Gini Dietrich

Four Ways to Fight Content Thieves

By: Gini Dietrich | February 23, 2015 | 
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Four Ways to Fight Content Thieves By Gini Dietrich

Last year, I received an alert on a blog post I’d written here that was picked up by PR Daily.

The blog that had linked to my post was for an ad agency’s blog…and it was a complete scrape of my content.

When I visited more pages on the blog, I discovered their “content strategy” was to scrape content from PR Daily. Every day.

There were posts by me, Shonali Burke, Brian Solis, some exclusive Ragan content, and other PR leaders. Not one of those posts was attributed correctly, nor were any of them syndicated in a way that Google would not see them as duplicate content.

So I called my friend at PR Daily and had her scroll through the posts with me. She was livid (rightfully so)!

We took two approaches: I commented on every post that was mine with things such as, “You can’t scrape a blogger’s content and not attribute correctly” or “Boy, this blog post sure looks familiar.” And she called the agency’s owner.

You know what he said? He said, “Oh. We have an intern running the blog. Sorry.”

But within 30 minutes, the entire blog was taken down. It’s never been republished.

This was for a very large ad agency that should know better. And the CEO blamed the intern.

Four Ways to Fight Content Thieves

Unfortunately, we live in a world where content is scraped. In the best situations, the person just didn’t know adding your byline without your permission isn’t okay. In the worst, pure laziness prevails and all of the content is stolen.

It happens to every content producer, no matter how many readers you have or how many people share your content.

You sort of expect the robots to do it—the crappy little websites that are still trying to do search engine optimization the old way. When it’s shocking is when people who should know better do it.

Your content will be stolen and you have to decide what you’re going to do about it.

You have four options:

  1. Do nothing;
  2. Make them aware you know, but don’t require they remove it (by commenting on every post or sending them an email or calling them);
  3. Kill it all; or
  4. Take advantage of them.

Do Nothing

The do nothing approach is the easiest by far.

Unless it looks like you’ve personally endorsed the site that has published your content, it doesn’t hurt to just let it be.

If you’re practicing good content creation with valuable and educational information and people are sharing it on the social networks, the search engines will understand your site is the authority on the topic.

It takes a lot of time to fight off the content thieves, and if you’ve installed the tools that automatically add “this originally appeared on XX site” at the end of scraped content, you won’t be hurt in search rankings.

Tools such as Yoast (a WordPress plugin), FeedBlitz (an RSS feed and email subscription service), and Genesis (a WordPress theme) automatically create that sentence for you so it appears any time someone scrapes your content.

That said, if your site isn’t yet considered an authority in your industry by Google, it’s worth taking some action against the content thieves.

Make Them Aware You Know

The “make them aware you know” approach is the most time-effective option.

Most sites have places where you can comment on your stolen comment.

You can comment with a simple, “Hmmmm… looks familiar.” Or, “I’m so happy you liked my content enough to steal it. For those of you reading this, I wrote this for my blog, YOUR URL. This is not original content to SITE NAME.”

If there is no a link back to your site, ask them to provide one. If they don’t, you can move to the “kill it all” approach.

Kill it All

This approach is a bit more laborious. Sometimes it’s as easy as contacting the content thieves and asking them to take the blog post or article down.

You can do that either by commenting on the content or by using their “contact us” page.

If neither of those exists, you have to get crafty. This is where it gets challenging.

You want to file what’s called a Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, complaint with their host (they now also offer a badge that you can post on your site to protect your content).

To figure out who the offender’s we host is, go to Who Is and look up their website by typing in the URL of the site where your stolen content resides. That will tell you who the contact is for the site and where the site is registered (GoDaddy, Bluehost, Hostgater, Network Solutions, and so on).

Most of the domain registrars have complaint forms on their sites, so start there. If that doesn’t work, file it directly with Google.

The kill-it-all approach works, but you have to be extremely diligent in pursuing anyone who steals your content. You also have to rely on the search engines to take care of it, which renders it a less effective approach.

Take Advantage of Them

Which is why you could move to the hardest approach—but also the most fun, if you’re so inclined: the “take advantage of them” approach.

There are three things you can do to really make content thieves look silly:

  • Internal linking; 
  • Get creative with your RSS footer; or
  • Install Yoast (if your site is on WordPress).

Internal linking. This is where you add links to another piece of content already published on your site in the new content you’re creating. Perhaps you are writing a blog post about how to generate sales leads and you have a webinar that goes into more detail about the topic. Link to the webinar in your new content. Now that you’ve linked to something else on your site, when someone scrapes your content you automatically receive an email saying that someone has mentioned your site in a blog post or article. Click on that link to be taken directly to the page where you are mentioned. From there, you can determine if the content has been scraped and what to do about it.

