As a website owner or marketing team, it’s infuriating when a content scraper steals the work you put time and money into to use as their own. Often, they do just that – they take your content without your permission and then use it as their own, earning money from it.
If you’re facing yet another blog that’s been scraped by unscrupulous competitors, it’s critical to learn what is happening and how to prevent it.
What Is a Content Scraper?
Content scraping is the process of taking content, such as blog posts, from various sources and websites and then republishing it on another website. Often, this can be done very easily by automated scrapers that use your blog’s RSS feed.
In fact, content scraping is very easy to do. All thieves need to do is set up their own WordPress site and load content to it. There are plugins that will scrape the content for them, so they don’t even have to do the work of copying and pasting your work. That’s pretty frustrating if you’ve already gone through rounds of edits with a content writer, worked to develop the proper backlinks, and are proud of the finished piece.
Why Do Content Scrapers Steal My Content?
Why do they want your content in the first place? Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons people steal content like this, and that’s why it happens so often. Most of the time, the biggest reason your content is being scraped is that it’s good quality. It is performing the way it wants its content to perform, and instead of doing the hard work, it just uses content scraping bots to do the work for it.
There are a few common reasons why content scraping like this happens.
1. To make affiliate commissions
Affiliate marketing – in which a person is paid a fee for any purchase of a product made through an assigned link – is one of the most common reasons content scraping occurs. The affiliate marketer will use your content, change up the links in it to include their links, and then wait for people to come to the site to earn through it. The content does the work of getting people to their website through search engine optimization (SEO).
Most of the time, these types of content are targeted toward niches where a product is being sold, or complementary to a product. If you are using your content to sell products like this, chances are good your blog is a target for those less desirable content scrapers.
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2. To take your ad revenue
Some website content scrapers are using content on your website to help build up the ad revenue they get from their own site. They don’t have a specific product to sell, but they are using your content to generate ad revenue.
The best way to know if this is their goal is to check out the website. Is it filled with ads? It’s probably pretty overwhelming to even try to manage to look at – because it’s built specifically for ad revenue.
3. They want leads
Why are you creating content for your website? That’s often to generate leads. If it is working for you, or the content scraper thinks it is, they are likely doing the same thing with your content. Believe it or not, this is a very common thing for professionals to do, such as a real estate agent in town, and unfortunately, we’ve even seen attorneys do the same thing.
Most of the time, these people who use content from other sites do it because they do not have the time, money, or knowhow to create their own content, but they want all of the benefits of having a robust site, especially one that makes them look like an industry leader.
Now for full disclosure, it’s not always the attorney or other professional behind this. Sometimes, there’s a third party involved that does the actual scraping of the content and then packages it up to sell to those professionals to use on their website. They may be paying a hefty fee for the service, the cost is probably much lower than what you are paying to have that content written and developed yourself.
Other types of commonly scaped content
Every blog post and piece of content could be scraped. However, most often, content scrapers target content that can do something for them, such as:
- Thought leadership pieces
- Blogs about products or services
- Product reviews (especially if they are in-depth reviews with high quality analysis.
- Technical research articles and publications
- Op-ed pieces
- News articles
- Product descriptions
- Financial research content
Most commonly, content scraping is done because the quality of your material is good. Your SEO content marketing is working for the purpose you’ve created it for. And, by far, it’s just easier to do than to try to write their own content. If you have to spend money developing quality SEO content that’s helping you rank, that content is valuable to these third-party users.
How to Catch a Content Scraper
Perhaps you stumbled on this article, but you’re not quite sure content scraping is happening. How do you know? It is not easy to track down, and it can take some time, but if you’re really wanting to find out who is using your content, there are a few things you can do to get that information.
Start with Google
Most of the time, if it has been long enough, Google has crawled their website as they do with all content. If you have creative, one-of-a-kind content, especially new titles on your content, chances are good Google will be your best way of getting information about content scrapers. Simply paste the title of your content into Google and see what shows up.
