We’ve written a lot about content marketing and how important it is to provide valuable information and resources for your customers and prospects, as well as how content marketing benefits your search engine optimization efforts. But, is the act of producing engaging content encouraging nefarious behavior? Have you ever discovered a piece of your own work copied word-for-word on another website or blog without credit? Feels pretty crummy, and there are far reaching consequences for both sides. The majority of content “theft” or plagiarism is most likely unintentional, and in this post, we explore content curation vs. content scraping and how to avoid going to the dark side for great content.

Content Curation – Curating is something most of us do everyday when we share things like, retweet something interesting on Twitter, Pin a neat picture, include a helpful quote in a blog post, etc. Content curation, creating useful content and getting it seen and shared, is the engine of successful content marketing.

The key difference of content curation vs. content scraping has everything to do with proper source credit and attribution. According to Steve Rosenbaum’s article on Mashable5 Tips for Great Content Curation, you need to “Take the time to give attribution, links back, and credit. The sharing economy works because we’re each sharing our audiences, and providing the value of our endorsements. If you pick up someone’s work and put it on your blog, or mention a fact without crediting the source, you’re not building shared credibility. You’re just abusing someone else’s effort.”

Do you see in the above paragraph how we sourced the information? We told you who wrote it (Steve Rosenbaum), where (Mashable), the original source (in the article titled 5 Tips for Great Content Curation), and we linked to the original source, as well as shared an exact quote which we placed in quotation marks. That’s how you properly and accurately provide source credit and attribution. Get more information on how to provide source credit with these tips from the Washington Post.

A quick note about content syndication: Content syndication is when you give permission to another site to publish your blog or work via an RSS feed or otherwise. Proper source credit and attribution is always provided by the syndicating site. There is a great primer on the benefits to content syndication here from SearchEngineWatch.com. 

Content Scraping – Technopedia defines content scraping as “an illegal way of stealing original content from a legitimate website and posting the stolen content to another site without the knowledge or permission of the content’s owner. Content scrapers often attempt to pass off stolen content as their own, and fail to provide attribution to the content’s owners.”

We’ve experienced content scraping ourselves and have found many of our blog posts published word-for-word without source credit or attribution and often times, carrying another author’s name. Plagiarism isn’t cool.

Aside from stealing content, scrapers also hinder your website or blog’s search engine optimization efforts because search engines view this as duplicate information on multiple sites – Not a good thing. Search engines try to punish scrapers by comparing post timestamps, but if they can’t determine who the original poster is, everyone involved may get punished. A good way to avoid this is by ensuring you have your Google authorship set up. Our own Chipper Nicodemus states, “Setting up and verifying your content lets Google know you’re the content’s legit owner. If your blog’s content is getting used without your permission, having your authorship set up will ensure your post will rank higher than the person, or blog that’s using it.” He goes on to advise, “Be sure to include some great internal links in every blog post, so if your post gets shared via your permission or otherwise you will get a backlink.”

To further avoid unauthorized use of our own work, we added copyright information to the bottom of every blog post we publish. This can be accomplished with a simple WordPress plugin.

If you’ve got a content scraper on your hands, you can find determine the website owner via a WHOIS search. Send a quick letter to the owner with a cc to the hosting company to take care of matters. Plagiarism Today offers pre-formatted letters here.  They’ve also got a great post on the 5 Simple Rules for Reusing Online Content and we think they sum it up nicely by saying, “Reusing content, when done right and with permission, can be a great symbiotic relationship between a creator who gets extra exposure and a webmaster that gets new content. Done poorly, it becomes more parasitic and not only can harm the original creator, but discourages others from making their work available for reuse.”

How do you curate content and avoid content scraping? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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