Policing Your Website Content

Several years ago while reviewing Google Analytics reports, we noticed a domain name that showed up numerous times as if it was part of our site. Puzzled as to why this domain would appear in our Google Analytics report, we visited the domain. To our amazement, all of our website content (HTML, CSS, graphics, etc.) had been completely plagiarized by a telecommunications company in a foreign country. After numerous calls to their web host and domain registrar it became apparent that there was little we could do and we were compelled to completely redesign our site.

In a separate incident while reviewing our competition in our region, I came across a developer’s site that had plagiarized a large amount of our content word-for-word. We promptly contacted the developer and learned that a prior employee had helped “create” the content for the new site and they had no idea that it had been completely copied. They gladly took down the pages.

Both of these were eye opening for us because of the magnitude of the actions. Since then we have had numerous similar experiences that required action on our part to resolve. Hopefully the following information we have assembled will assist you avoid and resolve similar situations.


How do I police my web content?

  • Pay close attention to your web statistics. Look for domains and URLs that have nothing to do with your domain that show up as if they were part of your website. If you are seeing site visits for pages that are on another domain that isn’t under your control, something is probably amiss. Visit the suspected site and inspect it for any signs of copied content, etc. In our case, they had copied ALL of the code including our Google Analytics tracking code. In those instances viewing the source code for the page will reveal a lot.
  • Use search engines to look for passages of text from your website. We like to take a couple of sentences out of the middle of a paragraph from our content for the search term. Be sure to encapsulate the sentences in quotes to ensure that you’re searching the entire passage intact. If you get matching results using this technique (provided that your content is unique) there is truly something up. Follow up with any sites that have this duplicate/plagiarized content. Most of the time people are either unaware of where the content came from, or when faced with being caught, just comply.


How do I prevent my site from being plagiarized?

The short answer is: you really can’t. Because of how web pages are rendered in a browser, those motivated enough can easily grab rendered code, graphics and content from most any site. However, there are some proactive and reactive things you can do to help.

  • As mentioned above, police your stats and search engines regularly.
  • Follow up promptly on any issues. Aside from your content being copied, duplicated content can negatively impact your website’s search engine performance.
  • If you have an issue with someone that isn’t responsive, try to contact their domain registrar and web host. Most registrars and hosts have strict policies on plagiarism. They may be able to apply some pressure where you can’t and get results.
  • If your website content stays consistent for long periods of time it might be wise to apply for a content copyright. Talk to a trademark or intellectual property attorney for help implementing this for your site. Bear in mind this doesn’t provide any protection or limit the possibility of having content copied or stolen, but if it happens, you will have additional legal options available.