Help! An Employee Put Plagiarized Content on My Site, How do I Fix It?
October 1, 2014
Plagiarism is never a pleasant topic, but it seems to rear its ugly head quite often, especially in the SEO world. As more web masters and business owners are realizing the need for quality content, the demand for quality writers grows. Unfortunately, this opens the possibility of some writers churning out quick, plagiarized posts or duplicate content to make a quick buck – and the consequences often fall squarely on the website owner, who may not have been aware of the problem to begin with. As BuzzFeed discovered in August, no site is completely immune to this risk, and there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information available about the proper protocol for such an event. If you’ve found duplicate or plagiarized content on your website, here are some steps you can take:
Remove the offending content?
The most straightforward approach is to simply delete the offending pages, but there are still a few precautions you should take before doing this. For example, if the content in question has already been indexed by Google or receives a large amount of traffic, removing the links could potentially do some damage to your SEO efforts. If you don’t intend to rewrite the affected pages, you’ll need to redirect them to appropriate pages (DON’T simply redirect everything to the homepage). If you’re unsure whether a page has been indexed by Google, Ian Cleary has a great tutorial on how to find out. Be advised that if you’re going to do this, it’s also a good idea to address the issue head on, as BuzzFeed did here. Author, Herbert Lui, also points out that discreetly unpublishing posts can damage the relationship with your audience.
Contact authors and use rel=canonical tags
Let’s say you’re madly in love with a particular piece of content, and don’t want to remove it from your site for whatever reason. If, and only if, you can get permission, you could keep the content intact and link to the original source using a rel=canonical tag. A canonical tag helps Google clarify where the content originated. Again, you must have permission to do this. That means reaching out to the original author, being up front about your situation, and asking for permission to keep the content if you credit them. If they accept your offer, simply add this code to your version of the content:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”link to original source” />
Rework and expand on content
If you like a piece of content, rewriting some of your pages is a worthy project. By “rewrite” we don’t mean “reword so it’s not a word for word match” – that is still plagiarism of ideas that are not your own. But the original content may inspire you to add to it or expand on it with your own original take on the topic. In this case, you could rework the content, but you should still credit the original piece as the inspiration for your post. Doing so will help foster relationships with other influencers in your industry and benefit your site overall.
How to avoid plagiarized content in the future
Now that you’ve cleaned up your site, you hopefully realize the value in keeping it that way. Copyscape is a great tool to check for plagiarized content. It costs 5 cents per search, and is well worth the small investment. If you do not personally write all of your content or frequently feature guest posters, a 5 cent scan can save you a lot of trouble down the road. If you’re running a very high number of searches on a regular basis, you could also opt for WriteCheck, which offers you a flat monthly price instead of a per-scan charge.
Plagiarism can be an uncomfortable subject, but it needs to be addressed as quickly as possible to avoid penalties, negative press, or a possible drop in your site’s rankings. To learn more about content marketing and how it relates to SEO, contact LSM, an internet marketing company based in Las Vegas, at 702.988.2119.