Protecting your Startup from Online Copy Cats!
Imagine if someone you know started a business, exactly like yours. Imagine they copied your business model. Imagine they joined your mailing list and downloaded your whitepaper… Unfortunately, you might never in know this happened and you could never prove it anyway. Well this happened to us, only they went one step further. They copied and pasted page after page of our website, word for word. What we want to share with you is how we found out, what we are doing about it and how you can protect yourself from falling victim to foul play. Let this article serve as a warning to information thieves.
The copywriting industry is booming in Australia as small businesses focus more and more on their online communications. The art of writing compelling copy that sells a product or service is both an art and skill that comes with hundreds of hours of practice and learning. For this reason, businesses (including ourselves at MTG Consulting) charge accordingly for website copywriting. As such the issue of plagiarism is taken very seriously online and with good reason.
Many small business owners have learned that the best way to build a business is by learning from the success and failure of others, we totally agree. We help all our customers to understand the best practices and trends in their industry before undertaking any digital campaigns. However, the important distinction here is between mimicking marketing principles and plagiarism.
Recently we found out that someone from within the Australian small business community, posing as a friend, had plagiarised our website word for word. As you can imagine, there were a number of possible actions we could take, direct contact, involving lawyers and naming them publicly to mention a few. While we considered ‘naming and shaming’ the culprit publicly, we opted against it knowing that we wouldn’t help our business in any way by showing everyone who it was.
So how did we find out?
Google has a great service called Webmaster Tools, which can be used for a myriad of different things- what we were looking at in this case, was Google Backlinks.
Excitedly we assumed someone was a fan of our work and was pushing traffic to our site, we thought it was a positive thing. With the intention of finding out more, and potentially thanking the person, we followed the link. It turned out not to be a referral. Instead, somebody within the small business community, copied our website word for word and neglected to remove the call to action and associated hyperlink to our ‘Free Consultation’ page.
When compared to our website (which dates back to March this year) it is obvious that the copy was appropriated entirely. Implementation services, complete with links to our website. Thanks for the free traffic!
Everything you create and post online can be stolen, reworded or plagiarised. Our opinion is that the best you can do is to discourage others from copying your work, which means:
– Use the power of tools such as a WhoIs lookup to find the contact details of a plagiarist quickly and easily
– Make clear that you are aware of your legal rights by means of a copyright notice on your website. Allowing you to easily demand offenders remove infringing material through a cease and desist email or letter referring directly to your copyright information
– Do not respond emotionally. This type of thing can happen, and it is important to control your emotions in business, as your first reaction will often not be in your best interest.
– Do not let your anxiety of having your copy stolen impact visitors to your site. Tactics such as disabling right-click and scrambling code can often be worked around by a motivated plagiarist, and is likely to frustrate well-intentioned-visitors to your site
– Set up a Google Alert for any proprietary phrases or language so you can be notified instantly if it shows up anywhere on the web. Giving you the opportunity to evaluate whether it was coincidence or malicious.
In the end, it seems that our ‘competitor’ took our value proposition a little to literally when we said “Digital done for you.”
Carlo Del Fabbro & Bryce Summerell are the founders and Senior Advisersat MTG Consulting. The MTG Mission is to take the pain out of your business, through the expert implementation of great technology and systems. MTG specialise in eCommerce stores, small business websites, digital marketing and advertising strategies, and website redesigns.