One evening a few months back, I was flipping through my phone, Googling things.
I was doing some casual research related to one of the niches I blog about.
(Funny enough, though, the research wasn't for business. It was personal.)
I typed in my query and found a result that looked good, and I opened the page.
Reading through the content and the suggested products, I was struck by something.
"Wow, they recommend a lot of the same products as I do on my site!" (Including some obscure ones I didn't think many people knew about.)
"Come to think of it... their site design looks an awful lot like mine. And I'm pretty sure this is my font."
Intrigued, I clicked back to the blog's home page, and my jaw hit the floor.
Staring back at me was MY OWN DAMN SITE.
This person's blog page was literally a list of my top 50 or so articles, with minor tweaks to the headlines.
I was horrified.
I started reading through the posts.
Yep, they were mine.
Except the wording and phrasing had been slightly changed. But all of the talking points, article structure elements, research (even outbound links), and product recommendations were identical to my own.
And this went on and on, across dozens of my best performing articles.
Worse still, I could tell this wasn't some fly-by-night scammer operating out of some remote Middle Eastern country.
This was a legit site, with some domain authority, organic traffic, rankings. The content was clearly stolen from me, but tweaked just enough to avoid plagiarism claims.
The blog was even using one of the biggest and most exclusive ad networks around (you need at least 25,000 sessions per month to get in).
So there was a real chance that this blog was, or was going to start, cutting into my business.
Oh man... I freaked out. I was more outraged than anything, but also concerned about what might happen if I let this go unchecked.
So here are 5 things I did after I found out someone was stealing my blog content.
(Not all of them worked, or will work for your situation, but if this is happening to you, there are a lot of different avenues of recourse for your to explore. I hope this helps!)
Reported them to my ad network
I didn't mention this above, but I was fortunate to have a shared connection with this blogger.
We were both using the same ad network.
So the first thing I did was reach out to them (on a weekend) and explain what was going on. I sent a brief explainer and a couple of the most egregious examples of what I considered to be plagiarism.
The wait to get a response on Monday morning was agonizing.
They got back to me and told me they would look into it, and that they took the issue extremely seriously. And then they went silent for a few more days.
They eventually came back to me with this (paraphrased) response:
"The owner of this blog claims that a hired writer or content agency may have done this without their knowledge, and they'd like to see some examples. Is it OK for us to send them over?"
I was really torn over this.
I honestly didn't want to send examples because I didn't want to give this person a chance to go and edit the most extreme examples of ripping me off, thus taking away my other avenues of recourse.
(It's very difficult to prove plagiarism, as I eventually learned.)
So I declined to send more information, but my ad network was still on my side.
They couldn't tell me exactly what happened on their end, but it appeared that the infringing site got kicked off the ad network — the ads disappeared from their site that day and haven't been back since.
But that was the end of the line for the time being. All of the content was still up (and competing with my own in Google, even outranking me in a few cases), and I was on my own as to how to get it taken down.
What you can do: You may not share an ad network with your content thief like I did, but you should still reach out if they're using Ezoic, MediaVine, AdThrive, or the like.
Those companies have a relatively high quality standards and don't want scammers and spammers on their network.
Reported them to Google
From there, I really wanted to get this content taken down, off the Internet entirely, and removed from Google search results.
So I set about filing a report directly with the big G.
To do this, you'll need to use Google's Legal Removal Submittal tool.
Under "What Google product does your request relate to?" choose "Web Search."
You'll then get a list of choices for reasons you want the content removed.
Choose "I have a legal issue that is not mentioned above."
On the next tab, select "I have found content that may violate my copyright."
(Alternatively, you may be able to go to this Copyright Removal page directly.)
Follow the prompts and fill out all the fields on the page. You have to provide links to your original content, links to the infringing content, and a description of the copyright violation.
(You don't get a lot of characters to work with, so be concise.)
This blog had literally ripped off over 50 posts of mine, so I just selected what I felt were the most egregious and sent those in as a test case.
Ultimately, Google came back a week or so later with an extremely unhelpful response that they "couldn't find the content in question."
I went back and forth with them via email a few times, providing screenshots and text excerpts to prove my point.
Eventually, they wrote:
"At this time, Google has decided not to take action on the following URLs. ... We encourage you to resolve any disputes with the owner of the website in question."
What you can do: If someone is stealing or copying your blog posts, definitely report them to Google for copyright violation. But keep your expectations in check... the standard for proof of plagiarism or copyright violation is really, really high.
Sent a DMCA takedown to their host
Outside of premium ad networks, there's another entity that really doesn't want stolen or copyright-infringing content on their hands.
And that's the site's web host.
Often, you can report this kind of thing to a blogger's hosting company and get them (at least temporarily) shut down.
How do you find out who's hosting a blog?
There are about a billion free tools for this, and most of them are unreliable.
But here are a few I tried:
One of them told me the site was hosted on GoDaddy, so I reached out to them and they shut me down saying they were only the domain registrar.
The others all said the site was hosted on Google itself, which is not what I was hoping to hear, because Google had already shut me down.
Nonetheless, I wanted to send a proper DMCA takedown through the proper channels and see if I had any better luck that way.
