One of our clients has had the rather unpleasant experience of a Chinese company having completely copied its entire website, with the simple change of a different logo and a Chinese telephone number. What can be done about this sort of thing? Very little, unfortunately. Business-wise, it shouldn’t be a problem – the ‘pirate’ website makes little sense, with its UK address and ‘About Us’ but Chinese phone number. But it could be a problem in the unlikely event that Google misidentified which was the original site, and started to show the pirate site in its results.
One way of helping Google in this respect could be proper use of the rel=canonical tag on every page. If somebody copies a website and puts it on another domain, the rel=canonical tag will be there in the background ensuring that the search engines know what the ‘real’ URL of each page is. Of course, the thief could change that too, but at that level of sophistication, there are probably better uses of their time.