How to Prevent Content Scraping on Your WordPress Site or Blog

How to Prevent Content Scraping on Your WordPress Site or Blog _ MediaOne

Spammers and scammers don’t take vacations. In fact, it’s their full-time job to scour the web for content they can use without attribution. Unfortunately, WordPress sites and blogs are an easy target for these digital bandits.

As a website owner, nothing is more frustrating than watching someone steal your content without permission, monetise it, and outrank you in search engine results.

After you’ve spent hours slaving over your content, it’s a real kick in the teeth to find someone else claiming it as their own.

In this article, we’ll try to make life a bit more difficult for content thieves by sharing our tips and tricks on how to prevent content scraping on your WordPress site or blog, or better, how to take advantage of their stealing attempts.

But first things first, let’s understand what content scraping is and why it’s so important to protect your website or blog against it. 

What’s Content Scraping in WordPress?

Content scraping is a black hat SEO technique in which a content thief steals content from numerous sources and republishes it as their own. Usually, it’s done using a script, a scraping tool, or simply copying and pasting. Content scraping is considered a form of plagiarism and can have serious legal implications for the perpetrator if found.

But even with this, it’s still a common malpractice, affecting millions of websites and blogs. If this has ever happened to you, you know how frustrating it can be.

And by someone stealing your website or blog content, we mean anything: from the formatting to the videos and images, even links.

But don’t worry! There’s no need to go all Rambo on the person responsible for this (unless you want to). In this article, we’re going to discuss a less dramatic but still effective way to protect your content.

Why Do Content Scrapers Even Steal Content in the First Place?

Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, content scrappers can be looking to build up their own website or blog quickly. They want to profit from your many hours of hard work, and they don’t care if they are violating copyright laws.

Here are some of the reasons why content scrapers might be targeting your website or blog:

  • To generate revenue through ads and affiliate links: Not every content scraper is out to make money, but many are. They’ll take your content, add Google Ads or affiliate links, and profit from the ads or sales.
  • To generate backlinks for SEO purposes: Content scrappers will also use your content to build their own SEO. They’ll include links to their website in your content and use it to boost their rankings in search engine results.
  • To build a website quickly: If a content scraper wants to get it up and running quickly, they might steal your content. It’s a fast and easy way for them to create a website without doing any of the hard work.
  • Lead Generation: Content scrapers might also use your content as part of a lead generation campaign. They’ll use the content to attract visitors to their website and then use it to collect email addresses.
  • To Frustrate Competitors: In some cases, content scrapers might be looking to hurt the competition. They may take content from your site and republish it elsewhere, thus taking away from the amount of traffic your website gets.

Is It Possible to Completely Prevent Content Scrapping?

Is It Possible to Completely Prevent Content Scrapping? | MediaOne

Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to prevent content scraping. However, you can take a few steps to make it more difficult for content scrapers to use your content without your permission.

We’ll walk you through some of the most popular methods. And while none of these is guaranteed to completely prevent content scraping, they should help minimise the chances of it happening.

How to Identify Content Scrapping

It’s not always easy to identify scraped content on the web. Scrapers can be clever and disguise copies with minor changes. However, there are a few signs to look out for that will help you identify scraped content:

Google Search

We can start by ruling out the obvious: run a quick Google search of your content and see what turns up. If you spot exact copies of your writing or images on other websites, there’s a good chance it has been scrapped.

Simple, just run the page titles and some sentences through Google, and you should be able to spot any copied content. 

Use a Plagiarism Checker 

If you don’t have time to search for scrapers manually, an alternative would be to use a plagiarism checker. Just enter the URL or piece of content from your website and let the tool do its job. Popular scraping detection services include Copyscape, Plagium, and ScanMyEssay. 

Copyscape is the most popular, but you must buy credits to access all of its features. However, if you’re not ready to invest, Plagium and ScanMyEssay are free alternatives. 

Access Logs 

Another way to spot scrapers is by checking your server access logs. These are records of all the requests made to your website; you can find useful information from them. That includes IP addresses, dates, user agents, etc. So, if you notice any unusual activity in your logs, like an IP address requesting many pages at once, someone may be scraping content from your website.

Install a Security Plugin

Finally, you can also use a WordPress plugin to detect and prevent content scraping. There are several plugins available for this purpose, such as WP Activity Log, Sucuri Security, Jetpack, Defender, and WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click. These plugins will detect whenever someone is trying to scrape your content and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening. 

Some plugins will even alert you of any suspicious activity. So, if you’re worried about content scraping on your WordPress site or blog, a plugin may help.

How Should You React if You Find Out That Your Content Has Been Scraped?

How Should You React if You Find Out That Your Content Has Been Scraped? | MediaOne

Since it’s impossible to prevent content scraping completely, chances are you’ll find your content being used elsewhere at some point.

