There has been a lot going on in the world of content lately.
The discussion that has hit closest to home for us here at Blogging Painters is the case of Warline Painting, and our own Heidi Nyline. Heidi has tracked down content ripped off from her site on many occasions, and she is very vocal in her stance against this practice. Around the internet, there are many differing opinions about whether or not it is ok to just help yourself to any content you see on the internet. Its a bit of a polarizing discussion, where people are either very much against or very much in favor of what I guess we could call the concept of “open source content” that would be free for the taking. In reality, it is not ok to help yourself to whatever you see on the internet. While the internet is free to access, and there are many free things on the internet, original content that is protected by the creator is generally not to be used without the consent of the creator. Because this is such a recurring theme and ongoing concern, we thought it would be appropriate to define the types of situations in which we are seeing content freely taken.
Who Takes Content?
There are a few ways content can be taken, sometimes a site is copy/pasted in it’s entirety, sometimes it may be just a page or an article. Photos are often taken without permission. The two most common types of users taking the content are:
- The contractor doing it themselves on a free site that just won’t/can’t take time to create original content. So they find sites they like and copy/paste into their own site. That is just lazy and desperate.
- The contractor who hires a website designer who may outsource the work or copy sites like Heidi’s and present them to the contractor as original. Many times the contractor has no idea that the content is copied and is happy to have some pretty “stock photos”. That is lazy and ignorant.
As a business owner, it is your responsibility to make sure that your content is original. How can you do that? Either write it yourself, or hire someone who specializes in writing content. Tess Wittler, for example, comes highly recommended as a reliable source for creating unique and original content for contractor sites.
There are plenty of legitimate web designers out there that produce “cookie cutter” sites. They create a site using their own content, but put it on all their customers’ sites. The sites are visually appealing and well ranking, but they really don’t reflect the business portrayed. Don’t have a page stating you have a team of professionals who are adept at commercial work when you have never done that kind of work. These types of firms attract lots of contractors because they work inexpensively, and use questionable tactics to generate rank, but they also rope their customers into monthly contracts and allow the customer (contractor) little control over what is happening with the site. For contractors who are solely interested in a website as a lead generator and nothing else, these firms seem to have great appeal.
This is another area that is a frustration for content writers and website designers. There are actually programs that are used to take someone else’s blog post and “spin it” to create a new post. Often the resulting post makes little sense, and is not published with the intent of even being read by a person. It is formulaic and intended only to appeal to Google. Fortunately, Google is not so entertained by reading this type of content, and they penalize it! Here is more on “Why you are making a mistake Spinning Content”:
These spin engines then allow someone to write one article which takes them half an hour, and put it on hundreds of sites like e-zine articles in order to get back links. The truly evil webmasters meanwhile will go one step further and steal someone else’s work in order to spin articles on e-zine or even in order to populate their own site.
These are usually automated programs that take content from the RSS Feed of your blog, mostly used for those spammy sites full of adsense ads, here is more information.
What can you do about it?
Straight up content thieves are actually the easiest to combat. But it still takes some work. You have to document everything. Screenshots, time stamps and documentation are needed to file a DMCA and have a site removed. The DMCA was actually created to protect web hosts from being charged with distributing stolen “goods”. Most hosting companies are very responsive to a properly created takedown notice. DMCA is a site that can walk you thru it, check out the FAQ’s. Google is also very helpful. Here are some tips from Heidi on protecting your site.
You can also copyright your content, install programs that prevent copying, watermark your photos and constantly be on the lookout for thievery. Frustrating and time consuming!
A Proactive Approach
While it is important to protect your site, putting your efforts towards creating your own original content is often more beneficial, as this problem is not going away! Here at Blogging Painters we encourage readers to “get their feet wet” and start writing here. We have great members that are willing to help you out. Our team has all of the resources to help you get started the right way.
10 thoughts on “How Content Walks: Thieves, Cons and Spinners”
I’ve been a victim of this. We actually had someone in Chicago totally copy our name, logo and website
As a copywriter for this industry, I am always appalled how many people out there do this – either copy content themselves or are the vendor that steals content for their clients.
If anyone out there is thinking about “borrowing” content from another site for their own use, just think of it in this fashion: How do you feel when those “fly by night” contractors come into your town after a disaster to capitalize on the devastation? Or how about those contractors who don’t carry the proper insurance and licenses and can charge a whole lot less than you because you are running a legitamate business and they aren’t?
Now I know that I am preaching to the choir here on BP and your readers won’t be the ones stealing content, but I think we all need to support each other when it does happen. How powerful would it be if several painting contractors all jumped on those who stole Warline’s or Josh’s content?
Thanks for tackling this frustrating topic and providing the resources for all of us to be able to combat it a bit easier.
Tess, I do have to say that I was genuinely surprised to see that some of the people who stole Heidi’s content even kept “Warline” in the text. We should start a dumb crook file…no, actually we shouldn’t. But I don’t get it. In my case, if writing wasn’t one of my precious few gifts in life, I would hire you to be my writer. No question. Its the same as photography. I used to do the photography on our company site. and it was just so amateur looking, in all ways. It just sucked. So a few years ago, we hired a photographer to do all of the formal photography for our site, and what a difference. Of course, I know photography gets ripped off as much as any other content type.
Great points Tess and Scott, so many contractors are more concerned about “ranking” and “getting calls” they forget that their website is their online branding. What does a customer think when they read about your company and services and you show up and it doesn’t “match”. Can you imagine if a customer corrected you using your words on your website?
I believe that probably happens. Alot.
I come across duplicate content all the time when I am researching something. It is very frustrating trying to get several opinions and you only come across the same content over and over.
What a great point! Another reason to work on differentiating yourself! Imagine how customers feel when they read the same “We are the best painters in xxxx” over and over. Using Tess’ spotlight articles, you could craft something that really showed WHY you are a great company! Thanks for being part of our community!
This week I found yet another painter that stole the content from my site. It is pretty clearly a case of him hiring a website designer and the designer just simply stealing the content from all over the web. Do I think he knows the content is stolen? Nope. I bet he hasn’t even read it, because it has my name on his website.
But it is still the responsibility the business owner. Good content isn’t cheap or easy to produce. If you have a guy paying $1000 for a full website including photos and text, the likelihood of that being original content is pretty low.
It’s no different in painting or web design. You get what you pay for.
Totally agree Heidi! Just like we (painting contractors) have to educate our customers, we (bloggers/content creators) need to educate our readers.
I appreciate all the work you and others have done to spread the word. Thanks Heidi!