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7 Tips and Tools to Stop Content Thieves in their Tracks

Are you sick of people copying your content without your permission or attribution?8 tips and tools to stop content thieves

I am sure you are…

Plagiarism has been an issue on the web for years and with every new generation of bloggers come another group of lazy people who are prepared just to copy your content and then paste it all over their own websites. However, there are people who automate this process using plugins or automated software that can steal the content from your RSS feed and then plaster it all over their website seconds after you have pressed publish.

I think it’s important to understand the differences between scraping and syndication; scraping is when someone automatically reproduces your content without your permission, where as syndication is when there is an agreement between two parties for an article to be used under a commercial or attribution agreement.

Every publisher suffers from scrapers, just look at this search result for a sentence I copied from a news story on the BBC website which was published a few hours ago.

ways to stop content thieves

Your website’s content didn’t come for free, you spent hours, perhaps days finding the perfect words for your blog post, or you may have paid a professional copy writer to write a wonderful product description that would sell your product on the spot. You have every right to protect it.

Here are 7 tips and tools you can use to protect yourself from plagiarists and perhaps get a few links to your website in the process.

#1. Ping Pubsubhubbub

I have had a number of blogging clients approach me for SEO advice in the past because the content that someone has stolen from them is ranking higher in the search engines than they are. I’m not going to go into the complexities of search engine rankings or bore you with the ways Google indexes content but suffice to say this can happen because Google might find the copied version of your post before it finds yours, and therefore they are not 100% certain which is the original. By pinging Pubsubhubub you are informing a trusted source that you are the original source of the content and that you wrote it first.

If you use Blogger or WordPress.com as your blogging platform of choice then you can skip this step however, if you are using a self hosted version of WordPress, as millions of people are, then you can install the Pubsubhubbub plugin for free.

#2. Add Links to your Content

As experienced bloggers I am sure you already link to your old posts in any new articles. Not only is this good for your readers and the search engines, it also means that if anyone does steal your content they may keep the links to your site intact – thanks for the free links content thieves.

You can also install a piece of code on your website from a service called Tynt, which will not only tell you how often people have copied a section of text from your website but it will also create a link back to the original post.

Another way to make sure you get attribution for the original article is to install the Yoast SEO plugin or the Yoast RSS Footer Plugin on your blog. These plugins let you add some customised HTML code to your RSS feed so you can add links to your site or social media profiles; below is a screenshot of my blog’s custom footer.

another way to stop content thieves

#3.  Setup Google Authorship 

One of the added benefits of authorship, beyond having your photo showing next to your articles in the search results, is that Google can be confident as to the original author of the article, which will  mean your content is likely to end up being out ranked by a scraper.

Here is a video showing how to setup Google authorship for your articles.

If you have the Yoast SEO plugin installed on your website this is easy to implement.

There are several ways you can keep a look out for people who may have stolen your content online. This can be a very time consuming process so here are some tips and tools you can use to speed up the process.

#4. Stop Image Hotlinking

If you find that people are scraping your content from your RSS feed then it is very likely that they are stealing your bandwidth as they will be copying your images from your site too. You can make some amendments in your .htaccess file to disable image hot linking or if you are feeling a little devious you could instead return an image that point out that the post is stolen, which is what they do at DailySEOtip.

tips for finding stolen content

#5.  Check your Backlinks

If you have Trackbacks setup in WordPress then you will get a notification every time someone links to you, if you have setup the RSS footer and link to your old posts you will get a notification every time someone republishes your post.

You can also check your links in Google Webmaster Tools, and see if anyone who has linked to you has copied your content.

Simply go to Traffic > Links to Your Site

Links to your site And you will see a list of sites/pages that are linking to you.

#6. Setup Google Alerts

Every time I publish a new post I setup a new Google Alert to send me a notification when either the exact title of my post has been republished online or a unique sentence from the post has been published.

Google Alert

Google Alerts are very easy to setup and as a free service they are great way to monitor any positive or negative mentions of your brand or blog too.

You can also carry out manual searches in Google or use a service such as Copyscape to check for duplicate content.

#7. How to deal with a content thief

If you ever find a content thief then it’s important to remain calm and level headed. I know you want to grab them by the throat and shake them into next week but sending angry emails isn’t going to help you.

Firstly try to contact the site owner, sometimes they may not be aware the content was stolen so it’s best to be professional. If it is a good quality site then I might ask the webmaster to:

  1.  Give me an attribution link as the original source
  2. Allow me to rewrite the content in exchange for a link

If it is a very low quality site then I will ask that the content is removed immediately, and wait for a response. I will usually allow a few days to pass before I follow up with a stern warning that unless the content is removed in 48 hours I will take matters further.

If the site owner refuses to remove my content or fails to respond to my warning I use this free tool to find who their hosting company are.

hosting company

Once you know who the hosting company are you can then file a formal complaint called a DMCA request with them to have the stolen content removed from the website, web hosting companies take this very seriously and will act quickly.

You can also file a DMCA request with Google to have the content removed from their search results and if they are using Adsense on their site and making money from your content then you can also lodge a complaint there too.

What about you?

Have you ever had issues with content thieves? How did you deal with it?

I’d love to discuss this more in the comments.

