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Cybercriminals will copy your content in order to damage your brand reputation, draw customers away from your business to their illegitimate one, or simply to keep up with content demands that they can’t meet on their own. Copying your content to create a fake, lookalike website (also called a phishing site) not only harms your brand reputation and impacts your profit, but duplicate or “scraped” content negatively affects your SEO ranking, and can lead to your page being de-indexed by Google.
In only 2020, 2.11 million phishing sites were detected by Google, a 25% increase from the year before, and since then cyber crime rates have actually gone up! Find out how to detect duplicate websites and content in this article. You will also learn:
Duplicated websites are also known as domain spoofing, phishing sites, and even look alike “copycat” websites. Cybercriminals copy several identifying features of your website, such as the logo, domain name, and written content, to dupe customers into believing that they are sharing their personal log in details or spending their money with a trusted company. Essentially, the cybercriminal feeds off of the respect that your brand has created.
In general, there are three outcomes of a scammer duplicating your website:
That being said, content, as a whole, isn’t duplicated solely by cybercriminals wishing to defraud members of the public. Content creation is a rat race that online businesses have to enter into if they are going to feature their sites higher on search engine results pages. As such, content can occasionally be copied by legitimate, albeit unscrupulous, businesses or bloggers looking for an effortless way to get their page to rank more highly on Google.
The more of an authority your business is on certain topics, the more likely your content will be copied by lazy website owners and bloggers. Copying content is always an infringement of your copyright and should be met with a DMCA notice or a cease and desist letter.
You don’t have to be a tech expert to create a duplicate website. The scammer will begin by copying the identifying elements of your website, such as your logo, the layout, your product listings if you’re an ecommerce site, and your content. This will make users believe that they have arrived at your legitimate website, instead of a scam site.
This is a significant infringement of your website’s copyright and trademark. Make sure you have registered your website for copyright and trademark protections in order to have a better chance of penalizing the bad actors in court.
In order to make their duplicate website look like yours, scammers will spoof your domain name. They do this in a variety of ways. For example, they may create typoed versions of your domain name, so amzon.com instead of amazon.com. Or, they will use your domain name with a modified ending. So instead of amazon.com they will register the website as amazon.net. Typos are easy mistakes to make, and unwitting customers will be drawn to a domain that looks the same but is in fact a fake. This is called “typosquatting”.
Similar to typosquatting is cybersquatting. Cybercriminals will create slightly different versions of the original domain name, such as g00gle.com instead of google.com. One of the best ways to prevent these kinds of domain spoofing attacks is to register typo versions of your domain name when you are registering your main domain name.
Scammers may use a range of ways to get you to click on their duplicate websites. Perhaps they send you a text message or an email with a fake link to their website. Or, they set up fake social media accounts that work in tandem with their website. Cybercriminals also make sure their pages rank on search engines by using black hat SEO techniques. The very fact they rank on page 1 or 2 of Google means they appear to be trustworthy companies.
A business’s brand identity is one of their most valuable assets. Business owners spend countless time, money and resources building up their brand identity to create something that customers can recognize and trust.
Unfortunately, this valuable asset is what scammers feed off to dupe customers, through copied logos, domain names, content, products, social media profiles, and so forth. Customers will either be confused about which brand is your legitimate one, or they will simply associate your brand with scams and fraud, and in all likelihood, never buy from you again. This is why it’s vital to protect your brand identity from duplicate websites.
Every sale made by a duplicate website is a sale lost from your business. Not only that but that one sale could have led to a repeat customer. Of course, if their first experience of what they believe to be your brand is a negative one, they won’t be coming back. Essentially, the bad actors are redirecting unwitting customers to their website and away from your business, which means your revenue is gradually being siphoned away.
When Google sees that a page has been duplicated, it will only show one of the pages. Google states clearly that they may not know which URL to list higher in the search results, so both URLs are penalized and given lower importance. They can even go so far as de-indexing duplicated websites. This not only means that you will be less visible on Google but also that your competitors will be more visible, enabling them to harvest the sales your business could have made.
It is crucial that if you spot a duplicate website or content, you must report it to Google so that they don’t penalize your website.
The more successful your brand is, the more you will have to fight off scammers trying to impersonate your business. Cybercriminals can be operating from any part of the world at any hour, and chasing them is a 24/7 job. Red Points Domain Takedown Service automatically detects and requests the take down of the offending and duplicate websites before fraudsters have time to start siphoning away your profits and degrading your brand image.
To find out whether your website has been duplicated, you can conduct a similar domain name search. There are two ways you can do this. Firstly, you can use the ICANN domain name lookup tool. Type in your domain name and similarly written domain names (for example yourdomain.com and yourdomain.net). Investigate any domains that look similar to yours.
The other way is to simply type in different URLs into the search bar. As above, type in yourdomain.com and yourdomain.net, for example. Try typoed versions, such as yourdoman.com. If you find something, it could be a duplicate website.
To detect duplicate websites, Google is your friend. Find a blog post or other content on your website, copy around ten words from the beginning of a sentence.
Paste the ten words into Google’s search bar surrounded by quotation marks.
Select enter. If more than one result shows up, then it’s likely to be duplicate content.
Of course, that duplicate content could come from somewhere else on your own website, which is why it’s always important to create original content – otherwise, your SEO takes a hit.
If the results page includes other websites, whichever result is first is the one that Google thinks is the original content.
Often when you write search engine optimized articles, you will include links to other articles or pages in your website. Every time an outside source links to your website, you should get a notification about the trackback. You can also use Google Webmaster tools. Make sure to check these trackbacks, because sometimes they could be coming from people simply copying and pasting your content. This isn’t foolproof, however. Many scammers will delete the links in the text so that you won’t be alerted.
Google Alerts is a free tool whereby Google will alert you of content you are interested in. You can also get an alert if any of the titles of your blog posts appear online after your content has already been created. It could be a coincidence, or it could be more insidious.
If you do detect a duplicate website that is infringing on your copyright and trademark, there are many ways you can go about reporting it. Below is a selection of Red Points guides on how to take down duplicate websites:
1. Register your intellectual property (IP): As stressed above, if you register your website for copyright and trademark, it gives your brand extra protection, particularly in legal terms. These added protections also speed up the process of getting a website taken down, and time is of the essence when it comes to fraud.
2. Display trademark and copyright notices: You can display your copyright and trademark protections on your website to deter any bad actors.
3. Encryption: You can encrypt the code on your website. This means that scammers are unable to view your code and provides an extra layer of protection.
4. Disable the copy/paste function: While this isn’t foolproof, disabling copy and paste is an added barrier for unscrupulous copycats.
5. Monitor the web: Make sure your business always has one eye open for copycats. The best, surest way to do this is to install a domain takedown service. Red Points Domain Monitoring Software is an easy, stress-free alternative that proactively scans the net, sniffs out bad actors, and gets them taken down before damage is done to your brand.
Duplicating websites and copying content are methods used by cybercriminals to confuse customers. Customers think they are buying from your trusted brand, when in fact they are entering into dangerous territory whereby their details and money is at risk. Duplicate websites can wreck your SEO efforts and cause your business to lose sales and ultimately, customers.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort or expertise to duplicate a website, so they are an easy target for cybercriminals. Once someone has copied your website and fooled customers, the damage has already been done. However, there is software available that scans the internet 24/7 and gets offending sites taken down so you don’t have to.