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What should you do if you find your content being scraped? 

Here are a few approaches popular bloggers use to deal with content scrappers:

  • Do Nothing: Imagine yourself stealing from Forbes. The odds are they won’t bother coming after you. Google already sees them as authorities in their niche and trusts them more than you. 

However, the same can’t be said about a smaller blog or website struggling to gain recognition. So, yes, this approach only works if you’re established enough not to be shaken by a few stolen posts.

  • Take them Down: If you’re unwilling to do nothing, track the content scrappers down and send them a cease and desist email. Should they fail to comply, you can take the matter up with their web hosting provider or file a DMCA complaint against the site. 
  • Take advantage of their Attempt: Maybe you didn’t know, but there are a few techniques you could use to take advantage of the situation. We’ll show you how in the later section of this guide. 

How to Prevent Content Scrapping In WordPress

There are ways to minimise the risk of content scraping on your WordPress site. Here are a few steps you can take to keep content thieves at bay:

Trademark and copyright laws are meant to protect your intellectual property. By trademarking or copyrighting your website’s name and logo, you’ll be adding an extra layer of protection to your website’s material. That should make it harder for scrapers to use your content and images without permission. 

After that, you want to display a copyright notice or trademark symbol on your site. This should help deter content robbers from stealing your hard work. 

Even better, you want to add a copyright notice with a dynamic date in your footer. That way, scrapers will know that you are taking your copyright protection seriously and actively monitoring for any violations. 

You can register for copyright laws online. The process is a bit complicated, but luckily, it doesn’t cost much. Once your copyright is registered, it’s easy to take legal action against anyone who attempts to steal your content.

2) Make Your RSS Feed Difficult to Scrape

Since content scraping occurs automatically, you can prevent it by making it difficult for bots to scrape your RSS feed. 

Here are some helpful changes you can make:

Don’t Include Full Text in Your WordPress RSS Feed

You only want to include an excerpt of each post in your RSS feed. This should be enough for interested readers to get a taste of what the post is about, but not so much that it’s easy for a scraper to take your content and republish it.

Nothing complicated. Go to your WordPress dashboard and click ‘Settings’ then ‘Reading.’ There, you can choose to only show an excerpt of your posts in the RSS feed.

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Click ‘Save Changes,’ and you’re all set.

That way, if someone makes the mistake of copying your content, they’ll only get a snippet—not the whole post. And that’s what you want: enough to attract readers but not enough to get your content stolen. 

Optimise Your RSS Feed to Protect Your Content and Prevent Scrapping

Optimise Your RSS Feed to Protect Your Content and Prevent Scrapping | MediaOne

Another way to prevent content theft is by optimising your RSS feed.

There are a lot of ways to do this. 

First, you want to delay posts from appearing in the RSS feed. This should give search engines more time to crawl your site and index the content before it appears elsewhere.

The idea is to get search engines to index your website before other sites have a chance to copy your content.

The easiest and safest way to do this is using a plugin like WPCode. The plugin has a recipe that automatically adds the correct custom code to your WordPress site.

Install the plugin, go to the settings, and click “Add Snippet.”

You can click on Most Popular, and under “Delay Posts in RSS Feeds,” click “Use Snippet.” That will add the code to your site.

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#3. Disable Pingbacks, Trackbacks, and Rest API

WordPress introduced pingbacks and trackbacks early on to help sites notify each other when they link to one another. When someone links to your post, WordPress automatically sends you a ping.

The pingback will appear in the comment moderation section, where you can either approve or reject it. If you approve it, your pingback will be published as a comment on the post.

That way, the person who linked to your post ends up getting a backlink and mention from your blog/website.

The problem is that it allowed spammers to abuse this system by sending thousands of spam pingbacks.

WordPress allows you to disable pingbacks, so you don’t have to deal with these spammers.

Click “Discussion” from the settings menu and uncheck “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks).

Disable Rest API

Aside from pingbacks and trackbacks, hackers and spammers can scrape your content through the WordPress Rest API.

That is why it’s important to disable the API and ensure it’s not accessible to anyone.

Again, install WPCode and use their premade snippet to disable the API.

#4. Block Scrapers from Accessing Your Website

Another way to stop scrapers from stealing your content is by blocking their access. 

That means that whenever scrapers attempt to access your website, they’ll be blocked from doing so.

You can do this manually by blocking their IP address. Alternatively, use a WordPress security plugin such as Sucuri, WordFence, or BBQ to automate the process.

Blocking Scrappers Using a Security (Recommended)

Blocking scrappers manually is a lot of work and can be time-consuming.

Plus, scrappers usually have a wide range of IP addresses, so it’s hard to keep up with them.

In other words, blocking every scrapper manually is almost impossible.

That’s why it is recommended to use a security plugin like Sucuri, WordFence, or BBQ to automate the process.

