Content Theft – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

It’s funny how two unconnected events come together to inspire blog posts now and then, but that’s how this one, which looks at content theft, was born.

Last week Kristi Hines published a post on KissMetrics relating to content scrapers (and some great tools for checking to see if your content is appearing elsewhere too) and in the same week a certain Manchester agency was pulled up by another agency for blatantly ripping off their blog posts. We don’t want to get into the middle of that particular issue and it seems it’s been satisfactorily resolved, but it does highlight some issues surrounding content theft.

There are pros and cons of having your content ‘stolen’ and it’s not something you should immediately view as a bad thing.

The Good of Content Theft

Most content that shows up in multiple places other than the original post is caused by content scrapers. These are automated spiders that look for blog posts and articles that contain certain keywords and then simply copy them and publish them to whatever site or blog they’ve been programmed to.

There are certain link benefits to this if it’s done in a ‘good’ fashion – that fashion being the one that retains the links back to the original post. In other words, where credit is given via a clickable link. As Kristi points out in her post, the quality of these links is rarely high – no site publishing scraped content is ever going to be regarded as high quality by Google – but nevertheless a link is a link and from an SEO point of view every little helps.

The Bad of Content Theft

Unfortunately for us content producers, many content scrapers strip out any links back to the original and remove any credit whatsoever. What you end up with there is duplicate content at best and people mistaking the scraped content as the original at worst.

Your site or blog will suffer because of the duplicate content and there could even be the potential to view YOU as the plagiarist, hurting your brand. This is bad and you’ll want to contact any sites doing this and ask them to either give credit with a link back to your post or just take down the offending article.

The Ugly of Content Theft

This is what happened last week. Blatant, premeditated and just plain lazy copying and pasting of good quality blog posts and articles with no backlink to the original and, worse, the claiming of credit for it in the first place.

This is abhorrent behaviour. It usually comes down to a lazy and / or unscrupulous individual rather than a company-wide policy but that’s rarely comfort for the original author. Having your content ripped off by an automated spider is one thing. Seeing someone else steal it and claim the credit is quite another.

Here at Fluid we’re constantly finding our website content on other sites, even as far away as Australia. And this content isn’t being scraped, it’s being copied and pasted into other web designers’ and online marketers’ sites, presumably as they’re too lazy to write their own. It’s so lazy, in fact, that there have been one or two instances where they haven’t even bothered to take our company name out of the copy!

Conclusion

As a matter of course you should really be putting some time aside each month to check whether or not your content is appearing elsewhere on the web and if so, how. Don’t worry if your content has been scraped as long as a credit link is given. Don’t panic if it’s been scraped without a credit link – just contact the site in question and ask for credit or removal (and then monitor it!).

DO go ballistic if someone has blatantly ripped you off and claimed credit. This is just my opinion, not that of Fluid, but I’d publicly call them out on my blog/site, naming and shaming them while asking for an apology and that the post be credited back or removed. And I’d keep doing it until both the apology and the credit/removal was achieved.

It’s not only a matter of protecting your own work but of protecting others. Anyone who is prepared to rip you off is likely ripping others off. A public outing of this nature might give them pause for thought next time they have space to fill and are either too lazy or too stupid to come up with their own content.

Ben Greenwood
  • Written by on 7th February 2012 at 14:56
  • “Ben Greenwood is an SEO & social media consultant at Fluid Creativity. Ben can regularly be found blogging about all things digital and is a self-confessed Twitter addict.”
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  • Sean

    Nice writeup.   Content theft is an ever growing threat and we need to help content producers learn about their options.  If your readers are looking for help, we’ve built out a Content Protection Network called Distil.   Distil.it   We’d love to hear your feedback if you have other ways to mitigate theft of the written word. 

    • Ben Greenwood

      Hi Sean. Thanks for the reply and sorry for the delay in replying! We’ll definitely check disti.itl out and may do a write up on it. Thanks again.

  • Sean

    Nice writeup.   Content theft is an ever growing threat and we need to help content producers learn about their options.  If your readers are looking for help, we've built out a Content Protection Network called Distil.   Distil.it   We'd love to hear your feedback if you have other ways to mitigate theft of the written word. 

    • Ben Greenwood

      Hi Sean. Thanks for the reply and sorry for the delay in replying! We'll definitely check disti.itl out and may do a write up on it. Thanks again.