Minimise plagiarism and maximise traffic
27th Jan 2017

Easy method to minimise plagiarism and maximise traffic

Plagiarised content is a real problem online and left unchecked can dramatically lower traffic to your site.  It's important to stay on top of it and to remain vigilant.  This article will show you how to check if your content has been copied and what steps you can take to minimise the impact.  I'm going to use the example of an ecommerce shop, but the methodology can be used for any type of content.

What is plagiarised content?

OK, let's presume you have a new product for your online shop.  You will know from your training sessions with us that you should now seek to write an original description for this product.  You won't be copying from the manufacturer because you know that original quality content is going to set you apart from your competition.  The new product goes live and as your site is already well indexed Google quickly finds your new product and indexes it.

All good so far.  But let's assume you were one of the first people anywhere to get this new product online.  Naturally, if someone is searching for this product your site is coming up near the top of the rankings.  That's great for you, as that means traffic, but it can also be a problem as your competitors race to get their version online.  The lazy ones could then copy your carefully crafted content onto their site and in some cases, this may mean that your site gets demoted in the rankings.

That's not fair!

Google claims to be able to detect which content is the original version (we would guess by considering the timestamp for when the page was first discovered).  However, we have seen lots of examples with our customers where their copied content has out-ranked the original content, resulting in loss traffic.

How to check for copied content

There are many online tools out there that can do this.  We recommend using Copyscape.  You enter the url for the page you want to check and it will then check for duplicates online.

A rough and ready method to spot-check short passages of text (say, part of a blog post that you've sweated days to create) is to simply copy a sentence or two from your article and paste it into Google. Search results should show your article at the top, but anyone who has copied it (either an exact-match or partial-match) should be listed, too.

I've found a match

If you find a match or matches then there are a few things you can do.  Firstly, you can report it to Google via their Copyright Removal Tool.  Secondly, you take action to minimise the impact.

We recommend checking the PageRank of the offending site or sites using an online tool.  If the PageRank of the site is higher than your site a pragmatic approach would be to rework your content again to make it unique.  We have seen evidence here that a website with higher PageRank will out-rank the site with the original content.  If the PageRank is lower and the site is not out-ranking you then we recommend leaving your content as is.

If rewriting content that you've worked hard to create and optimise doesn't sit well with you, you could try to contact the website owner to ask them to remove the plagiarised content. This approach often pays off, especially if you can prove that yours was written first. 

If you find the same company persistently stealing your content and they reside in the same country as you, then it may be worth paying a solicitor to write a letter on your behalf warning them to stop stealing content.  Further to that here in the UK we have the small claims court which, for disputes under £10k, can be a cost-effective route forward.

Anything else?

There are a few other tricks you can use to help combat lazy content scrapers such as:

  1. Embed lots of internal links to related pages into your content. That way, if they simply copy and paste from your site, you'll at least benefit from some new links! 
  2. For blog posts you could add text to the bottom of your post along the lines of "The post #BlogPostTitle# first appeared on yourdomain.co.uk"
  3. You can stop them serving your images by blocking access to your site from their domain

In Summary

It can be a bit demoralising having your content stolen and out-ranking you.  From experience, this should not persist in the long term.  As your site grows in status online it will be harder and harder to out-rank you.  Providing you regularly report stolen content to Google, they should ultimately take action to demote those sites.

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