RSS footer. When you use FeedBlitz or other software for your RSS feeds, it allows you to get creative with what appears in your footer. Ours simply says, “This first appeared on Spin Sucks,” but you could be so bold as to say, “This content was stolen from Spin Sucks” or “If you want to see a real content marketer, visit Spin Sucks, where this first appeared.” I’ve even seen people use ads in the footer, “This first appeared on Spin Sucks and they have an awesome webinar you can download right now for free. So go check it out.”

Install Yoast. Probably the easiest and most effective way to take advantage is to use a plugin that alerts you when your content is stolen, and automatically inserts the “this first appeared” sentence. Most content thieves steal through your RSS feed, so you need to install a plugin that attaches to that. You can do this through the Yoast plugin—it’s already set up this way by default, so you don’t have to change anything—or through the RSS Footer or the Anti-Feed Scraper Message plugins.

Today’s Exercise

Today’s exercise won’t take a full 30 minutes, but you do want to be certain you have a way to fight the content thieves.

  1. Make sure you have Yoast, RSS Footer, or the Anti-Feed Scraper Message plugin on your blog or website. This will add that line at the bottom of every post so Google knows the original content belongs to you. If you’re not on WordPress, Drupal and other well-designed sites have options.
  2. Create your footer message using one of the options above…or something more creative that fits your brand.
  3. Set up a Talkwalker alert for your blog or company. I have an alert for Spin Sucks so I get an email when someone mentions this blog in their own content, and when the content thieves are busy. That’s how I found out about the ad agency.
  4. Make it a habit to include one link to something else on your website or blog in everything you write. This will deliver you a pingback, which tells you someone has linked to your content. In the situation of content thieves, though, it will show you the content you produced and linked to is what was stolen.

Now you can just sit back and wait. It may not happen often, but it will happen.

And, when it does, you will be prepared.

The Scavenger Hunt

If you are participating in the Spin Sucks scavenger hunt, today you will visit Jeremy Miller’s blog.

The secret word is in his blog post, “Bet the Company to Build the Brand.”

Just write down the secret word in Jeremy’s box on your scavenger hunt card (if you don’t have a card, download it here).

We have through March 3, so keep playing along (and you can work backwards, if you’re just starting out).

And don’t forget…if you buy a copy of Spin Sucks between now and March 8, we’ll send you a fun package full of goodies to use in your office, including a Spin Sucks computer sticker, a Spin Sucks Sharpie, and more. I’ll even personalize and sign a nameplate for you to put in the front of your book.

Just email the receipt to iboughtspinsucks@armentdietrich.com. Please include your mailing address so we know where to send the package.

photo credit: Shutterstock

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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49 responses to “Four Ways to Fight Content Thieves”

  1. bdorman264 says:

    It’s only stealing if you get caught….oh wait, that’s cheating…..both are bad but too easy to do.

    It’s laziness is what it is, people want the ‘easy’ way and through the internet and access to data it must be hard to resist. Of course if it was just lazy then I would probably be the master, but even scraping content sounds like work to me so I probably should just avoid it. 

    Good post and certainly valid points, I’m sorry if I started the comments out on a not-too-serious tone. I’ll try to be more professional next time…maybe…

  2. JRHalloran says:

    Good point about internal linking! For some reason, I always forget about the pingback feature, but it is useful to pay attention to. You really are a good Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Gini!  🙂

  3. I have to find where that setting is in Yoast and add that line.. I tend to link a lot in my posts so at least I have that.

  4. “The intern did it” is the adult version of “the dog ate my homework.”

  5. belllindsay says:

    I hate thieves and I hate cheaters. In any aspect of life. Drives me NUTS!!!

  6. ginidietrich says:

    JRHalloran Harry Potter, FTW!

  7. ginidietrich says:

    KristenDaukas Go in to the Yoast settings and I think it’s under the Titles & Meta category.

  8. ginidietrich says:

    rosemaryoneill It made me pretty angry. Give me a break. What’s interesting is the entire blog came down after that.

  9. ginidietrich says:

    belllindsay I have nothing smart to say to this. I’ve been thinking hard!

  10. ginidietrich says:

    bdorman264 If you were more professional, I wouldn’t know what was wrong.

  11. Danny Brown says:

    There’s also #5, which I’m surprised none of the blog services have thought of yet. Whitelist the publications your syndicated blog appears in, and the RSS host ignores any other calls. Pretty simple, given WordPress itself can ban non-approved commenters.

    Especially for a paid service like Feedblitz or similar – instead of just accepting it as a danger of the web, try and out something in place that protects the content, versus a disclaimer that can be removed.

  12. biggreenpen says:

    KristenDaukas same here….

