Plagiarism – How to Fight Back

It is difficult to create compelling content that drives sales which is why plagiarism is so rife. Why waste time, effort and cash hiring a high quality writer who will research and create sparkling content for your marketing campaign when you can just rip someone else off? That seems to be the attitude of a variety of unscrupulous webmasters as they scour the Internet looking for material to steal.

While there is little you can do about someone who steals your ideas and recreates them in your own image, there is plenty you can do to combat blatant plagiarism of your website content.

How Does Plagiarism Affect Your Website?

Although the search process takes a fraction of a second, a huge amount of work is going on behind the scenes. The search engine crawlers go through your website’s content at lightning speed to find new pieces of content. If it finds duplicate content of 60%+, it may decide that the website is ripping off content and this will massively devalue the website and cause its SEO rating to plummet. This is why writing unique content is so critical to the success of your business.
In a sense, the original creator of the content does not have to worry about the plagiarism as long as his website had the content on there first. Search engines look at a website’s history and ignore the content posted later while giving the better ranking to the older page.

So Why Worry?

Although search engines are aware of the rip-off, Internet users may not be and this could potentially compromise the integrity of your website. One way to damage your brand identity is to allow plagiarisers to run rampant and steal all your content. This is why it is essential to contact the requisite search engines and report the duplicate content so it can be removed as soon as possible. With 100% original content on your site, you can breathe a little easier.

How to Prevent Plagiarism of Your Content

While there is no sure-fire method of keeping people honest, you can at least issue warnings to would-be plagiarists which states that you are on the lookout for content thieves and will hunt them down. Here are some handy tips:

  • Use A Plagiarism Checker: Personally, I find that Copyscape is an excellent method of detecting content duplication. Check that your content has not been ripped-off regularly and you can also ensure that you avoid ‘accidental’ duplication on your part as Copyscape is quite thorough.
  • Copyright/Watermark: Your content is actually protected by copyright from the instant it is published on your website but you can also add a notice at the bottom of your page that emphasises this point. If you own photographs on your website and wish to protect them, add a watermark with your website name, address or logo within the images.
  • Eliminate Right-Click Capability: This is a handy way to stop copy and paste bandits from having their way. Use the CopyProtect plug-in if you use WordPress and deter would-be plagiarisers.
  • Write Lengthy & Personal Posts: The longer a post is, the less likely someone is going to try and copy it. Sure, they may attempt to take a passage here and there but it will look very obvious plus they still need to work it into their own content. If you can add some personal titbits to your posts without losing the message they are intending to convey, do so as it is tough to copy someone else’s experiences into a post while still making sense.

Responding To Plagiarism

Inevitably, there will be cowboys who have no scruples and are far too lazy to make even the slightest effort to hide their transgression(s). When you come across examples of plagiarism, you need to act fast for reasons already specified. Here are the appropriate steps you need to take; note that things may escalate and you’ll need to be prepared to push to the end:

  • Contact the Offender: Use your plagiarism detection tool to find the offending website and get contact details of the offending party. Send them an email outlining their error though try and remain polite even though your blood will probably be boiling. If you can’t find contact information on the website, use Whois to gain information such as the webmaster’s name, address and telephone number.
  • Contact the Offender’s Web Hosting Company: You will find details of the web hosting company on the transgressor’s Whois profile. Explain the situation to the web host; as their reputation is important, they will certainly take a dim view of plagiarism going on under their banner. Cite the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in this correspondence.
  • Send a Legal Letter: This is usually known as a ‘cease and desist’ letter and essentially amounts to a legal threat. In this letter, you inform them that they must immediately remove the content from their website or else you will take legal action if necessary. There are a host of samples of this letter online.
  • Smear Their Reputation: Now the gloves are off and you’re in the political arena as you get down and dirty! When someone tried to post my content on his website after refusing to pay me for my services, I wrote an account on RipOff Report and if you type in ‘Jack Simonelli’ into Google, you’ll see my account (and at least one more written by someone else) on that website on the first page! Write reviews on other sites to completely damage the offender’s reputation but always stick to the facts!!!
  • Report Them To Google: I did this in the case above and after a week, I got a reply saying that the offending content was taken down. Google is ruthless when it comes to plagiarism and copyright infringement and it is not unusual for the search engine giant to blacklist the website thus ensuring it never appears on a Google search again. Indeed, I found that the offending website in my story does not appear on the search engine results even when its name is typed into the search box. Victory!
  • Sue Them: This is the last course of action but it is a path that may be worth taking if plagiarism is seriously affecting your brand. Make sure you contact a high quality attorney and get ready for a battle.

Don’t take plagiarism lying down. Your content is representative of your company brand and image so if you allow others to simply steal it without a fight; you can’t think much of your business. If you are tempted to plagiarise, don’t waste your time. Online companies are becoming savvier and are more likely to catch you out than ever before. All it takes is a few seconds and your reputation could be permanently stained.

If you want to be a success in the online world, you need to differentiate yourself from others. What makes your brand unique and why should customers trust you? Create and deliver authentic and potent content and customers will trust and believe in your company. The result will be an enhanced online reputation and greater sales.

Have you ever been the victim of plagiarism?

If so, how did you handle it and what was the outcome?