Take the 2-minute tour ×
Webmasters Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for pro webmasters. It's 100% free, no registration required.

There is a site of ill-repute known as thedirty which has completely mirrored my site and now has links appearing on Google at the #1 spot using my content. I checked my log files and noticed that this site has been crawling mine for sometime, and also has 10,000 links from their site to mine.

I have blocked user access which is referred from this site and reported them as web spam to Google already. I also disavowed the domain.

How are they getting top links in Google (even overtaking mine) for such nefarious tactics? What are the steps to completely eliminating an issue such as this?

UPDATE 8/28/2014:

I thought I would provide an update on this as I have more information now. So thedirty pointed their subdomains to my ip which had the effect of making their subdomains look like my website.

For a couple of days this didn't matter much because using htaccess, I redirected all HOSTS not of my domain, back to my domain which basically meant I was getting their subdomains traffic links on Google. After a couple of days thedirty changed their subdomains to point back to their website so that I no longer benefit from this.

So the whole point being they used my content to get top ranks on Google, and are now pointing those links back to their website to drive more traffic to theirs.

It is a dirty tactic by a dirty website. My hope is that Google punishes such behavior.

share|improve this question
2  
I edited out the part where you question their motive as that is off-topic here. But good question otherwise. –  John Conde Aug 21 at 14:46
1  
Website cloning seems to be a new trick, a lot of websites are misused at the moment. There are news at Heise (german) about this topic. The usual solution (aside from reporting the fake-site) seems to be, to feed special content to the IP-adresses of the crawlers, so they will for example show a link to your real site. –  martinstoeckli Aug 21 at 15:21
1  
Another worry for the future -- now that Google has taken such a harsh stance against webspam -- is that competitors will purposely post my content on sites of bad reputation to hurt my reputation. Or will post spammy looking blogs pointing to my site without my knowledge. –  Marlboro Goodluck Aug 21 at 15:37
3  
@Jarrod Roberson: not really, anybody knows about a law suit, but how many of a tehnical solution?! –  machineaddict Aug 22 at 12:14
1  
@JarrodRoberson Yet it is a problem faces exclusively by webmasters, and is therefore very on-topic for this site because asking it here will get responses from people who've also had to deal with it. It also seems people have submitted several technical solutions alongside the legal ones. –  thanby Aug 22 at 17:31

6 Answers 6

If they're just mirroring your site by feeding your site through a proxy script or regurgitating your HTML verbatum, you can add canonical URLs to your pages. This will let Google know your content is the original source and to show your URL in the search results, not their's.

Submit a DMCA request to Google. They're a little slow with them but they will ultimately remove those pages from their index.

Disavowing the links is a smart move.

I don't know if blocking the users is helpful though. Maybe putting a message at the top of your pages for them letting them know you are the original site and the other is a fraud might be a better solution.

share|improve this answer
    
Canonical URL's do not always help. The script that mirrored my site changed the canonical URL's to point to the fake site as well; so it was pointless. –  CaptainCodeman Sep 1 at 1:17

You can file a DMCA complaint and if you are in the U.S., you can file a copyright civil law suit.

Here is a link to a short answer that explains how the DMCA complaint can help anyone:

Do you have to be in the United States to file a DMCA complaint?

... and another one the explains more...

How much of your content needs to be copied before you can file a DMCA complaint?

If you are in the U.S., you can hire a lawyer that is familiar with copyright issues and have them send a cease and desist letter. Give them 10 days (real days and not business days though business days would be fine too) to remove the content. You want to capture snap-shots of the offending site for your evidence and snap-shots of your site as well. If you check to see if a page has been removed, check the site directly and not search results.

If the page has not been removed within the time period, you can file a federal civil case that will take at least $10,000 to defend and hardly cost you anything. You will be in the drivers seat. It is likely that a settlement can be had for at least $10,000 and possibly more. You can get your costs back too. What is important is to offer a no-cost option to rectify the problem hence the cease and desist letter. After that, you are clear to file a case without responsibility to the defendant.

One other note is that you will need to demonstrate damages if you go to court. Loss of search traffic is damages. Here you will work with your attorney to collect metrics that illustrate loss of traffic and you will need to monetize the value of that traffic. Of course you can assume higher numbers here even with a %100 conversion rate. Just in case, I would be collecting metrics on traffic loss using Google Analytics and your log file analysis software today and into the future.

