How Scraped Content May Be Wrecking Your SEO Efforts
Creating high-quality content and adding it to your website is a big accomplishment.
You’ve also checked off the boxes for incorporating SEO features to help you get noticed by search engines.
Now, you wait.
While things can go wrong on your part, such as the usage of the wrong keywords or a bad link, there are other dangers lurking out there on the internet as well that can affect your content management and SEO strategies.
You may be susceptible to what’s known as content scraping.
Essentially, content scraping is when someone steals your content and uses it as their own.
While frustrating, it can become even moreso if that stolen content winds up ranking above you in SERPs.
Checking for content scraping, then, needs to be added to your overall SEO strategy.
What is Scraped Content?
Scraped content is defined as content that is stolen from a website and added to another site/domain without the owner’s permission.
It essentially becomes an illegal act of plagiarism when it is not simply just copied, but actually used without attribution to the original creator or owner.
Those doing the content scrapping may use the content as is or make slight modifications in an attempt to avoid detection, but without adding any unique value.
The main purpose behind content scrapping includes an intent to steal away your higher web ranking and organic traffic.
In other words, someone has taken the lazy way to pad a website and increase the chances of SEO rankings.
The one behind the stealing is letting you do all the hard work in creating that high-quality content, then siphoning your audience and sales away from you.
How is Content Scraped?
Content can be scraped either manually or with the use of automated software.
Manual content scraping, however, is time-consuming and labor-intensive. The thief may simply copy and paste your content for their own use.
What’s more common is the specialty software that utilizes bots to crawl sites, collecting data and information quickly, usually within seconds.
These bots usually send a series of requests in rapid succession and then save the information received from the web server, often copying all the content of a website.
APIs and browser automation programs also conduct content scraping by attempting to trick your server to appear as a human accessing data.
How Can Scraped Content Hurt Your SEO?
Content scraping can indeed hurt your SEO.
Search engines are not equipped, so to speak, with ways to ascertain unique content from the scraped content, and because of this, scrapers can move ahead of you in rankings.
That is, as long as the two occur within a short time span – the posting of the original content and then the scraped content.
Often, the reason behind content scraping is to increase the amount of pages on a site, thinking this will be a major factor in getting noticed by search engine crawlers and algorithms.
Content scrapers also use this malicious method to scrape keyword-dense content as a way to drive more traffic to their website.
Other ways content scraping can affect you and your SEO efforts include:
Destabilizing your web authority ranking
Potentially lessening your competitive advantage
Exposing you to Google Penalties for duplicate content
How to Determine if Your Content Has Been Scraped
Regularly checking for content scraping needs to be incorporated into your scheduling to ensure you protect your content and your SEO efforts.
So, how can you determine if and when your content is being scraped?
Here are ways to find out.
Conduct Google Searches
Keep it simple to start off with, conduct Google searches for your content.
Enter titles of your pages or blog posts into the Google Search Bar, and see what comes up. Review each one.
Next, enter a unique sentence or set of sentences into the Search Bar. Content scrapers may alter the titles but not the rest of the content to throw you off initially, so look for more clues with your actual content.
Utilize Specialized Tools Like Copyscape
Copyscape, a specialized online tool, allows you to enter a URL and find out if any duplicates exist on the web.
You may want to start with the free version, then progress to the paid account if you find this works for you.
You can also sign up for their Copysentry feature, an automated plagiarism detection tool that sends alerts whenever it locates copies of your content online.
Most likely, you’ve included internal links in your content, so review any trackbacks you receive which will show any scraped content.
You can find trackbacks in WordPress, but make sure you check your spam folder for notices if you are using Akismet.
Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools can serve your content scrapping detection methods for free. Review the “Links to Your Site” to gain information.
You may find content scrapers listed as they will most likely have numerous links pointing to your web pages.
Set Google Alerts
Setting Google Alerts is free and extremely helpful. Instead of constantly searching on Google for any scraped content, set an alert to look for it for you.
When you post your content, also set an alert geared to that content. Include the exact title so that if anyone else posts it, you’ll know. Also, try including alerts for unique phrases or sentences as well.
Options for Dealing with Content Scraping
There are a few different approaches to dealing with content scraping are available, including leaving the scraped content in place and finding a way to benefit from it or taking action to have it removed entirely.
Add Links to your Content
A simple measure to take is to always add links throughout your website content.
Make sure the links point to helpful content relevant to the visitor. You can also include affiliate links to bring in income.
When content scraping occurs, they may keep these links intact, which means you can still receive traffic or affiliate income from it.
Utilize PubSubHubbub Pinging
There is the potential for Google to locate the scraped content before finding the rightful source. At this point, it can’t determine which is plagiarism and which is the original content.
Don’t take the chance that Google will make the correct decision. If you find your content scraped, utilize PubSubHubbub pinging. If you have self-hosted WordPress, you can install the plugin to make this easy.
Pinging will inform Google that your website is indeed the source of the original content.
Take A Direct Approach
First, find the person or organization that owns the domain containing your scraped content. You can locate this by using Whois Lookup.
Contact the owner of the website directly and ask them to remove the scraped content. They may claim it was a mistake and remove it or agree to attribute you as the original content source.
If no email address is included in Whois, look for the hosting company or domain registrar. You can attempt to contact them and inform them of the stolen content by one or more of their domains. They can confirm or deny your claim with a quick diagnostic and remove or suspend it.
You can also contact Google directly, making a filing under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA. Google can deindex webpages that contain your scraped content.
How Can Your Business Prevent Content Scraping?
To protect your website and content, consider taking any of the following steps:
Implement a Bot Management Solution
A bot management application can block attacks by content scrapers.
For example, Cloudflare Bot Management is a robust application that identifies bots based on various behavioral patterns, then blocks them.
CAPTCHAs are designed to differentiate computers (bots) from humans by presenting simplistic tasks or puzzles that humans, not computers, can easily solve.
The risk is that humans often find these puzzles frustrating and annoying, and you may lose traffic.
You can limit the use of CAPTCHAs, however, such as allowing them to only show when identified clients send multiple requests within a short amount of time.
Create Honey Pot Pages
Creating honey pot pages for bots to click on, particularly those that humans won’t visit. When they go to that page, you can capture their information and block them from further access.
Block Individual IP Addresses
Identify if numerous requests are coming in a short timeframe from a single IP address. If so, this may be a content scraper.
Block that IP address.
A downside to this is that proxy services often use one IP address (or domain registrar), and you may end up blocking several legitimate visitors.
Also, content scrapers may get around this by using several different IP addresses, or slowing down the rate of requests, throwing you off.
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Wrap Up: Protect Your SEO Efforts from Scraped Content
You put a lot into creating content for your website and also implementing SEO efforts to take you higher in search engine rankings and reach a wider audience. So why should content scrapers continue to benefit from your hard work?
Incorporate scraped content searches into your SEO strategy and determine how you want to go about addressing what you find.
Also, consider adding protection measures to ensure your content benefits you and only you. Show content scrapers you’re on to them and not backing down.