A client called me last week to let me know a competitor had copied his website content. Content he had paid me to write.
His competition had pasted it on their own website and were now enjoying the benefits of my search engine optimised writing.
The competitor website had risen above his in the search engine rankings. And to cram some salt into his gaping, bloody wound, his business enquiries had died off.
He was frustrated.
In fact, he was pissed. Atomic pissed. Mushroom-cloud laying motherf**ker pissed.
It happens to everyone
If it’s happened to you, I feel your pain.
I feel your rage.
I mean, it’s BATMAN level rage, right?
Here’s the reality.
You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Copycats and thieves have been around since the beginning of time, and they’ll never go away.
We have to deal with them.
And no, picking up a cricket bat and strolling down to your competitor’s hangout to bash their bones to bits isn’t going to do it.
The first thing you need to do
Yep, I mean it. Take a deep breath.
Drink some camomile tea. Hit the gym and drive your fists into a punching bag. Sweat the acid out of your pores at a hot yoga session. Eat a box of donuts.
Do whatever works for you.
Sometimes business owners don’t get the internet. They just aren’t that savvy. And they don’t know they’re doing the wrong thing.
Because it’s the internet, they think the content on your website is up for grabs. Or maybe they don’t think at all! D-dunh!
Again, take a deep breath. Find your centre. Then –
Gather your proof
Now that you’re the calm little centre of the world, you need to get yourself ready.
Screen capture everything that’s been copied from your website and is now on their site.
On top of the screen captures, gather up your original content. Trashy drafts. The notes you made on the napkin at the last café you visited. The email trail between yourself and your writer.
In the case there’s a dispute further down the track you can prove the work is yours, or that you paid someone to write it.
With an array of screen captures, ugly drafts and dirty napkins, you’re deadly. And you’re ready to make contact with the perpetrators.
Get in touch via email or phone, whichever you’re more comfortable with.
Let them know you’ve seen their website and the content of their website is an exact match for yours. Let them know the content belongs to you and what they’ve done is an infringement of copyright.
Most of the time, copycat business owners will back down quickly.
They’ll blame their office assistant. They’ll blame the 16-year old work experience kid. They’ll blame their cat.
And if the business owner actually owns up to the crime, they’ll remove the content fast.
But if they ignore your emails, blow off your phone calls and play stupid, then it’s onto the next step.
Cease and desist
This is a pretty simple step. Call your friendly neighbourhood lawyer.
Tell them someone’s stolen your content and they’re using it to make the money that should be going into YOUR pocket.
Your lawyer will draft up a demand letter (also known as a cease and desist letter), pop it over to the bastards and BOOM.
That should send them into a website mop-up frenzy where they remove YOUR awesome content from their website.
But if you find you’re dealing with genuine arse-hats, it’s time to pull out your rocket launchers and blow them to kingdom come.
Talk to their website host
If you’re at this stage, things are getting nasty.
If you’ve emailed, called, sent the lawyers in and they still haven’t responded? Go for the jugular.
It’s time to get kung-fuey and decapitation happy.
Explain what’s happened. Provide proof.
The screen captures. The email trails. The coffee stained napkins with all your glorious notes on them. Show them everything you need to prove the content is yours.
Their web host will either remove the content your competitor has ripped off or shut their entire website down.
Request deindexing by Google
Getting in touch with Google is the last straw.
What you’re doing here is tearing your enemy’s heart out — then watching it slowly beat in your hands as it splutters to a stop. Or maybe watching it explode in a ball of flames.
Don’t feel bad.
You’re well within your rights to get in touch with Google to request the deindexing of your competitor’s pages – if they’re genuinely stealing.
Hop onto the Google Copyright Removal page and fill in the form. Provide the information you need to prove you’re the creator of the work and watch the sparks fly.
For more information about how Google’s handles copyright check out this legal removal requests page.
So what happened with my client?
My client followed a similar procedure that I talk about through this post.
He contacted his competitor and politely asked them to take the stolen content down. They didn’t.
He then went to a lawyer, but his competitor ignored the demand letters.
He skipped talking to his competitor’s website host and went straight to Google.
Within a few days, Google had deindexed his competitor’s pages for breach of copyright.
His website rankings have improved and business is back on track.
When someone steals your content and profits off it, it’s a real bastard.
Have you ever had anyone steal the content of your website? Did the thieves profit off it? What did you do about it?
Have suggestions on how to deal with this issue? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below.