Over 4 years ago, in January of 2015, I posted an article named How to Send and Receive GoDaddy Email From Gmail. I posted it because of how we had linked Gmail with our GoDaddy so that we could retrieve both personal and professional email in a Gmail account since we preferred the Gmail interface to something like Outlook.
I found clients started asking me for the same thing, so I figured there would be some value to creating a post like this. Other articles existed but I didn’t find them as clear as I thought they could be.
A few months after I posted the article (originally on sparqstreet.com, our first agency name), someone pointed out that this had become the first result on Google for something like “how to check godaddy email from gmail”.
This was pretty cool. It wasn’t an exact match phrase either, so it’s a great example of semantic search at work.
I checked back every few months and it was still there, at the top spot. It stayed there for a few years, even after the company changed its name and domain from sparqstreet.com to frontdoorpr.com (since we set up 301 redirects).
But then one day, I noticed it had been replaced… by something that sounded very familiar to the post I had written.
In fact it was the article I had written. Exactly. Picture for picture, word for word. Reposted without permission by another agency.
As disappointing as it was, it posed some interesting questions about SEO and gave us a much-needed kick in the pants.
- We had higher scores on SEO Moz and other SEO ranking tools
- The other agency had multiple articles that were ‘reblogged’. In otherwise, they produced very little original content and appeared to copy all their content from somewhere else.
Was Google’s algorithm missing plagiarism? Did our 301 redirects not pass sufficient ‘link juice’? Was a citation on the page enough to make the post count as Fair Use in search engine’s eyes?
Either way, the article had been responsible for a decent chunk of traffic and we wanted that traffic back!
Here are the steps we took to address the plagiarized article
- Contacted the site owners and ask them nicely to take down the article. This relies completely on the site owner. They may do as you ask and take it down, or they may ignore you. If they do the latter, go to step two.
- Report the stolen content to search engines. We reported the article as webspam, although filing a copyright claim may be more effective. Google warns against filing copyright claims however, with this notice on their page:
IMPORTANT: Misrepresentations made in your notice regarding whether material or activity is infringing may expose you to liability for damages (including costs and attorneys’ fees). Courts have found that you must consider copyright defenses, limitations or exceptions before sending a notice. In one case involving online content, a company paid more than $100,000 in costs and attorneys fees after targeting content protected by the U.S. fair use doctrine. Accordingly, if you are not sure whether material available online infringes your copyright, we suggest that you first contact an attorney.
- Report the offending site to their web host. This involves finding out the name of the website’s hosting provider, which can be done with a number of tools. I used IP Address and Domain Information extension for Chrome. Once done, try contacting them or using their “Report Abuse” form. They may take action on your behalf.
- Write more content. There’s a good chance that the plagiarized page was ranking higher because their site ‘created’ new content regularly, even if it was taken from other sources. Combined with some no doubt legitimate links and content, the other site probably appeared to be more relevant or authoritative than our site.Writing more content would fix that. It would also have the side effect of driving more traffic to our site, so we would rely less upon the GoDaddy/Gmail article. This might be small consolation to anyone who lost a significant piece of content, but in that case, you’re probably better off filing a copyright claim.