Has anyone copied your content online?

Has anyone copied your content online? You might be surprised. One of our clients once found their entire site had been copied by a Chinese company and just the logo changed at the top. Another client found that an employee who had left to set up a competitor had copied the entire website and diligently replaced all the products and references.

The best way to find out is to find a random page on your site, copy a sentence from the middle of the page, and paste it into Google, preferably with quote marks around it. You should get just one result, or perhaps you’ll discover there are duplicate versions on your own site in archives created by the content management system (I wouldn’t worry about these). But you might find unwanted copies like our clients did.

Does it matter? If the site has been ‘scraped’ for no apparent reason, probably not. Google knows that bots go around the web and hoover up content to create their own sites. It’s good at detecting and ignoring these. If your content has been genuinely stolen (perhaps by a competitor), that’s different, and you might want to take action. I once found a blogger (in the UK) who was republishing these articles as his own, and it was annoying, if hardly a commercial problem. Fortunately I was able to contact him and demand that the material be removed, which happened. It’s likely that if someone has stolen your content to use on a commercial website, they’ll also have contact details, or else it’s not going to be doing their business much good.

If not, try to find out the website hosting company (through a WHOIS search or via Nominet). Hosting stolen content is an offence, and you can threaten them with a takedown notice – no need to get m’learned friends involved.