First, you need to find who's hosting the website, then you have to find out who the DMCA contact at that host is.
(Every company is required to publicly list one.)
You should be able to find this using the U.S. Copyright Office's directory here.
You can then use a free DMCA takedown form generator like this one and send it to the email, fax, or physical address of the agent you found above.
I did this and didn't end up hearing anything back (as of this writing) but you may have better luck.
What you can do: Find out who's hosting the infringing-site, find their registered DMCA agent, and get in touch with them.
It's pretty easy to put together a list of links and a brief description of why you believe your content is being infringed upon.
I've heard of a lot of folks having success using this method.
Of course, the party in question can just move to a new host. At which point you'll have to do this all over again. But it's one solution.
(Nearly) reported them to Amazon
I didn't pull the trigger on this one (I'll explain why below), but you may want to explore it if you're going through something similar.
Amazon Associates will kick you right out of their program, no questions asked, at the first sign of the smallest infraction.
I spoke with someone at Amazon who said if I reported this person to the Amazon Associates Program directly, there's a good chance "they'd be able to help me."
Ultimately, I held off on this and here's why:
It felt like the nuclear option.
I had done some digging on the owner of the site in question. They had another, larger, blog that had been around for years and had a huge following.
That big one seemed to be their main money maker.
And from what I could tell, after a lot of research, that other site didn't show any signs of being shady or scammy.
If I reported this person to Amazon and they get kicked out of the program, their entire business would come crumbling down, probably including the legit site.
I'm not saying they didn't potentially deserve it, but something held me back. Like I said, it felt nuclear, and I felt I ought to reach out to this person directly before I went and dropped an atomic bomb on their business.
(I guess if I'm being honest, I didn't want to invite Amazon to come scrutinize my content with a fine tooth comb, either. I do my best to be compliant but there's always a chance something like that could backfire.)
What you can do: If someone's stealing your blog content and they're using Amazon Associates to monetize their site, you can try reporting them through the Associates support channels (phone, email, chat, etc.). Who knows what will happen, but it's a path you can pursue if you have solid proof of plagiarism.
You can also report blogs to other brands they may be affiliates for. If you can start chipping away at their profit, they'll likely stop taking your content.
Laid a plagiarism trap in my content
I got this idea from the Income School YouTube channel - you can see the specific video right here - and I have to admit it's pretty clever.
Essentially, someone was stealing the content word for word from one of their niche sites, so they started adding sentences inside the blog posts like "This content belongs to (Website). If it appears on (Other Website), it has been plagiarized."
The scammer targeting their site wasn't even checking the content, just reposting it as-is, so Income School quickly got the proof they needed for Google to take the site down.
This wasn't going to work in my case, as the blog in question was paraphrasing and rewriting all of my content before publishing.
But it did inspire me to try something similar.
(You have to be pretty resourceful in this business - check out the other blogging skills I think you need.)
On some new posts I published, I added links (using Bitly so as not to immediately give away where they were pointing) that led to a page on my site. On that page I wrote, "If (blog name) links to this page it should be taken as proof that the owner is plagiarizing my content", etc etc.
I'm not sure if that would have worked or not, but it was worth a shot, and at this point I was nearing the end of my rope.
So I set the trap and waited, but the other blog owner never took it.
I reached out directly
I was about ready to drop the Amazon bomb on this person.
After a brief stretch where they appeared to publish a few original pieces on the blog, I checked in one day and found they were right back to stealing my content en masse.
I had had it.
But first, I thought I should reach out. I had tried everything else, and I figured I should at least attempt to resolve things diplomatically.
So I did.
I sent a firm but level-headed email outlining my grievances and asking for the content to be removed.
To my surprise, the other blog owner wrote back quickly. He said all work on the site in question had been outsourced, so he wanted to see examples of the plagiarism.
This is what he told our ad network when they confronted him. At that time, I hadn't wanted to share any details or examples, but now I didn't see what I had to lose.
I sent him a complete list of every URL I felt was "overly inspired" by my own site, along with a couple of quite obvious examples of the plagiarism.
He wrote back again, quickly, and said that after spot-checking a few of the URLs, he agreed with me that the content seemed to be stolen.
He told me he would be seeking a refund from his content agency, and he removed all of the URLs. Every last one.
No other questions asked.
I was, needless to say, absolutely floored.
What you can do: You don't necessarily need to hire a lawyer to send a proper cease and desist. It might be worth reaching out directly yourself to see if there's some way of diplomatically handling the situation... it could be a misunderstanding, or the threat of your action may be enough to scare them straight.
So I guess, in the end, my story has a happy ending.
It's really, really hard to prove copyright violation with online content, even in cases where it's clear as day to the naked eye.
I've heard a lot of marketers have quick success with DMCA takedowns and reporting to Google. I've also heard others that never got the justice they were looking for.
Hopefully, one or more of the methods above will work.
Let me know if you have questions in the comments. I'm no trademark or copyright lawyer! But I am a battle-tested veteran of online marketing scams, so hit me up.
And if you're just getting started with your first blog, check out my list of tools I used to build a profitable blogging business.