A lot of people don’t like to talk about this side of SEO, but it’s quite real for both me and Sophie. We’ve seen a lot of people recycle our ideas and in some cases, actually outright steal our photos to create their own “version” of our websites using our photos without giving us a line of credit. In this post, we’ll be discussing what to do when someone copies your website or blog content and when someone copies your keywords/ideas.
Let’s say this now: You can not copyright your ideas and it’s possible that your ideas aren’t 100% original. That’s okay, however in the world of SEO and blogging more generally, you’re likely to encounter copycats at some point. Let’s say you have a successful website with all your own photos. Suddenly, the next day, someone posts something very close, enough that they clearly read your content and modeled their content off it. They also target your keywords and possibly your titles. We’re not petty here, but we’re being real that this happens all the time. (We’ve chosen to use cat photos here to lighten the mood.)
It feels really awful when you pour your heart and soul into something only to see someone else see it as a quick win after reading your work. I’ll be honest when I say that i take it to heart–and maybe I’m petty, but I remember who does this. We’ll discussing the distinctions between outright copying (copyright infringement), taking inspiration, and what you can do when a competitor is targeting your keywords.
Included in this post
- What to do if a competitor copies your content
- What to do if someone translates your content without credit
- What to do if a competitor steals your idea
- What to do if a competitor steals your keywords
What to do if a competitor copies your content
What constitutes copying your content
It depends what content a competitor steals. We really need to be clear that it’s generally legal for someone to publish something with a similar title, similar headers, and a similar content idea. As long as they don’t take your photos and the rest of the content is not the same as yours, you can’t touch them. I know.
Just because you put something on the internet does not mean that you are signing away your rights. To be fair, U.S. copyright law has an exception called the “fair use”exemption allows people to write about you and your work without your permission as part of commentary, parody, news, research, and education. That said, derivative work is a bit touchy. (Keep reading on how to deal with this.)
If they actually copy your work without attribution, it is an issue as Google needs to choose which work to attribute. If they’ve used more than 10% of your content without permission, you can serve them with a DMCA notice. (Click here to file a notice.)
When it’s copyright infringement…
However, the moment that they copy and paste your words and/or put one of your photos in their content, you got them. If it’s a photo, I recommend using Copytrack, a German company that will prosecute stolen photos and look for stolen photos on the internet who will serve them with a bill. If it’s words, you can also file a DMCA take-down notice. I’ve heard that up to 10% of the post can be quoted, however they must given proper permission.
What to do when copying your content in a way that you can’t do anything about
You gotta move on, but remember who has ripped off your content without giving you a line of credit. Anyone reading this might get nervous, but I remember who has been so inspired by my content that they copied my keywords and titles. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I know it’s not flattering when you make your income online, but it is what it is.
What you can do is do better than your copycats. Often, copycats are sitting around looking at others’ work looking for quick wins. Write more, write better, and outrank them. Link build on your work that they were so inspired by, so you can rank on page one of Google. You can’t let it get to you. The best thing is write original content that is so good that everyone else will recognize it as a derivative of yours. When someone copies it, you might even get a message from a friend who sees it online giving you a heads up.
If you’re somewhat more confrontational (or passive-aggressive), there’s a number of strategies although I find one of the most effective ones is to send your competitor a note letting them know that you do not appreciate them appropriating your work and that you’re aware of it. This is professional and honestly, the best way to deal to do this. I once received a note like this after unintentionally getting too close to someone’s post (without hitting their keywords) and since then, I’ve been hypersensitive about avoiding it.
Needless to say, I don’t follow my copycats on social media as I don’t want to risk sharing their copycat content. When you make your living online, you can’t afford to let people take money out of your pocket.
If you’re reading this having a sinking feeling that you might have done this unintentionally or intentionally in the past, consider giving a line of credit to the person who wrote the original one. Own up to it and apologize. More generally, do better as we live and learn.
What to do if someone translates your content without credit
This one is a bit more complicated as I’ve had this happen to me many times after posting about a certain destination. My photos and my blog post showed up translated on a number of news websites. Technically, a translation is a derivative and if you’re writing an original blog post or website, it’s illegal to translate your content without permission, at least in America. For Google, this is all that matters. You can file with Google for copyright infringement as you own the rights to translations ((U.S. Code 17 § 106 (2))
It’s up to you how you want to deal with. Personally, I don’t mind translations as much, however when my writing is translated for someone else’s quick win article, I’m not okay with it. I’ve served a couple of these “news” articles that copy others’ content without credit with copyright infringement notices after finding my work taken without permission.
What to do if a competitor steals your idea
As I’ve been told, ideas are not original. However, when you have an original one, it feels terrible when someone steals it. C’est la vie.
What to do if a competitor outright copies your keywords
This is why I wrote this blog post. Sometimes, someone will copy your content title and keywords. If their website is not likely to rank, it’s annoying, but not an issue. However, when they’re likely to rank, it is a serious problem as it impacts your livelihood and your income if your website is your business. It feels personal when several of your keywords are targeted.
As mentioned above, you can’t do anything about it, but you have some options. We only advocate white hat SEO here, so consider working on link building on the exact post that they are targeting your keywords for. Look for “collaboration” posts in your fields relevant to the content that you want to boost–and see if you can get alt text that targets your competitive keyword. Obviously, there’s the option to fight back, but this can have repercussions within your online community.
More generally, move on. Your competitors will always be there looking for a break. The fact that they consider you someone to watch means that you’re doing something right. Keep writing original content that speaks to your community–and try to be aware when someone has something similar. It’s one thing to use a keyword that is good (nothing wrong with that), but copying someone else’s title, content idea, and keywords is something that can feel quite personal to another who might declare war. Be careful, be original, and write something else. That said, if you’re reading this a bit nervous about what we had to say about this because you were inspired by one of our posts, hi. 🙃