Who's copying your web copy?2
A couple of months ago one of our advertisers posted on Facebook that their website copy had been duplicated, word for word, on another proofreader's website. This caused considerable distress and anger to the lady in question and she immediately contacted the website owner. Luckily, said website owner responded quickly and the whole situation turned out to be fairly innocuous – the 'thief' was in the early stages of building a proofreading website and was apparently just using the copy temporarily to fill the space and to see how their layout would look.
Funnily enough, a very similar thing happened to Find a Proofreader a couple of weeks back. We received an email alerting us to a pingback from one of our blog posts, but we hadn't posted anything new that day. We traced the pingback and found that someone was using our blog posts on their own blog! We contacted the owner and he apologised profusely, stating that he was just playing around with his newly purchased WordPress theme and was using our copy to see how the site would look. He removed the offending content right away.
Copyscape – the online plagiarism checker
While these two cases seem to be fairly innocent, they do highlight just how easily your copy can be, well, copied. Fortunately there is something you can do to combat this behaviour. Copyscape is a free service which allows you to check whether your website's copy appears elsewhere on the internet – in other words, it tells you if someone has ripped off your copy. Just type in the URL of the web page you want to check, and it will tell you if any sites have matching content, and, if so, it will even tell you what percentage of your content has been duplicated.
Copyscape has other useful services too. They have a series of banners that you can add to your website to deter would-be copycats. They also allow you to check that your own content is original. So for website owners who pay copywriters to produce text for their website, this provides peace of mind that the copywriter has written original content.
If you do find that someone has stolen your content, don't panic. Firstly, remember that imitation is a form of flattery and the fact that someone has deemed your content to be good enough to copy speaks volumes about the quality of your content (and the fact that they found your site in the first place suggests you're doing something right in the eyes of the search engines).
Secondly, Google is clever enough to detect which website posted the content first, so while duplicate content is a major factor in the eyes of Google and will be punished with poor rankings, it shouldn't affect your own if you really were the originator. In other words, the person who copied you is unlikely to ever rank highly on Google, but your site's rankings should remain as they were.
Having said all this, it is downright cheeky of them to nick your content in the first place and you are well within your rights to contact them and request that they remove the content. If they refuse to do so, you can report them to Google. For more information on this, read this article.
About Nick Jones
Nick Jones is a proofreader, editor and copywriter. He is the owner of Full Proof, an editorial company based in Cheshire, UK, and Find a Proofreader, a business directory for freelancers working with words.