If someone has taken a fake copy of your site, how do you report it to Google? What are scraper sites and how to report them and take action against them?
Even if you have a high profile site with lots of links going to it and a good reputation, it’s still possible for someone to copy it and for Google to then show the fake site in its search results instead of your real site. Google have got better and better at identifying these sites and removing them from their results, however it does still happen occasionally and can be very alarming when it does.
This article explains what scraper sites are and the various steps you can take to remove them from Google’s search results and to remove them from the internet completely.
What are scraper sites?
A scraper site is any website which has ‘scraped’ or copied content from another site illegally and illegitimately. This includes sites that have:
- Cloned your entire site using frames or by taking an actual copy of your html code.
- Copied part of your site by manually copying articles or other content from your site to theirs.
Surprisingly Google don’t have a good algorithm for detecting these fake copies, so the next question is how do you get them removed?
How to get the scraper site removed from Google?
1. File a copyright infringement report with Google
Google used to have a form specifically designed to report scraper sites to them, however they have recently taken it offline. If your site has been scraped, we therefore recommend using a copyright infringement form instead. This is more complicated; however you can file a copyright infringement report at the following web page:
Google normally action these requests very quickly.
There's not a specific category for a scraper site, however either of the 2 following options might apply:
- I would like to report malware, phishing or similar issues (phishing is the practice of trying to get other people to part with sensitive information like credit card data and this category would definitely apply for an ecommerce website).
- I have found a site that is engaging in suspicious behavior (this is an alternative, more general category you could also choose).
If other actions you have taken mean that the site has already been taken down, you may also wish to fill in this form and choose the following option:
- A piece of content I am concerned about has already been removed by the webmaster but still appears among the search results
2. Add a canonical reference to your home page
In the Head section of your home page, put the following line of code:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/"/>
Replacing http://www.example.com with the valid web address of your site.
A canonical URL tells Google and other search engines what the URL you want shown for a specific page is, where multiple URLs for the same page exist.
How to get the copied content removed permanently?
Sometimes the scraper site may have a similar URL to yours or appear in other search engines and you will want to have it removed from the internet completely and not just from Google. Here are some steps you can take that might work.
3. Contact their host and demand that they remove the content
Different hosts have different policies on copyrighted materials, however if you contact the host, it’s possible that they will take the whole website off-line. To find out who the host is, search for whois and you’ll find various websites that then let you enter their domain name. Enter this on any of the whois websites and you’ll see details of the host, domain registrar and site owner.
You can find a list of links to take down pages for different hosts, as well as social media and other sites on artistic-license.org.
4. Contact the website owner directly
If someone’s just copied a few pages and their site has other content, you may be able to find their contact details elsewhere on the site. Alternatively, do a whois search as mentioned above and contact them to request that they take the copyrighted information offline.
Keep your correspondence professional and keep a record of all communication.
5. Take legal action
Send a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter to the individual demanding that they take the copied content off their website. You can find examples of these elsewhere on the net. If it’s plausible that you’d have an in-house legal department, you may wish to create a firstname.lastname@example.org type email address to make this more official.
The above actions are quick to implement, don’t cost anything and have a good chance of success to get the scraper site taken offline, or at the very least removed from Google. Copyright infringement is a serious crime and one that you can take steps to overcome relatively easily.