Online Plagiarism is one of the things which worries legitimate webmasters every once in a while.
If you have a website with high-quality original content and someone simply copies all the content of your site and publishes the same content in their website, it is called Plagiarism. Not only is Plagiarism bad from the ethical and moral point of view – not attributing the original source with any credit and literally “stealing” the content and hard work of someone else, it is also bad for users since they don’t want to see two web pages with the same content in search results.
At the same time, it is also bad for search engines because search engines absolutely do not want to see duplicate content – two web pages with the same content in them. In that case, the search engines have to figure out who the original source is and punish the imposter. That is useless work and not a good use of anyone’s time.
So plagiarism hurts everyone, except the thief. The person stealing the content from the source website and not crediting the original source should not get any benefit out of plagiarized content, otherwise, the internet will become a nasty place wherein nobody will take the time out to create something unique and meaningful and everyone will resort to “stealing” content from others.
What is Plagiarism?
Many bloggers, website owners, and publishers do not get “Plagiarism” correctly.
There are lots of misconceptions about plagiarism. For example, some people assume that it is okay to copy articles from Wikipedia or a Newspaper’s website since it is for the use of the public. Some people even believe that one can copy content from any website on earth and call it their own since the Internet is free for anyone to do whatever they want.
Simply Put, Plagiarism is the practice of presenting someone else’s work as your own. It could be a blog article, an image, an essay, white paper, a PDF document or anything else. If you re-use someone else’s content or material on your website and call it your own, that is Plagiarism.
How Plagiarism affects Search rankings of Your website?
Now you may wonder, how does PLagiarism affect the content of a website or a blog? Does it affect search rankings or SEO of a website?
Many website owners are not aware of the fact that Plagiarism seriously hurts a website and it’s SEO. This is because Search engines do not want duplicate content and absolutely hate to see duplicate content posted on a website, crawled, indexed and shown to users when they are looking for something. If two pages on the same website have the same content in them, they should use the canonical URL element to tell search engines that one is the original source while the other is duplicate. If this is not done, then the “Duplicate page” will be referred to as “Plagiarism” in Google’s eyes.
Since search engines do not like to see Duplicate or “Plagiarised” content, a website which has tons of pages of duplicate content or plagiarized content is not supposed to rank well in search results. The website containing plagiarized content will either be hit by an algorithmic penalty by Google or by a manual action from Google web spam team and will eventually be de-listed from Google search results.
So be very careful while plagiarizing content from other websites and it is strongly recommended not to copy and paste content from other websites into yours. Upto a paragraph is acceptable, so long you link to cite the original source and do it occasionally. However, if each and every page of your website contains plagiarized content, then your website is soon likely to get hit by Google’s filters.
More than search rankings, Plagiarism violates Google’s Webmaster quality guidelines.
Content on your website or blog has to be original, unique, handcrafted and must come after thorough editorial supervision. Content which is stolen from other sources (plagiarized), poorly written, automatically produced or scraped from an RSS feed, Article directory or other sources without any editorial supervision is considered low-quality spam and does not improve the authority of the website. In reality, this is the type of content which hurts your website the most and the more number of pages with plagiarized content you have, the worse off you will be.
How to find people plagiarising your content online?
There are lots of tools to check if someone is plagiarizing your content on their websites or blogs but I found Copyscape the most useful, quick and to the point. Just enter your website URL and Copyscape will show you other websites which are re-using or plagiarizing your content on their sites.
You can also use Siteliner, which checks whether the content published on your website is duplicate in nature or not. This will help you maintain a quality standard in your website and prevent your site authors from publishing duplicate content on your site.
Form my experience, I have found that spammers mainly duplicate content from your RSS Feed. The moment you publish new content on your website, spammers auto post the article on their website word by word, thereby contributing to plagiarised content. In most cases, they also copy all the links as it is, so whenever they post the article on their website, backlinks are created towards your own website. In this case, this is a good enough signal for Google to understand who is the original author of a piece of content and who is not, so you don’t have to worry too much about it.