These plugins are very effective in preventing content scraping. They act as a shield between your website and the scrapers, closely monitoring your website’s traffic and blocking common security threats.

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They also offer additional security features like malware scanning, brute force attack protection, and file integrity monitoring.

Manually Block or Redirect Scrapers’ IP Addresses

Another way to prevent content scraping is by manually blocking or redirecting scrapers’ IP addresses.

It’s more work, but you can specifically target a scraper’s IP address, making it harder for them to access your website. 

A plugin adds a code to your website, and a small mistake can cause your website to crash or become unusable. 

That’s why we recommend blocking them manually instead. 

It may not be the simplest way, but it’s much safer and can save you from many headaches.

You can identify a scraper’s IP address by checking “Raw Access” logs in the cPanel dashboard. 

You want to check for the IP addresses with an unusual number of requests. 

Once you identify them, you can add these IP addresses to the list of blocked hosts in the “METRICS” section of your cPanel dashboard. Click “IP Blocker,” add the IP addresses, and you’re good to go.

Here’s where things become interesting:

Instead of blocking the scrapers, an alternative would be to send them dummy RSS feeds. The idea is to create an RSS feed full of dummy text and annoying images or even redirect them back to their own website, causing an infinite loop that might crush their website’s server. 

Here’s a code you can add to your .htaccess file to redirect the scrapers to a dummy feed:

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} 123.456.789.

RewriteRule .* http://dummyfeed.com/feed [R,L]

Just replace the 123.456.789. placeholder with the actual IP address of the scraper, and you should be all set.

#5. Prevent Image Theft

Protecting your text isn’t enough. Scrapers are also after your images and other multimedia content, so you must also protect them.

Like text, there isn’t a 100% foolproof way to guarantee image protection, but there are plenty of ways to discourage scrapers from taking them.

One is by disabling hotlinking on your website images. That way, even if someone scrapes your content, the images will not open on their website. 

In addition to that, it also reduces your server load, boosting your website’s speed.

You can also watermark your images to deter scrapers from stealing them, as it will be apparent that the image belongs to you.

#6. Discourage Manual Scrapers

Not every content scraper uses automatic tools. Some do it manually. 

A simple trick you can use is to make it difficult for them to copy-paste your content. 

You can do this by disabling right-clicking or using tools that disable text selection and copying. 

Of course, these measures don’t guarantee they won’t be able to scrape your content, but they may discourage them from trying.

To achieve this, you can use a plugin like WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click.

It’s not foolproof, but only a determined scraper will be able to get around it.

And if they do, well, then you know you’ve got a real problem on your hands.

Also, remember that not everyone copying your content is a thief. Some just want to share it with their audience. 

For that, we recommend only using this method when it’s truly necessary.

#7. Take Advantage of Content Scrapers’ Attempts to Steal Your Content

Most of these suggestions only work if your blog is small. But as your blog grows and grows, it becomes harder for you to wade off content scrapers completely. You just can’t keep up with them.

That’s where a tool like CopyScape can come in handy — it detects when someone has copied your content and alerts you.

But if you want to take it a step further, try turning the tables on them and use their content scraping attempts to your advantage.

You can still receive money or drive a lot of traffic to your stolen content. How, you ask? Well, there are a few ways.

Make Internal Linking Your Best Friend

First off, you can set up a system of internal links. When someone steals your content and copies it onto their own website, the link inside the article will still link back to yours. 

That way, if someone steals your content, the internal links will still link back to your website, driving traffic to some of your pages.

Plus, the stolen articles translate to more backlinks for your website without you having to do anything.

Autolink Keywords with Affiliate Links

So, how about you making money off the stolen content? Sounds too good to be true, right? 

Well, it is possible. You can auto-link keywords with affiliate links so that whenever your article gets scraped and published elsewhere, you get a commission from whatever products it’s linked to. 

To do that, you’ll need a plugin like EasyAzon Pro or ThirstyAffiliates. With either of these plugins, you can automatically link keywords that appear in your posts with affiliate links.

Promote Your Website or Blog in Your RSS Footer

Use the AIl in One SEO (AIO SEO) plugin to add a customised footer to your RSS feed. This way, whenever someone scrapes your content, they’ll also be promoting your blog or website. It’s a win-win.

For example, you could add a banner promoting your blog, product, or service or include a link to one of your blog posts.

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An even better approach is to add a disclaimer informing the reader of where the post first appeared, who wrote it, and when it was published. This way, anyone who comes across your content will know to visit the original source rather than a scraped version. 

And it’s not just about the reader. Even search engines will recognise the original source and give it the authority it deserves. 

At the end of the day, there’s no foolproof method to prevent content scraping, but these methods will help reduce the chances of it happening and protect your website or blog from unscrupulous scrapers. Don’t be a victim – fight back.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.

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