One of the challenges that bloggers face is what to do when others want to use your blog for their own gain by either taking your content or spamming your comments section. The more I talk to bloggers about how they deal with these issues the more I realize how many different approaches there are to the problems. Today Seth Waite from Blogussion shares his approach. I’d love to hear your approach (whether it be different or the same in comments below).
Every blogger quickly learns the reality of hard work in blogging. After the “make money fast” hype has wore off and the reality that blogging is a great way to earn an income if you work for it has set in, you are left with a choice?
The choice is whether to stay in blogging or not. Many bloggers decide to stay but are again left with another extremely important decision. Should I put the effort into become a great blogger or just try to still do things the easy way and hope things will be different for me?
Those choosing to work hard begin the process of learning and eventually find success by learning, networking and earning their way to better blogging. Bloggers who are unwilling to face reality either quite or eventually become spammers, scrapers, or beggars.
I am not going to address the problem of bloggers who beg for help without working for it, but I do want to talk about spammers and scrapers. Most importantly, I want every hard working blogger to know how to stop selfish bloggers trying to use your work disrespectfully to help them.
The easiest way to stop spammers who are trying to get you to link to their blog/site is by controlling your comments and trackbacks. Although essential to building a great blog community, comments must be moderated to ensure your actual readers feel comfortable with the discussions on your blog.
Commenting at first was easily controlled by forcing commentators to put their email address into the comment form. Spammers quickly got around this and now a very easy way to stop spammers is by adding a captcha feature to your blog comments.
Captcha is already used by Blogger and easily adds to WordPress and other blogging platforms with plugins. The way it works is that you put in a series of numbers or letters from a visual image in order to post your comment. Other systems require you to add the numbers or fill in the form based on another easy question. Using captcha is a quick and easy way to minimize your blog’s spam, but it may also be annoying to regular readers.
For many blog platforms, like WordPress, a simple plug-in will solve many of the spam problems. The most common spam blocker is Akismet, which is now available for over 20 other blogging platforms besides WordPress. Using this plug-in on your blog is simple and requires you to only check to make sure occasional comments are not being counted as spam. In addition to the normal comment protection it provides, it goes above and beyond captchas by protecting your blog against unwanted trackbacks.
Scrapers are bloggers who steal content you produced and put the entire work on their own blogs and websites. The practice sadly is common and creates reproductions of your content around the web. Luckily most search engines are good at recognizing the original content, but scrapping is illegal and damaging to the blogger and blogging.
- Identify: The first step to stopping scrappers is by identifying your content and checking for copies. An easy way to do this is by using the sites CopyGator or Copyscape to check for the originality of your content and any potential duplicates.
- Ask: Once you have found scrappers who have copied your material [note: the content duplication should be significant and their reasons should be to represent your content as their own, not to promote yours] email the owner or comment on the blog/site where the duplicate is found. In most cases the scraper will take it down and apologize for misrepresenting the work. Always try this first so that the blogosphere can stay friendly and young bloggers who might be making an innocent mistake will learn without being accosted.
- Block: The next step if they are unresponsive or belligerent to your requests is to use .htaccess to block the scrappers from your blog. This can be a little bit tricky for anyone who has never done this before, but here is a great link to learn how to stop scrapers [item #9]. Basically you are blocking the access of the scrappers from receiving your blog and rss feed.
- Take Action: At this point you have been nice, notified them of their misdeed, blocked their access and still the content is ripped off and on their site. The next way to get your content off of their site is by contacting the site’s ISP or hosting. The easiest way to find that out is by using Who.is and just inputting the site’s web address into their search bar. The hosting information will then show up with the rest of the site’s information. Once you have the host information contact them with a formal letter or email specifically claiming what and where the content originated and where it has been reproduced. The host will then quickly take down the content and offer the site owner a chance to explain themselves. Warning, this is serious for everyone involved so do not use this lightly. If this does not work there is yet one more option. This is legal action. Filed suits can be taken up depending on the scrapper’s home country and legal system.
Stopping scrapers and spammers will not only protect your work but also encourage the internet to be a better place. Every time a spammer is thwarted, other bloggers win too. So be an internet community builder by taking the proper steps to stop content thieves.
What’s Your Approach
From Darren: as mentioned in the introduction to this post – there are many stances that bloggers take on these issues, particularly when it comes to scrapers. Many take a similar line to Seth while others are more lenient and take the approach that as long as someone’s reading their content somewhere that it doesn’t worry them. What do you do? What tools do you use?