If your topic is common or your title has been used by plenty of other bloggers, this method doesn’t help all that much. You’re not likely to get much information from this source.
If, as part of your SEO marketing, you’re using backlinks and a tool like Ahrefs, you can use it to help you find out where your links are. It is a bit of a backward way of finding out what is happening with your content. However, it is also a super easy way to monitor what’s occurring.
If you use a digital marketing company or website designer to handle your content, ask them if they use Ahrefs or similar tools. They may be able to pull up this information for you.
A third option for finding content scrapers is by using trackbacks. Are you using links in your blog posts? Most often, you are because it’s great for online marketing. If you notice a trackback, that means someone else has scraped content from your website.
To find this information, go to Akismet. This is a very common tool. However, you’ll want to look in your spam folder to see if you are receiving any trackbacks like this.
Overall, it is challenging to find content from your website on others. For those who are really interested in this, you’ll have to take a closer look at each of your blog posts and your website content piece individually to find it. That’s time-consuming, and often it just adds to your frustration.
How to Deal with Content Scrapers
Now what? What are you supposed to do when you learn someone else is using your content on their site? You could do nothing. This is a common and easy option because doing something about content scraping takes a lot of time and work most often.
If your website has authority, and Google views it as this, a content scrape from the website isn’t going to hurt you. Google trusts your insight and your content will rank higher than lower authority sites that scraped your content. The problem is your site may not be at that level of respect yet, and it is possible for Google to penalize your site if it believes the content on the unscrupulous site is the original.
Get it taken down
You can send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to the host of the website. It is a type of document that tells the site to take down your content. If there’s a contact address on the site, do this. Those professional attorneys and real estate agents are a good place to start. DMCA complaints like this can be effective if the other party cares enough to take action. You can take this to the next level, which is the legal route, but that’s costly as well.
How to Take Advantage of Content Scrapers
One of the options you have when it comes to content scrapers is to actually take advantage of what they’ve done to you.
When your links are on the scraper’s website, that creates a backlink to your website, which is good for your SEO as long as their site isn’t considered spammy by Google. Of course, you need to create links that make sense with placement on the ideal keyword. When placed, those links bring people right back to your website.
You can also create an RSS Footer, which can be done with your WordPress plugins, like All in One SEO. Add anything you want to this, like promoting your product with a banner. When the content scraper grabs your content, this goes with it, placing your ads on other pages of the internet.
How to Reduce and Prevent WordPress Content Scraping
Let’s go back to the beginning. Instead of working to fix the problem, consider how to reduce the risk in the first place.
RSS Feed Summary
One step to take is to not include your full articles in your RSS feed. Instead, use only the summary. That prevents content scrapers using your RSS feed from getting your content.
Change all new posts you put up not to allow trackbacks. When you have them, that encourages scrapers to steal your content because it means they get a link on your website (remember the value of backlinks like this). If you disable trackbacks and pings (you can do this on all posts on your WordPress platform), it will alleviate some of this risk.
This method can help to prevent content scraping as well. The fact is, scapers can pull hundreds of pages at once time, but when you place this limit, you can spot these bots that are otherwise trying to steal your content. Look for a firewall like Cloudflare that can help you to minimize this risk.
It’s important to understand and apply these steps to fight off content scrapers. At the same time, don’t worry too much about it. Thanks to Google’s latest update (Google’s Helpful Content Update), the search engine will downgrade sites that scrape content. Google and other search engines are always looking to improve searcher satisfaction, and its new focus on elevating helpful content is playing a big role in that process.
Without a doubt, having a way to minimize content scraping can seem like a priority. We recommend focusing on several things. First, keep making great content so Google ranks your website. Second, put in place a few steps to help eliminate content scraping when you can do so. You can be preventative here, and that is worth doing. Always include links in your content because, if your content is scraped, it will help you with ranking.
Most importantly, ensure your website is designed to continue to meet your reader’s expectations. Google isn’t too concerned about this type of scraping, not as much as the quality of the content that your readers are getting. Ensure your site performs at its best.