You may have some content on your law firm’s website of which you are particularly proud. However, without you knowing it, someone may have copied all or part of one of your articles and have the text indexed in Google. The result of this is that when someone searches for the keywords you rank for, they will also get other sites popping up in the search results that show exactly the same information as your site. This is extremely annoying because it makes it difficult for your site to be seen as authoritative when it appears alongside a heap of trash. There is very little you can do to solve this problem. However, Google is finally starting to address the issue. Find out more about scrapers and spammers from articles appearing in Search Engine Journal , Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.
This article sets the scene on the issue of scraper sites. Most scrapers use a program to copy text from other pages. The presentation of that text is usually poor and it may join together text from several different sites. A lot of scrapers even include the author name and the name of the original website the text was stolen from, so they can rank for searches on your law firm’s name. Not only can your own pages get crowded out by spammy plagiarizers, but some of those sites can even rank higher than yours, because, being copies, they are newer than the original and benefit from a “freshness” ranking boost. To find out whether your content has been scraped, you just need to copy some of the text and paste it into a Google search. See if other sites come up in the search results showing exactly the same content as yours. Alternatively, copy all the text of an article into a plagiarism checker, such as the one at Small SEO Tools.
The difficulty of dealing with scraper sites is that Google has no mechanism that allows you to report copycats, and they won’t remove those sites on an ad hoc basis. So, you are left to fight the issue in court as a copyright infringement case. As a lawyer, you are ideally placed to pursue scrapers through the courts, but only if you can trace them. Every site has to be registered to an owner and that information can be found by typing “whois” followed by the domain name into a Google search, for example “whois jamesattorneymarketing.com.” However, if that site is registered to an address in Russia, or China, the feasibility of chasing the scraper through foreign courts is drastically reduced. Google now says it is dealing with this problem to weed out scraper sites. Fingers crossed that it works.
Google penalizes duplicate content, and its automatic procedures can’t always tell the difference between the original and the copier, so your legitimate original content will be down-ranked if someone scrapes its content. This article is slightly tangential to the topic of scraping and spamming, because it deals with duplication in the HTML code of your site. If your law firm’s site was generated out of a website assembling service then every page is likely to have the same tags in it. Not only are these tags duplicated on your site, but also on every other site that used the same website generator. So, your site may appear spammy because Google’s programs look at the HTML of a page, not at its finished appearance in the browser.
The damage scrapers can do to your website’s ability to get clients for your firm is increasing each year. As the Web-savvy generation grows up, the use of the Web is becoming ingrained as the primary medium to find services. This report explains that law firms increasingly get their clients from their websites. The influence of word of mouth is still more important than Web searches as a source of clients. However, the younger generation is more likely to hire you because of your website, rather than because of recommendations.
No matter how much of an authority you are on your area of specialization in the law, you have to build an online reputation through your website as well in order to project authority. This effort is seriously undermined by scraper sites, so Google’s plans to get rid of scraper results will really help your online marketing work. If you find spammy sites have copied text from your articles, you will probably have to take those pages off your site and rewrite them, so they no longer include the copied text. This article explains the concept of authority and will help you gain a good reputation online.