Also, factor in the case that Google algorithms are pretty smart in figuring out who the original source is and who the imposter is. in 99% of the cases, you don’t have to do anything but keep producing original content on your website (and Google should be able to tell who is copying from whom). However, there are certain scenarios when you have to take active measures to stop people from copying your work without permission.
I have explained how to do that in the next section.
Dealing with Plagiarized Content Used By Another Blogger or Website Owner.
So what do you do when you have a list of websites which are plagiarizing content from your website?
90% of the times, the websites stealing content from your site are spammers. Their websites look spammy with little or no original content, the design seems broken and if you look and comb their sites, you will find that they have copied content from a ton of other sites without proper attribution. If this is the case, there is nothing you need to do. No need to waste your previous time going after them and getting the plagiarized content removed since sooner than later, Google and other search engines will find out who the original source is and punish them for spreading web spam.
Also, given the fact the these spammy websites are really large in number, it makes little or no sense to waste your time going after them every other day. Focus on creating a really high quality website and don’t worry at all about spammy sites stealing their content. If you do the right things on your side, spammers will come, steal your content and eventually die one day.
On very rare occasions, you may find that a “Legitimate” website which looks okay has stolen content from your website. It is possible that one of the authors did a sloppy job and choosed to copy content from your site. In this case, a DMCA complaint is the way to go and deal with a legitimate website copying your content.
What is a DMCA Complaint?
A DMCA Takedown is a notice sent by a website owner to another website owner requesting the former to take down content which has been stolen from the original course. When content is removed from a website at the request of the owner of the content or the owner of the copyright of the content, that request is known as DMCA takedown request or DMCA takedown notice. It is a well established, accepted, internet standard followed by website owners and internet service providers.
DMCA stands for Digital Millenium copyright act.
How to file a DMCA complaint
- The first step is to locate the website which has stolen the content from your website. You can use Copyscape and other plagiarism checkers to find the offending website. You will have to do it on your own and this can be pretty laborious at times if the number of offending websites is fairly large in number.
- If that offending website has a contact us page with an email listed, it is indeed a good idea to first drop an email and request the site owner to take down the content. In most of the cases, the website owner will comply, since he knows he is guilty and would not want to get into additional trouble. If no email is listed, try to find a contact form on the website which you can use. If there is no contact form, try to contact the owner on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. There must be some way to contact the owner of the website and you should use all the options first, before filing a formal DMCA notice.
- Once you have sent the initial message, wait for a week or two for the reply. In most cases, you should either get a reply or you would find that the content has been removed from the offensive website which stole your content.
- If you are not able to contact the offending website owner or you have not heard back from the website owner, it is time to contact the web hosting company which is hosting the website. Go to Whoishostingthis.com , enter the URL of the website and find the web hosting company which is hosting the website.
- Most web hosting companies have a page on their website which lists the procedure of filing the DMCA complaint for an offending website, if the offending website is being hosted by that web hosting company. For example, this is the DMCA policy page for Bluehost.com, so if an offending website is being hosted by Bluehost.com, you can follow the instructions on that page to file the DMCA complaint to Bluehost. If you are not able to find the page, use Google ( DMCA policy of XYZ.com should get the job done)
Once you have filed the DMCA complaint, the web hosting company will look into your case and contact the offending website to remove the content from their sites. This is the most effective way to deal with Plagiarized content using a DMCA complaint. Find more information about how to properly file DMCA complaint in this article.
To wrap up – there are two things you need to remember. Don’t publish Plagiarize content on your website. Second, don’t allow others to steal content from your website without any consequences. Don’t sit over your DMCA removal requests for months, take action and keep reporting the spammers and imposters on a regular basis.
Be Sure to read our SEO Guide which contains useful information about SEO and we have discussed in detail key SEO Concepts with examples.