Duplicate content is an issue for many websites when it comes to SEO. Search engines cannot tell who copied content from whom; they can only detect that it’s the same text on more than one website. It also makes no difference whether you’re innocently re-using your own content in multiple places, or a competitor deliberately copied and pasted your original content.
The result varies in each case, but it’s common for both website to be penalised in Google’s rankings if this is detected. Google favours originality, so if it’s not sure whether you wrote the text on your website, it can’t justify ranking you highly. In more serious cases, you could become involved in legal disputes, which is a costly and time consuming exercise that nobody wants to resort to.
How do I prevent this ever happening?
A great place to start is right at the beginning. Prevention really is better than the cure with duplicate content issues. If your website makes it clear that you are aware of copyright issues and likely to put up a fight, it will almost always discourage them. The most important steps to take are as follows:
- Register with the DMCA. This allows you to add a badge on your page confirming your content is protected, and in the event that it is duplicated, the DMCA can issue takedown notices.
- Include a notice on your website to make people aware of the dangers of copying your content. Many users will be unaware that reusing your content without permission is illegal, but this way you can easily inform them.
- Keep drafts of your writing, the sources you used to write your content and so on. This can serve as proof that you were the original creator, should you need to present it later.
- Make sure you don’t accidentally lift too much from sources you’re using for your writing. You can use plagiarism checking tools (see below) on your own writing to ensure you don’t do this by accident.
How do I know if someone has copied me?
There are plenty of tools online that you can use to check your content hasn’t been stolen. Some of the best ones to make use of are as follows:
- Run a simple Google search for chunks of your text. Try both with and without quotation marks, in case someone has made tiny changes but copied the majority of your text. Usually this will flag it up if they have.
- Set up Google Alerts so you are notified whenever your exact phrase pops up online.
- Use websites designed to detect plagiarism and duplicate content, such as Copyscape or Plagium.
Someone copied my content! What do I do?
Often the easiest solution is to simply change your own content, because it can be done in minutes and doesn’t require any cooperation from other parties. However, you shouldn’t be forced to do this when you went to the trouble of creating quality content! If you want to take action against the website using your content, follow these steps:
- Compile your evidence proving you wrote the text. Take screenshots of your own site as well as the site copying you.
- Contact the webmaster by email, explaining that you own the content and requesting that they remove it immediately. This works more often than you might think. Failing this, you can get in touch with the web hosting provider of the offending website.
- The next step is to communicate more formally. You can send your own “cease and desist” letter (online templates may help) to threaten legal action, or if you are protected by the DMCA as we recommended above, they will take care of this step.
- Contacting Google with your evidence may lead them to penalise the other website and not yours. They may in fact choose to de-index the offending page, although this is rare. Again the DMCA will help with this – you may have seen a notice at the bottom of your search results stating that results have been omitted due to DMCA claims.