You’ve worked hard to design your small business website. If you have merchandise for sale, you have written hundreds of product descriptions and you’ve provided pricing and shipping details.
If it’s like most websites today, you’ve written hundreds of articles and blog posts to help improve your position within the search engines. The last thing you want to do is give all your hard work away to someone else. Yet, it happens to websites just like yours every day. Lazy and unscrupulous people are using programs called “scrapers” to steal your hard work so they can use it for their own purposes. The challenge for many website owners is learning how to detect and manage bad bots from scraping their content.
Scraping is simply when someone employs a program or application to visit other websites, copy all the information in that website, and use it in their own website. The information in your website isn’t damaged in any way, but the person scraping your site will use it in their own site or sell it to someone else. Your content will then appear in other sites, generating revenue for the thieves and not for you. It’s interesting to note that in many cases, the sites with the stolen information can actually appear higher in the search engine rankings than your original site.
You might wonder if scraping is illegal or not. Well, that answer is complicated. Actually, the programs that allow search engines to crawl your website are the same programs used to scrape your site. There are some slight differences, but they are essentially the same program. There has been much debate about scraping and its legality. The real test is not in the scraping itself, but in what is done with the content that has been scraped. If the content is arranged differently than the way it appears on your site, it is less likely it will be considered illegal. For the person who has done all the hard work to create the content that can be quite aggravating.
Knowing whether or not your site has been scraped is not always easy to tell. Your site is visited by a variety of bots and spiders over the course of a day. If you are reviewing your visitor logs, it is quite possible you won’t know the difference between a good bot and a bad one. If you have the right website visitor log information and a little knowledge, you might be able to see which bots are acting like search engine spiders and which are not.
One thing you can look for is if a spider is obeying robot commands that are in your website’s scripts. If they are, then they are probably good bots. However, if they are ignoring those rules, there is a good chance they are scrapers. If you create a blind webpage that is not listed anywhere on your website, establish rules that tell bots not to go there, and attach a visitor log to that page, you can determine which bots are probably scrapers. The good bots won’t go there and real visitors to your site won’t know that the page exists.
There are several things you can do to help prevent scraping. There are many programs designed to deal with the issues of scraping. Many of the technologies that have been effective against scraping in the past are being broken by sophisticated bots and programs.
Websites must be protected, relying solely on captcha codes, traps, and systems will no longer be enough. Anti Web Scraping or Scraping prevention tools provides a blend of technology that impedes scraping, detects it before it invades your content, and stops it in its tracks. The one thing that such tools or services provide is advantage offers monitoring by real people. The moment a bot begins to scrape your site; the team of human monitors will block the bot’s attempts and immobilize it. Not only do they prevent your site from being scraped, but they also ensure that your legitimate users are never prevented from having access to your website.
Scraping and content theft is a real issue, and for those websites that rely on their content for generating revenue, it’s a real concern. If you employ some basic software tools, you can do a lot to slow the bots down.