them):
[insert your contact information]
[insert recipient contact information & address]
Notice of Copyright Infringement
Dear Sir or Madam:
As required by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, I am placing you on notice that:
I, [insert full name] (the "Owner"), certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of certain intellectual property rights.
The following links (the "Infringing Material") contain unauthorized copies of copyrighted material which infringe the exclusive rights of the Owner.
[list offending pages]
The original copyrighted articles (the "Copyrighted Material") may be found at:
[list original pages]
I have a good faith belief that the use of the Copyrighted Material as described above is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
Please immediately remove or disable all access to the Infringing Material.
Should you require any further information regarding this matter, please contact me at the address, telephone number or email address indicated below. My contact information is as follows:
[insert your contact information]
My actual or electronic signature follows.
[insert full name]
Cut and paste this note, change the details so that they are relevant to your situation, and you have a DMCA take-down template that can be used whenever you need to.
2. Spam site iframing content
In this instance, the offending site iframed my site and then added spammy ad overlays to it - making it look like the ads were overlays on this site.
In addition the spam site used browser alerts to prevent the user from exiting the page - in what pretty much amounts to a malware attack (I had to kill my browser process to get off the page).
In this instance, an abuse notice (not a DMCA) went to the Web hosting company as the domain owners information was, once again, protected. Fortunately, the Web hosting company acted promptly, and I received the following notice from the domain owner:
We have removed all reference to and our page has been permanently deleted. We have also disabled the entire site.
The site was a test bed for iFramed sites largely ignored by us for months. Adding this site on April 24th 2013 was the first iFramed site added in 3 to 4 months.
Our tests of a commercially available script builder in no way involved malware or site duplicating. The script simply iFramed a site for marketing purposes.
We regret any inconvenience this may have caused all parties.
Ok, so the result was fine - my content was no longer being used to peddle spam. I also decided to protect against this type of problem by blocking iframed content using .htaccess.
Good enough - no DMCA required.
3. Article spinning
Article spinning it the manual or automatic rewording of original articles to produce similar, but not exact, duplicate articles.
In my case, Biggone.com posted an article at www.biggone.com/2013/03/12/top-10-best-small-business-ideas-in-2013/ entitled, Top 10 Best Small Business Ideas in 2013, which was a spun version of an article posted a year earlier on my site, entitled Top 10 best home based business ideas.
This article was manually spun - relatively speaking, a pretty good job of plagiarizing content. The spammer altered it sufficiently to fool Google (which promptly ranked the spun version one page 1, for one of the most competitive small business SEO search terms possible).
After making sure that the content really was mine, I sent them an email asking them to provide attribution and a link to the original article, or remove the plagiarized content entirely.
Biggone responded by saying that their version was original. I disagreed:
Ok, so you have spun the introduction to fool Google. Well done.
You've also re-ordered my list - great. But kept the ideas the same.
My number 1 is Specialist consulting - your number 1 "specialized consulting" - and so on
Under "your" heading "Niche online store", you have written:
Can you design cushions? Can you make gourmet cupcakes?
Those are quite unusual examples, that I use specifically to find out content scrapers. Let's look at my text under the heading "Boutique online store":
Do you have a passion for designing cushions? Do you love making gourmet cupcakes?
Incredible that you used exactly the same ideas - Wow, what are the chances?
Shall we continue? The whole article has been spun like this. Let's do one more...
Under "your" heading "Learning/E-learning service provider", you write:
If you have in-depth knowledge in certain fields, then you can start teaching others. Use your knowledge to make money – set up a subscription-based service
Under my heading "eLearning content" it says:
If there is a subject you are knowledgeable in, or know plenty of people who are knowledgeable about something, then use that to make money.
Set up a subscription based service to train people."
The line in bold font is important here. Make your content unique - add in unusual combinations of ideas and phrases every now and then. It will help you to check for plagiarism and confirm it.
About a half hour later, I got this:
"We didn't know that our contributor have spunned your article, Let me sort it out in 2 days please."
I'm still waiting for them to act, so I'll post an update once I see changes. But, there are two important things to note here:
- It is better to give people a chance to do the right thing before issuing a DMCA take-down. Send them an email, requesting changes first.
- The offending site may not be the ones responsible for plagiarizing your content - it may be their contributors.
So those are my three recent experiences with plagiarism and copyright violations. I guess, what I've learned is to be vigilant, but also reasonable and level-headed.
Yes, it is frustrating when your own content is essentially used against you - outranking the original version in Google search and driving Web traffic and revenue elsewhere. But, it's important to have a measured response so that genuine blogs, sites, webmasters, and Web providers have a chance to do the right thing.
What experiences have you had with copyright infringements online? Share your tips and advice for protecting valuable, high quality content in the comments.