Your website serves an important role in representing your business to the world, and you likely work hard to develop content that is unique and will attract readers, viewers, and customers. Unfortunately, not all people have that same work ethic, and some will take advantage of your stand-out content by stealing it and either using it themselves or selling it to other sites. This fraudulent activity is known as web scraping, and in order to protect your website and content from being duplicated, you need to better understand how it works and how to protect yourself.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is a process of collecting information automatically on the Internet, either by copying and pasting or an automated process. Internet users find websites or blogs, duplicate the content they find, and then try to steal that website’s visitors. While the stealing of content is certainly not a new concept, the use of the Internet is making it easier and more profitable than ever. Unfortunately, many websites tolerate this activity and assume it is a normal part of doing business online, and others feel that there is nothing that they can do to prevent it.
Web Scraping Impact
So why should we care about web scraping? Unfortunately, many businesses know that web scraping exists, but they don’t understand the full impact that it can have on their revenue, brand, SEO, and web traffic. To better understand the real impact of web scraping, here are a few examples of how a business can be affected by this malicious activity:
- Lower SEO rankings
- Loss of subscribers and readers
- Decreased visitor engagement and traffic
- Loss of sales
- Legal fees needed to handle copyright infringement
- Increased bandwidth and network costs
- Decreased marketing revenue
Preventing Web Scraping
There are some strategies that you can employ to prevent scraping, and you can take a proactive approach to stop scraping and online theft with ScrapeSentry and other programs. These software and hardware solutions can address part of the problem, and depending on the program that you choose, they can identify scrapers before the thief has access to your content.
Other websites choose to take a reactive approach to web scrapers, or sometimes it is simply too late to try and prevent a scraper from using your content. To combat this problem, the U.S. Government has created the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA. If you search the Internet and find duplications of your web content, you can file a DMCA notice to try and have the content removed. Unfortunately, this step can take several months to complete, and in some cases by the time you get the duplicate content removed, another site has also replicated your content.
How to Tell if Your Content Has Been Scraped
For the most part, you need to manually search to determine if your website content has been scraped. You can try to Google your article title to see if any other matches are found, but if you have written about a popular topic, you may be inundated with numerous results. Additionally, some online tools are available to help you determine if your content has been scraped.
- Google Alerts: A free tool from Google, this technique will allow you to receive email alerts in the event that your article or content title appears within Google search results.
- Copyscape: This a manual tool that allows you to put your content URL into a search engine, and the site then determines if other websites offer duplicate copies of your content.
- Akismet: This tool is helpful in monitoring trackbacks if you added internal links into your article. These trackback links will then appear in the spam folder of your Akismet portal.
It is important to be proactive in the fight against web scraping in order to protect your content and potentially negative impacts that can come with duplicated content. You took the time to create the content and it belongs to you. Take the necessary steps to protect the content that you worked so hard to create and to put an end to website scrapers.