That sinking feeling when you realize you’ve been robbed is no more enjoyable when you’ve lost virtual valuables than when your watch turns up missing. Thieves, spam bloggers, and scrapers deny you and your writing team the credit you deserve, and it’s tempting to put your content investments behind heavy-duty locks. Our last post discussed some of those locks and their drawbacks; this one will examine the keys to keeping your content safer while allowing it to remain accessible.
Encourage Sharing, Not Stealing
It may seem fundamental, but by giving people outlets to share your content legitimately makes you less likely to suffer inadvertent theft. Not all content thieves are malign; some just don’t know that words cost money. These innocents are happy to show off the cool blog post they read or the informative article they discovered, and they’ll copy it whole if that seems like the easiest way to pass it around to friends and colleagues.
By giving them other ways to share with the click of a button, you encourage legitimate use of the content you’ve bought. Adding Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and other widgets to the end of your articles and blog posts welcomes readers to showcase your work without reducing its value. While this method does little to spoil a genuine content thief’s day, it will reduce the incidents of inadvertent theft dramatically. Don’t punish your readers for being a little naïve; welcome their kinder impulses to share.
Part of why fresh, original content is so valuable is that it can generate more content in the form of commentary, leading to valuable discussion and insights about future directions for your blog. When you open your blog to comments or leave space on your e-commerce pages for customer reviews, you add value to your unique content that will be lost if it’s stolen. As with DMCA takedown requests, this tactic doesn’t prevent theft, but it reduces the value of what’s stolen. Essentially, it allows would-be content thieves to steal the box the discussion came in while leaving the real meat of the conversation.
This tactic doesn’t work for all sites. Some subjects just don’t elicit much conversation; others could excite so much commentary that a moderator would need to step in. Corporate blogs often have comments disabled. However, for blogs that want to establish a strong niche presence or a distinctive voice, few tools are more important than an active comments section. Another advantage: By building a following, you’ll have another theft detection system in place. Your avid readers will run across duplicate content and alert you to it often before your Google Alert warns you.
Be Kind to Thoughtful Content Curators
The difference between a content curator and a content scraper is akin to that between a gallery owner and a hoarder. The former selects a few carefully chosen points of interest to display on a site; the latter gathers everything indiscriminately and risks reducing the value of everything in the collection. When you get a Google Alert and see your content elsewhere, don’t assume the target is a thief; it’s possible you’ve been picked up by a curator who will lovingly polish your back-link and display it prominently among intelligent commentary.
A content curator won’t display the entirety of your content but will instead take select bits of it to create interest. Many of them also add discussion of their own or include your content as part of an associated set of similar pieces. The best of them may even reach out to you and ask before posting your content. Beware of anyone who uses the term to legitimize scraping, though; calling unattributed copying “curation” doesn’t make it acceptable.
Put Some of Your Content Behind Glass
You want your visitors to see your content. The more original, engaging content you have on your site, the better. However, a “look, but don’t touch” policy on a few high-value items isn’t a bad plan if you want to encourage visitors to engage more deeply with your site. Adding valuable content that can’t simply be cut and pasted – videos, downloadable white papers, and reports in PDF format are some examples – gives your readers a reason to explore your site. It’s important to give readers enough of a sample to generate interest, so get your content writer to create an abstract or blog post highlighting the new content.
Another advantage of installing high-value items behind a glass wall is that you control access to them. It’s the perfect opportunity to ask for an email address and build a mailing list. Because you’re offering something your readers will find nowhere else, they’re generally happy to exchange a little of their own information for a lot of yours.
Eradicating content theft may not be possible, but taking these positive steps can make you a less appealing target for thieves while making your site friendlier to legitimate visitors. It’s a winning strategy in both ways.
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