Guest Author: Chris Dyson is a Freelance Online Marketing Consultant, is the co-founder of Link Club and writes at TripleSEO




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  • Emily Bradbury

    Thanks for this Jeff! A useful insight into dealing with people stealing your content. I wasn’t aware of Host Gator, but this will definitely be a tool I will use.

    • RootsWebSol

      Hi Emily the tool is whoishostingthis I don’t think the screen shot does it justice

    • Did you read the post?

  • I like what Derek Sivers, Steve Pavlina et al, do with their content, and give the copyright away. Then again, they’re enlightened bloggers.

  • There’s been a big discussion on this amongst tea Bloggers, so I have placed a link to this article on one of the major discussion sites.- (teatra.de) Hope that is OK!

  • Catherine Singer

    This article looks full of information but I can’t find anywhere on my WordPress site to access these plugins or add them. I’m feeling pretty stupid. I am using their free site.

  • Thank you Jeff, I always appreciate your content – and the level of integrity that you bring to it.

  • Excellent tips ! I knew some of them, but others were totally new.

  • Thanks for these good tips, Chris. I’m going to try the plugin you suggested. I recently had content stolen off my blog and I blogged about what I did as soon as I discovered the theft: http://www.bloggingbistro.com/what-i-did-when-someone-stole-my-blogs-content/ Notice that I now have Google Authorship installed!

  • Hi Jeff!! hope to get your feedback on this:
    What about a post giving us a couple of recommendations/tips on how to share legally an article?

    It will be great to know:
    1. How to deal with the post author when requesting an article sharing.
    2. Examples of What benefits I can offer to the author (if he allow me to share his content).
    3. What about if that author can gain traffic, clients, followers, or sales through me.
    4. What would be the conditions that an author can request in order to allow the sharing and gain the credit.

    …or I’m too far from, how it should be??

  • Great suggestions, thank you. Thieves annoy me. We already give away our time and ideas just HAVING blogs. To be stolen from and not credited is a slap to the face.

  • I love idea #4: sending a special picture over… especially since you often pay for images, or you take the photo yourself. Not nice to have those stolen.

  • Thanks, Jeff – how do you determine if a site is quality or not (#7 above)? Is there a tool you use perhaps?

  • Richard Hamer

    Pretty much had my entire website pinched word for word a few years back from someone I nearly did some work with. I’ve since changed my content but my original is still on his website. I could post the link…

  • You will not stop them so it shouldn’t stop you creating great unique content! 🙂

  • Hi Chris!! Great! This is very interesting!! …I think that, may be, if I don’t have a great traffic, the blogger will not want to allow the “post sharing”.

    …so, maybe, “paying a fee” and/or article link access (or home page) are the best options to request a “post sharing”.

    Thanks for your reply!!!! I’ll really take this in consideration!!!

  • Canuck Sailor

    As a writer and jouralist, I want to thank you for these tips – there were several I was unaware of. I’ve had several occasions where my work has been stolen and unless it is clear it is innocent, I react in one way – viciously. I contact the site owner if possible, the ISP and whomever else I can and demand that the material be taken off immediately. I start firm and rapidly become unpleasant because that’s what these people deserve.

    And, since it’s usual that these thieves have other people’s material as well, I attempt to inform others who are being victimized. Often, when an ISP gets numerous complaints, they get rid of the offending client.
    Someone below asked about ‘legally’ sharing an article. There are issues on fair comment, fair use and attribution, a longish and technical/legal discussion. Most professional writers will accept a couple of sentences being used, perhaps a paragraph, with a citation plus a link back to the original material for those interested in reading it in its entirety.

  • Deepak Arora

    Thanks for the lovely post Chris, I have also written on similar topic on my blog, though I have suggested ping-o-matic for the pinging. Image hot linking, post interlinking and google authorship as a way to stop content scraping are even new to me. Take a look at my post and let me know what you think


    Will be waiting for your thoughtful comment on the post

    Thanks and Regards
    Deepak Arora

    • RootsWebSol

      Thanks Deepak

      Some good ideas in that post 😉

  • RootsWebSol

    Hey Nicholas

    I have a few image related tools in my bookmarks


  • RootsWebSol

    No problem Carol I hope these tools help you in the future

  • This post is a keeper Jeff. I like how you set your thoughts down. Some really great points to mull over and DO. Thanks for all the great insight 🙂 @4JeffBrown


    nice article thanks, i have added so many scripts etc to my blog to prevent copying, but in the end, nothing is full proof


    what i really want to learn to do is prevent copying of my blog photos. would love a script for that. http://www.honestopinionsurveys.blogspot.com

  • ChrisL Tynt is the solution rest you have Informed well good luck

  • Annie Garcia

    Thanks for the tips! I have a somewhat unique scenario that is not outright plagiarism. I write a food blog, and I work very hard to come up with unique and creative recipes, I do all of the photography, and I am constantly thinking about how to write my posts – I put a lot of effort into every detail of my site. A friend of mine recently told me that her coworker looks at my blog every day as inspiration for creating her own food blog – over the past few months I’ve looked at this food blog and noticed that the writing style and structure is very similar to mine, the about me page is almost exactly the same as mine just slightly reworded, and a few of the posts have photographs that are similar to mine. The issue I face is that this other girls’ posts are not exactly copied and pasted from my own blog, but because I know shel looks at my blog daily for inspiration, it is very frustrating to see how similar her blog is to mine after all of the hard work I put in.

    Has anyone experienced anything similar, and how have you dealt with it?