I’ve known about tools like Copyscape for a while now. I’ve used it regularly in the past to double check that content written for our blog by a new guest blogger was 100% original.
I always knew I should be more proactive in keeping track of my content to make sure it wasn’t being too abused by other copy/paste bloggers.
Then just a few days ago, I saw this post in the WP Elevation Facebook group by our friends over at Karvel Digital.
It’s just another one of those things you have to hear a few times to realize, “Yeah, I really should be doing that.” It just didn’t seem like a high priority for a while but now that we’re driving decent traffic via our content, it seemed like the obvious move to set up a system to check the web to make sure our content hadn’t been jacked.
I took a few minutes (and a few bucks) and set up Copyscape Sentry to monitor all our blog posts and interior pages.
And I was not prepared for what I was about to find…
So much plagiarized blog content!
I found website after website that had blatantly copied and pasted content from our blog and published it themselves elsewhere.
I’m not even talking about somebody who was writing an article and read a few other high-ranking posts to write better content. That’s called the Skyscraper Technique and I think it’s totally fair game.
Here’s one that was 81% duplicate content. That means more than 4 out of 5 sentences were taken word-for-word. Wow:
And then there were interior pages
Yep. It turns out blog content wasn’t all that was being lifted from our website.
There were a few websites that had 100% duplicated our pricing tables:
Full transparency: those who apply and are accepted into our white-label program are allowed to use our pricing table. The people I’m talking about here did not have permission.
At least they renamed the plans…
And people even nabbed some of our FAQs and answers, word-for-word:
And then the pièce de résistance…
Someone duplicated our entire website
Here’s our homepage as of today.
Here’s the homepage of another website that Copyscape Sentry found. Look familiar?
This was just the above-the-fold content. The entire homepage content was duplicated down to the quote from people on our support team.
Even our entire FAQ page had been jacked. WTF!?
Am I mad?
I’m not going to lie. When I first saw what was going on, I was incensed. I definitely shot off a few angry emails at 2 am…
But now that I’ve had 24 hours to decompress and think about it, I’m really not that upset. My anger was just an initial reaction.
If I’m being honest, was I really that much different when I started on my digital journey? I don’t think I ever duplicated someone else’s content and tried to pass it off as my own, but I definitely dabbled in some grey- and black-hat SEO seven odd years ago.
And to this day, I’m a huge believer in not reinventing the wheel. Moving really, really fast is the advantage of any small company and I sure as hell take advantage of it. And that means cutting corners sometimes, which can be a slippery slope…
To be clear, I’m not condoling these copy/pasters. What they did was wrong. But maybe they’re just at the beginning of their journey and learning the ropes? The best thing I can do is be firm and straightforward with them and at least try to teach them a valuable lesson.
Here’s what went down
I emailed each of the sites directly threatening legal action (a scare tactic, I guess?) and that I would file a DMCA request with Google to remove pages that were stealing my content. I gave them all 48-hour notice.
Most of them replied to my email with some excuse like their developer or designer had done it and they had no idea. But they also told me they’d soon take or had already taken their duplicate pages down.
One guy even submitted a removal request from Google search results himself.
I told everyone who replied to me like this that I forgave them and that there were no hard feelings. People do make mistakes, and I think in some weird way, they appreciated being called out for it.
🙏 Sometimes you have to forgive and not hold a grudge. People make mistakes. #WordPress Click To Tweet
Those who never got back to me were reported to Google.
This is actually a good sign
Now that I’ve had some time to cool down a bit, I’m realizing that this is actually a good sign. If we’re getting enough visibility and klout that people want to jack our content, we must be doing something right!
And if people are trying to use copies of our pricing page, FAQs and sales copy to start their own business in this space, we must be on the right track. Hell, we took a hint from other companies doing WordPress maintenance when I started this company; I won’t pretend that this was a completely novel idea I came up with one day in the shower. The difference is I never plagiarized their work to further what WP Buffs was doing.
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