  13. ginidietrich bdorman264 Wise words from Bill Dorman “even scraping content sounds like work to me, so I probably should just avoid it”

  14. biggreenpen says:

    Fantastic tips. Still trying to figure out that Yoast part but I am part of the way there!

  15. KateNolan says:

    Mmm… toast. Oh, wait, that’s not what you’re talking about? I had no idea you could use tools that automatically mark things and notify. I mean, I should cause technology is awesome, but apparently I haven’t been paying attention!

  16. KateNolan says:

    ginidietrich JRHalloran Gini is just as misunderstood as Snape. I mean, dark nail polish in summer?? What kind of evil person does that? 😉

  17. KateNolan says:

    belllindsay ginidietrich Haters gonna hate hate hate. Wait, that’s a good thing in this case…

  18. ginidietrich says:

    KateNolan Toast!?! At 11 a.m.? What is wrong with you?

  19. ginidietrich says:

    biggreenpen If you want me to Skype with you and show you how to do it, say the word!

  20. ginidietrich says:

    Danny Brown YOU HAVE YOUR MILLION DOLLAR IDEA! Go execute it!

  21. KateNolan says:

    ginidietrich Toast is pretty much the ultimate snack food. It’s not just for breakfast anymore!!

  22. biggreenpen says:

    ginidietrich biggreenpen Wait – we would – like – TALK KIND OF FACE TO FACE???!!! I may take you up on that!

  23. ginidietrich says:

    biggreenpen Of course!

  24. ginidietrich says:

    kayla_hollatz Thanks, Kayla!!

  25. ginidietrich says:

    josgovaart Do it! LOL!

  26. josgovaart says:

    ginidietrich What if I’d translate it? Would you even know?

  27. ginidietrich says:

    josgovaart Of course I would! Google tells me all!

  28. ginidietrich says:

    KateNolan I actually love toast. In fact, perhaps I should go make myself some now.

  29. josgovaart says:

    ginidietrich Damn. than I have to think of a blog subject myself. I think I can use a drink.

  30. Danny Brown says:

    ginidietrich Too lazy, beer calling.

  31. KateNolan says:

    ginidietrich At 3:00 pm!?! What is wrong with you! 🙂

  32. ginidietrich says:

    josgovaart I think having a drink is a great idea. I’ll join you in a couple of hours.

  33. ginidietrich says:

    Danny Brown Fine. I’m going to do it. Don’t come calling when I make a million dollars and you want your cut.

  34. kayla_hollatz says:

    ginidietrich Happy to share! It’s an issue I’m also passionate about. Thanks for writing this!

  35. Danny Brown says:

    Nuh uh. An idea is content. If you steall my content, I will direct you to this post and comment and…. well… do something, that’s for sure!

  36. ginidietrich says:

    JodiEchakowitz xoxo

  37. jeanniecw says:

    This happened to me when the scraper posted “her” article to a LinkedIn community we were both in! I commented “this is my post” and the link. I immediately received huge support from the other members and then the best part…just like your story…the CEO of the large consulting firm blamed the intern! True story! Is this a thing they all do? The CEO actually reached out to me and asked to set up coffee when I was in his city next. He was very nonchalant about the whole thing. He clearly didn’t get how offensive the whole thing was. Their entire “thought leader” section was scraped content – 90% of mine! I also use Talkwalker alerts and have seen things that way. It stinks.

  38. […] It doesn’t matter if your content is widely read or it’s a niche publication, the content thieves will get you. Gini Dietrich shares four ways to prepare for the day you find someone has stolen your content, either intentionally or not. Read on… […]

  39. manamica says:

    You can use copyscape to check if your content was copied. Our entire website got copied by a woman who  got in trouble for doing other shady things. There was a forum dedicated to discussing her schemes, people picked up that her site was ours and we got dozens of emails from strangers. We sent a cease and desist letter via email and within an hour the site was down. She also blamed it on an intern…

  40. ginidietrich says:

    jeanniecw LOL!! I really think people think this is OK…as long as they give you a byline. It’s pretty astounding that any CEO would let content go up on their website without a review process.

  41. ginidietrich says:

    manamica Amazing, isn’t it? Those darn interns. They get blamed for everything.

  42. KateNolan says:

    ginidietrich manamica Aren’t you thankful you now have an intern, Gini? Now you can blame it all on her. Down with those pesky “ethical” necessities!

  43. […] Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and blogs at Spin Sucks, where a version of this article originally […]

  44. Digital_DRK says:

    As an intern Content Manager, I am very careful to reference the originating links for my content curation including proper acknowledgements when I quote direct portions of a blog post.  I think I need to have my contact prescription checked,  I thought  #3 said “Kill them all”.

    The Canadian equivalent to the  Digital Millennium Copyright Act is called the 
    Copyright Modernization Act. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Modernization_Act

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