What to do if you see your content on someone else’s website

Posted on July 9, 2019

 

When businesspeople set up a website, they know that they need some kind of text on there. Text is primarily what attracts Google and other search engines, but it’s important not to forget that it’s also there for human visitors to read.

Those who go about it the right way will either write the text themselves, or ask a content provider like ourselves at Engage Web to produce original text for them. Unfortunately, a lot do it the wrong way, and in doing so, they cause all sorts of problems.

Some website owners think the best way to go about developing content for their site is not to create it, but to copy it. It’s an issue our Technical Director Darren came across last week, and it’s a practice we see rather often. In a way, that’s not surprising – not all business owners find it easy to write content, and if someone else has done an ‘About Us’ page that’s not dissimilar to what you do, a quick way to put your own text together is to simply copy and paste it onto your site, perhaps changing the odd word or adding your company name here and there.

Aside from the fact that your conscience should tell you this isn’t right, though, it’s a bad idea because search engines like Google are likely to notice that your content already exists on the web and penalise you for it. After all, if you’re not using the internet to create anything new, why should you be rewarded with positive search rankings?

However, the problems are not confined to the person who did the copying. The site that originally contained the text is likely to suffer as well, because it now hosts one or two copies of an identical text. Sadly, Google is a bit like a school teacher who, upon receiving two remarkably similar pieces of homework from two different pupils, fumes “I don’t care who copied who – one of you copied and the other let them!” The consequence is that both end up having to do it again in their spare time.

So, if you find that your words are being used elsewhere, what should you do about it?

Make sure it is actually copied

The internet is such a vast pool of content, it’s inevitable that some of the same phrases and topics will crop up here and there, so you might want to run it through a plagiarism detection tool to make sure. At Engage Web, we use Copyscape. For a small fee per search, it lets you know immediately whether any visible content on the web matches yours, and what the offending parts are.

Contact the website owner

Usually, if someone has gone to the trouble of making a website, they want people to contact them about it, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get in touch with the copier via a ‘Contact Us’ page or email address on the site.

It’s probably best to be polite at first. The internet has spawned a culture of many people believing everything on it is free, so whoever pinched your content probably didn’t think they were doing anything wrong. Point out gently that they appear to have used your content, stressing that this is bad for the rankings of their site as well as yours. Of course, if this friendly approach doesn’t work, you can threaten with cease and desist notices and further legal action.

Consider rewriting your content

If it’s proving to be a slow process, your rankings might be suffering the longer the issue goes on. With that in mind, it might be best to accept that you need to rewrite or replace the content.

If you go down this route, DON’T use one of those awful online rewriter tools that fills your content with thesaurus words like ‘boon’ and ‘greetings’, or replaces ‘said’ with ‘enunciated’, or your whole website will look like a spam email. Do it yourself, or better yet, get us to do it for you!

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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