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6 Ways to Discourage Thieves from Stealing Your Online Content

6 Ways to Discourage Thieves from Stealing Your Online Content

By | 03.03.15
6 Ways to Discourage Thieves from Stealing Your Online Content

copyright lockWe’ve previously discussed what you can do when you discover internet thieves are pilfering your original online content and presenting it as their own. But you know, I think it was Benjamin Franklin or Kanye West who once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Unfortunately, there really isn’t a method of theft prevention that’s 100% effective. But you can certainly discourage the scrapers, plagiarists, and misguided fans who are pillaging your website by making your content more difficult to steal.

Display Your Copyright Notices Prominently

Some folks have a pretty vague understanding of how the internets work, and assume that just because something is online, it’s free to use. A copyright notice isn’t going to stop someone who is bound and determined to steal from your website, but it will serve as a reminder to those who mistakenly believe your content is up for grabs.

In most cases, displaying a simple notice (“©2015 XYZ Company”) on your site will be enough to let folks know you don’t want them using your content without permission. However, if you find that folks are still stealing your stuff and posting it to their websites, you can go with the nuclear option of tagging each individual post with a copyright notice.

Claim Your Content with Google Authorship

Google hates duplicate content more than fat people hate salad. When their crawlers come across two or more sites sporting identical content, the algorithm will attempt to determine which is the original and will penalize the copycats in the search engine results. In order to avoid inadvertently rewarding content thieves, Google has set up Google Authorship, which lets you lay claim to your content as soon as you publish it. In addition to protecting your content, Google Authorship has the added advantage of driving more clicks your way.

Provide Ways for People to Share Your Content (Without Stealing It)

The idea of content marketing is to create stuff that people will want to share, so you shouldn’t penalize those fans and followers who are eager to promote your clever articles or useful infographics. Social media buttons will make it easy for them to share your content while still ensuring that you get the credit. A line of embeddable HTML will let folks share your infographic while still driving clicks back to your website. You may also consider providing some content usage guidelines to clear up confusion for those who might want to quote or reference your material.

Protect Your RSS Feed

The RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, depending on whom you ask) feed is basically a delivery vehicle for your blog content. It makes it very easy to share frequently updated info (such as blog posts) with subscribers, and also allows other websites to aggregate content from several sources. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy for thieves to steal your content.

One simple solution is to include a disclaimer in each blog post (“This is original content from XYZ Company”), with a link back to where it was originally published. In fact, you can even take it a little further and limit your RSS feed to a teaser paragraph or two, with a link to the full article. It’s not foolproof, but it definitely makes stealing your posts more difficult for content thieves. Plus, if they neglect to remove the link, Google will know that yours was the original.

Watermark or Brand Your Visual Content

There are some extreme methods you can use to prevent folks from “borrowing” your photos and graphics, such as disabling the “Save image as…” feature. However, if you want to encourage folks to share your visual content without stealing it, the simplest approach is to watermark it or stamp it with your brand or logo, or even a link back to your website. Someone who’s adept with digital graphics *may* be able to edit out your mark, but that requires more effort than many content thieves are willing to put forth.

Put the Kibosh on Hotlinks

Sometimes, people will attempt to steal your content by hotlinking. This means that they’re not copying your content, but rather linking directly to it on your site so that it will show up on theirs. Not only are they stealing your content, but they’re stealing your bandwidth as the image will be downloaded from your site every time somebody accesses theirs. Not to put too fine a point on it, but hotlinking to someone’s site without permission is, as we say in the marketing industry, “kind of skeevy.”

If you have some coding experience (or know someone who does), you can disable hotlinks on your site by editing your .htaccess file and instructing your server to display a custom image when it detects hotlinking. So someone might like your snazzy infographic and decide they want to display it on their site. But if they link directly to the image on your site, all they’ll see on their end is a banner or image alerting visitors to the fact that they’ve stolen your content.

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