Have you had someone sneak in under the cover of darkness and pillage your website or blog for the content you worked so hard to create? If it hasn’t happened to you yet, don’t get too comfy – chances are, it will.
You’re probably doing whatever you can to be found online by prospects in your industry, and the effort you put into making your content highly visible also attracts people hunting for content to pass off as their own. It’s unfortunate but it’s a reality you can be prepared for. There are a few things that you can do to protect your content, and steps to take when it’s stolen. I’m going to give you a few tips to keep you from pulling out all of your hair.
Use Canonical Tags On Your Site
Canonical tags are an invisible bit of protection that are vital to everyone posting content online. Even if your content is stolen, you’ll be protected in the eyes of search engines. We’ve talked about canonical tags before, but I’ll give you a quick refresher.
A canonical tag placed on the pages where your content lives will tell search engines that “these words originated here.” If you don’t use canonical tags, you lose out on valuable SEO credit, especially if whomever stole your content is using canonical tags. For example, let’s say a website stole your blog post verbatim. If the thief’s site is using canonical tags, search engines will read through the stolen blog post and identify that blog – not yours – as the originator of the content. Your blog would then become a secondary source and would basically fall off the face of a search engine results page (SERP). Canonical tags should always be used on your site because they’re the only way to lock down your content for SEO purposes.
Get Your Logo On Everything
Branding all of your content such as tip sheets and eBooks might just scare away a few content thieves. It’s not going to stop someone from copying your words but it can help fend off the “casual criminals.” Think of it like locking your car doors; that’ll deter someone from just opening your car but it won’t stop anyone determined to get in with a hammer. Don’t forget copyrighting it, too, with a “circle c,” the year and your company name.
Take A Breath – It’s A Compliment In A Way
So you’ve just found out that someone has stolen your content. You have every right to be upset, but take a breath and remember that someone stole your content because they thought it was valuable. It’s not how you’d like to get a compliment but it’s another affirmation that you’re on the right track with your content.
Evaluate The Situation
Before things get out of hand, look closely at your stolen post on the thief’s website. They may not have intended to steal your content, though it may appear that way at first glance. If you’re syndicating your content somewhere on the internet, those syndication sites picking it up are likely more visible than your own. Other users may pull posts from those syndication sites and post them on their own with a link back to the syndication site. Obviously you’d prefer a link back to your own site since you were the original author, but that’s just not going to happen all of the time. Most of the time I view it as an honest mistake on the “thief’s” part. Sometimes secondary sites pull posts using an automated system that credits where the post was pulled from – not always the original website.
Time To Take Action
If your content was truly stolen without your consent and no credit back to you or to where the article was found, it’s time to take action. First, take a look at the rest of the site and do some Google searches looking for content that you see in other articles on the thief’s site. This will tell you if any of the other posts are original or if they’ve been stolen from other websites; now you know what you’re dealing with.
The next step is to try and contact the “author” who posted your content. If it’s a blog, it should be relatively easy to see who that is. Otherwise take a look for any editors or anyone to contact directly. If it’s a really seedy site you may have to resort to a contact form and cross your fingers.
The worst-case scenario is that there isn’t any contact information listed and there isn’t a contact form. Your chances of getting a hold of anyone are slim but you try to contact the website’s administrator. Google has outlined how to do that here.
What To Say
Don’t send a message that’s incendiary. Be as diplomatic as possible because this could all be a huge misunderstanding. Outline to the person you’re contacting that you’re the original author of the content and insert a link that leads to the original content.
Then outline what you’d like this person to do. The two best choices are 1) ask him or her to take down the piece entirely or 2) ask him or her to give you credit as the original author. If you don’t have canonical tags in place and they do, ask to have the content removed from the site. You wouldn’t gain much by having a link to your site because search engines believe that the content originated from this other source.
You Can Only Try
You won’t stop every content thief but you can try to fend off as many as you can. The internet’s anonymity fosters content theft, but don’t let it discourage you from producing valuable content for your prospects. I’ve had a few blog posts stolen and it’s frustrating to say the least, but all you can do is keep publishing. And remind yourself that nobody steals garbage content, so you must be doing something right!