I promised you that I would break down in further detail why I recently chose to truncate my blog feed and explain all I know about what scraper sites do, how to truncate your feed in Blogger and WordPress, and the benefits and disadvantages of choosing to truncate. Please note: I’m not an expert in these areas and am just passing along what I know works for me. The purpose of this post is to help other bloggers who want to take action in protecting their intellectual property and to help readers understand why their favorite blogs are choosing to truncate.
But let’s start at the very beginning. Perhaps you are currently asking yourself, trunk what??? Class in session! We’ll start with a vocab lesson.
- Scraper – A site that makes unauthorized use of another site’s copyrighted content. Typically a scraper will extract (scrape) content from RSS feeds and post those feeds on their ad-enriched website. Their goal is to steal good content and make money off of it for free. Since content is king in helping one’s SEO (search engine optimization), these sites steal other’s content in hopes of stealing pageviews and making more money off of their ads. I consider any site that posts my full feed or several pictures of mine without my permission, a scraper site, even if they link back to my site with “find original article here”. They are still stealing content without permission. Most bloggers are okay with one photo of theirs being used with a link back to their post. However, using more than one photo of someone else’s content should require permission.
- Truncated – This word simply means “to shorten”. A truncated feed is a shortened version of a blog post. A truncated blog feed will only show a snippet of the post with a “continue reading” link inserted. To read the full post, a reader needs to click on the link to be taken to the actual blog post. One little click. It certainly isn’t as convenient as having the full post in front of you, but is a fantastic way of saying “thank you” to all the blogs you love who offer inspiration. However, everyone’s time is valuable and there is an “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of your email and somewhere in your reader if truncated feeds just aren’t for you.
How can I check if my blog content is being stolen by scraper sites?
This article by Kissmetrics is excellent and will give you several different ways to check for stolen content.
- Pingbacks and Trackbacks in WordPress – One of the easiest ways I’ve found to check for stolen content is by checking my (WordPress) “pingbacks” and “trackbacks”. These let me know that someone has linked back to me. Why would a thief link back to me? Well they are not always doing so intentionally! For example, let’s say that someone steals my Tutes & Tips Not to Miss post where I have featured and linked back to many different bloggers including an older post of mine. I will receive a pingback from another site for this same post which let’s me know that my content has been stolen. Since Blogger blog’s don’t receive the same types of notifications as WordPress blogs, we can all help each other out by letting others know if we are “pinged” by weird sites! I will often let Sarah from Thrifty Decor Chick (who blogs on a Blogger platform) know that I was pinged from yet another site stealing her content (that included a link back to me—hence the ping). Sarah wins for having the most scraped site of the year!
- Google Alerts and Google Search – Setting up a Google Alert is another great way to monitor your content. Google Alert allows you to enter in a key phrase such as your blog name or post title and it will monitor the key phrases on the web and email you whenever those phrases pop up. You can also simply search for key phrases from your blog within Google search to see if your content is showing up elsewhere.
- Copyscape allows you to enter your url and it will tell you if some of your pages are showing up on other sites. Beware that not all of these results will be stolen content. If bloggers have added your site to their sidebar blogrolls, Copyscape might show those in the results.
Can you just give me a list of these sites so that I can search for my content or just avoid visiting these sites?
So sorry, but I’m not willing to publish any scraper url’s or mention their names which would simply give these sites more traffic and pagerank clout. If you use the methods mentioned above, you should be able to find any stolen content. If you are a reader who wants to avoid visiting these sites, I would encourage you to alert blog owners of sites who publish a full post or several pictures from a post that do not belong to them. I would also encourage you not to use any “live online” (meaning everyone can see it using the url) blog readers.
What about sites that use my feed in an iframe?
An iframe is a website within a website. They are confusing, and I strongly dislike them when used for displaying my content on another website. Iframes are used all the time in programming and are not in and of themselves “bad”; however, I just don’t want my content in full showing up on another site even if it is just within an iframe. Whether or not Google reads an iframe and gives the blog owner the full pageview credit is very debatable—some say yes, and some say no, and some say it all depends. Iframes are tricky business, and therefore I’m not a fan.
How can I protect my content?
Susan from Between Naps on the Porch wrote an excellent article on this topic and I encourage you to read her post for tips.
- Watermark your photos – This isn’t a complete safeguard, but it will help. I’ve had sites take the time to “clone out” my watermark. Sigh. If people want to steal they are going to, but you don’t want to make it easy for them. Picasa which is a free downloadable photo editing software will batch watermark all of your photos upon export, but it’s not a very pretty watermark. I choose to watermark my photos individually using ipiccy.com. There are other photo editing programs that will allow you to bath watermark your photos but I haven’t tried them. One is Visual Watermark.
- Configure your RSS feed so that it displays post summaries - Truncate! And yes, there are hacks that allow you to undo a truncated feed in your reader. You can research these on your own. But again, if someone is looking for an easy steal you don’t want to make it easy for them.
- Provide a copyright statement on your sidebar – Chances are very good that this will be ignored by a thief, but it doesn’t hurt to have one: © Beth Hunter and Home Stories A to Z formerly The Stories of A to Z, 2008-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. One picture with a link back may be used provided that full and clear credit is given to Beth Hunter and Home Stories A to Z with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
- Use a footer plugin (WordPress only) - If you are on WordPress you can go to your dashboard, click on Plugins, and then search for “copyright”. You will see that several plugins pop up for you to choose from to install. Installing a footer plugin will insert a box at the end of your post stating that your content is your own. If someone steals your content, others will be able to see that it is stolen.
What do I do if my content is stolen?
Start by contacting the offending site and ask them to remove your content. Typically they will ignore you. The next step is to contact their website host provider and even ad network to report the offense and to file something called a DMCA complaint. This article by Lorelle on WordPress is an excellent step-by-step tutorial on exactly how to go after content thieves.
How do I truncate my feed?
There are several ways that you can shorten your feed. I’m a visual girl, so I wanted my feed to have a snippet of my post along with my first picture or two. Feedburner settings didn’t allow me to do this so Lindsay from Living with Lindsay taught a bunch of us how to make it happen and I am going to teach you! If you are on a Blogger platform, you will need to hop over to read How to Truncate a Blogger Feed by Gina at The Shabby Creek Cottage.
2. Make sure the “Excerpt” box is checked. If it isn’t, check it.
3. Download and install the WP plugin called “TinyMCE Excerpt”. There is one called “WP TinyMCE Excerpt” but you want the one without the WP in front of it.
4. In your WP dashboard, go to Settings, Reading and change “For each article in a feed, show” to Summary. You DO NOT need to go into Feedburner to change your reading settings. If you have already, you will want to undo those changes.
6. Publish your post as normal, and your excerpt will appear in your feed! Note: Your older posts will show in your feed as just a regular summary and won’t be customized with a picture.It takes much longer to explain than it actually takes to do! I hope this helps bloggers protect their intellectual property a little bit better! Again, if someone wants to steal your content they are going to but you don’t have to sit back and make it easy for them. To all readers who are frustrated by the inconvenience, I apologize. Your time is valuable just like our content.
Now go forth and blog and read blogs with integrity!