Combating Online Plagiarism

Oct 4, 2008   //   by Gerald Weber   //   Plagiarism, SEO Blog  //  18 Comments

Plagiarism is a growing problem for webmasters these days, given the implications that plagiarism can have on a webmasters search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, this is an area that deserves some attention. Many webmasters spend hours upon hours writing content for websites, only to sometimes have it stolen or scraped by unscrupulous webmasters, who are either lazy or do not want to take the time to create their own content for whatever reason. Aside from the obvious fact that it is unethical for someone to copy original content and pass it off as their own, the implication that duplicate content can have on search engine optimization goes much deeper than that. Duplicate content can and probably will depreciate the search rankings for one or both of the sites with duplicate content.

It’s actually pretty easy to check for plagiarism if you know how to look. The best way to see if your content has been duplicated is to use a service like Copyscape. The other way you can check your website is to copy and paste a single and meaningful line from your website into Google and if that line appears on a search engine results page (SERP), you will see it. Google Alerts also scans the web to look for duplicate content periodically.

If you do manage to detect duplicate content from your website, here are a few steps you can and should take:

  1. Contact the thief and politely ask them to remove the duplicate content.You can use Domaintools.com to help find out the contact information of someone who owns a domain. If it’s a major site, then you can attempt to contact the web master directly. After getting the contact info, you should attempt to contact the plagiarist and politely ask them to remove the duplicate content.

  2. Contact the search engines, primarily Google, and file a DMCA complaint with them. (The idea is to ensure that the correct site is punished by Google. Also Google may remove the plagiarists’ site from their index entirely.)
  3. Contact the plagiarists’ hosting company and file a DMCA complaint.The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires hosting companies to remove the plagiarized content. However, you must prove the content is stolen. They are not going to just take your word for it. You can easily prove who published the content to the web first by using internet archive.
  4. You can follow up with appropriate legal action if number 1, 2 and 3 do not get the desired results.

Interestingly, checking for plagiarism does not seem to rank high on most webmasters’ lists but it should actually be at the top of a webmasters’ to-do list, given the negative implications it can have on search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

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Gerald Weber

I founded Search Engine Marketing Group in December 2005. More recently I co-founded viralcontentbuzz.com. which is the free platform that helps bloggers generate REAL "social buzz" on their best content. Feel free to follow me on Google+

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  • Jon says:

    I spent hours researching my competition and deciding what information I wanted in my content. I would never steal content but I do use other content as inspiration for my own.

    If I was to find someone that stole my content for their own website I would be furious.

    I would definately do something about it. It was hard work perfecting my content so that it ranks well and delivers important information to my visitors.

    Here is to the honest web designer…

    Jon

    • Gerald Weber says:

      Jon,

      You have some good business ethics about you. It's unfortunate that there are some unscrupulous webmasters out there with no business ethics or values. Plagiarism is the same thing as robbing/stealing in my book.

  • Jenna says:

    Good to know – thanks for the info.

  • Gerald Weber says:

    @jenna, Your welcome. Our purpose is to provide useful information for people that are interested in improving their SEO.

  • Sherry says:

    Very informative blog. I'll be sure to visit here again in the future!

  • I had an entire website plagiarized once. Someone took every page of my ad tracker site and made it their own. Only changing the name and logo. They even used my exact key words, meta tags everything. I was lucky, it didn't go past step #1. I sent an email asking them to design their own site and it was changed the next day. I guess they figured I would never see their site.

    <abbr>Brian D. Hawkins’s last blog post..Just Ask Someone</abbr>

  • Gerald Weber says:

    Thank you. We look forward to seeing you here in the future.

  • Gerald Weber says:

    Jon,

    You have some good business ethics about you. It’s unfortunate that there are some unscrupulous webmasters out there with no business ethics or values. Plagiarism is the same thing as robbing/stealing in my book.

  • Tamal Anwar says:

    I face this problem for over an year with my blog(s) and still people are copying my contents. Thanks for giving an easy way to solve this (connecting the author) most of the times new bloggers do this without even knowing that it's wrong. So before complaining, we should try to inform them about it.

    <abbr>Tamal Anwar’s last blog post..A step by step guide for new twitter users – Part 2</abbr>

  • Gerald Weber says:

    Yes the first you should do is contact the palgiarist. Many times they will simply take down the stolen content and problem solved.

  • Bobby Revell says:

    Sometimes I wonder where people draw the line between plagiarism and writing articles "based" on other articles. For instance: someone writes an article titled "10 Twitter Tips". Is that plagiarism? It may not be, but it is close. 95% of any post I read these days has already been written in some form or another. This is why I believe any blogger should add their personality and opinion to every post. It makes it more original. Something to think about!

    <abbr>Bobby Revell’s last blog post..The Human Urge To Criticize and Judge</abbr>

    • Gerald Weber says:

      Well that is a different issue I believe. Almost anything has been written about at one time or another. I’m mostly referring to blatant palgiarism. i.e. I have had people copy post word for word and even use the exact same images. I don’t think a similar title is considered plagiarism but you if you identical line/paragraphs etc then that’s what I call palgiarism. I don’t think simply writing about the same thing or having a similar topics is considered plagirism. If it’s been written about a lot maybe that could just be called unoriginal.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Plagiarism, scraping, and other forms of stealing are a major issues. Like you said, I spend lots of time creating and researching my posts. I am careful to give credit, including citations and links, when I quote someone or use portions of their posts as source material. Many posts are inspirations for other original posts. IMHO this is very different from stealing entire posts and passing them off as your original work. I have found that contacting the thief does work in many cases but that it can be quite an exhaustive and time consuming process. A friend of mine who is a prolific blogger has resorted to filing for cease and desist orders; this is also a very time consuming process but she finds it useful for US based content thieves. I wish people would just learn some ethics. And it really pisses me off that Google does not take a stand and in fact publicizes the fact that they only penalize a thief if they have 'deceptive' or 'manipulative' intent.
    .-= Rich Dansereau´s last blog ..Duplicate Content, Generic Content, Scraped Content, Syndicated Content…What’s The Diff? =-.

  • Rawmazing says:

    I have problems with people taking my photographs and content all the time, thinking that if they just include a link somewhere it is just fine. I have had a lot of success with just emailing them, letting them know everything is copyrighted and I do have terms. I am happy to share, as I don't mind the links but they have to follow my instructions. It is very frustrating to pull up someone's site and see 4-5 of my photos on it with a tiny little link…
    .-= Rawmazing´s last blog ..Raw Food and Being Mindful =-.

  • Sire says:

    Thanks for that information Gerald. As I some of my content was only recently stolen it will come in handy. So far I've only left some contents for them to be removed. If that doesn't work I will take further steps.
    .-= Sire´s last blog ..How Amazon And The Power Of Keywords Can Increase Your Earnings =-.