Please know that filing a case is not difficult or very expensive especially compared to the damages you are experiencing now and into the future. Copyright infringements have been going down lately, but those few that violate copyright are much bolder these days. We need to stop these people and the only real way is to put a cost factor into the business strategy that makes copyright infringement non-profitable.

share|improve this answer
2  
The entire problem you're sidestepping is that discovering who is behind the site is virtually impossible. I mean, they would've to be idiots to make it easy to trace the site back to an actual individual. –  David Mulder Aug 22 at 18:20
1  
@DavidMulder No sidestepping. A lawyer can subpoena the companies for the information they need. Even a kind letter is enough. If the information is not provided, then the attorney can require a deposition in court before a judge with a penalty of jail time if they do not show up, or provide the information requested. In the U.S., there is no hiding from the law- civil or otherwise. This still works internationally with some exception. –  closetnoc Aug 22 at 18:39
    
@closetnoc: The company may not want to provide the information freely, or even be at liberty to do so. It is no certainty that a court will issue a subpoena or that the trail will remain in its jurisdiction. You may find yourself in a very costly and lengthy legal battle with a third party who might not even know the offender's real name. Judging by your thorough answer, you are undoubtatly aware of these obstacles, but I have to side with David Mulder: I think you're understating how difficult it is to trace the site back to an individual. –  Marcks Thomas Aug 23 at 19:26
    
@closetnoc: Yeah, except the hosting provider doesn't have the correct information. And the payment was probably done with a prepaid creditcard or some other prepaid card, a stolen creditcard, a bitcoin or some other untraceable transaction mechanism. Oh, and the hosting provider might not even be in the US in the first place. It's called the internet, like it or not. –  David Mulder Aug 23 at 22:09
    
@DavidMulder I appreciate what you are saying. I am in the security business especially in the area of research on how to find the bad guys. Mostly of what you are talking about would be Chinese, Russian, or Polish. Still there are ways of determining who these people are through patterns and such. They give themselves away. This is specifically what I do. You have to try. You cannot just roll-over. A good Internet lawyer know people like me and how to get information. One thread is all I need and I usually get it. But it can be a real effort. But that is worst case scenario stuff. –  closetnoc Aug 24 at 2:22

You could track their IP (or IPs) and return totally different content for them to mirror - whatever you like. This way you get free space for advertising whatever, and you can use their high position in Google to your advantage.

I once used this to simply explain to the users on the mirrored website that this is the wrong domain. You can also post a simple HTTP redirect header.

share|improve this answer
7  
I actually find this pretty funny for some reason. +1 –  Mehrdad Aug 23 at 8:55
1  
they will probably not clone HTTP headers, but you can send them javascript animations and funny Marquee style banners yelling 'this is a ripoff' and good old animated gifs :P –  Florian Fida Aug 23 at 21:59
    
can also use meta tags and javascript redirects, one of the three will almost surely work. in any case, this is not a stable solution and will work only until they find out and start working against it. @Mehrdad, I guess it's funny because it's hacky :) –  Igor R Aug 24 at 11:58
    
it also occured to me it's funny because the attacker is actually opening a vulnerability on himself, by letting the victim to his (attackers) playground, even if he can stop it at any time. which makes the attacker look pretty stupid. –  Igor R Aug 25 at 9:10
    
Their high position in Google is replacing the high position of the original website, so it's not really "free advertising". –  CaptainCodeman Sep 1 at 1:22

A little late for you but best idea to protect your website (in the future) would be this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3pNLB3Cq24 (defcon 21, defense by numbers) faking the return code so users will see the content but bots will

  • throw the content away
  • crawl in circles
  • stop working

other possible ideas - make sure that your users don't see any of this:

  • let them save GB of information (while there are only a few kb on your server)
  • make the bots flood their own memory with fake links
  • send fake content (100% boolsh*t - you need to write stuff - like "Obama pregnant", "Spider-Man 5 - next summer", ... so your thieves can host it...)
  • send fake files (like 42.zip, if they do not check the copied content their users will have fun --> AV tools will show that something is wrong --> users will be p*ss*d...)
  • let them wait for more data (file size = 1-10 MB and send random cr*p with 1 Byte/s or less)

other ideas:

  • links protected by Javascript (old, no use anymore? but if they remain unchanged users will be send to you (for a while))
  • dynamic garbage (use comments or invisble items to make the bots download stuff users can't see - good bots won't fall for this)
  • block ip adresses that download too much / too fast / the wrong way (bots do not behave like humans 1) every link on each page 2) there is a pattern or total chaos in the way they choose the next link(s))
  • use Javascript to redirect to your server if the files are not hosted by your server (no help against theft but the thieves have to remove it or their users won't stay on their page - you could code it into different routines (like content decryption))
share|improve this answer
    
I have my own code that I still need to tune some that blocks spiders. I will be looking into your ideas because that is the kind of guy I am! ;-) Great tips! –  closetnoc Aug 22 at 15:50
2  
The problem with blocking spiders and bots is that you probably don't want all of them blocked. Google's is pretty important, for example, if you want people to be able to find your website. (And since Google has your site in its cache, a web crawler doesn't actually need to crawl your site to duplicate it). –  trlkly Aug 22 at 19:29
    
If you're going to deliberately give them something alternate - I prefer Igor's answer of making it beneficial to you (redirect/say it's wrong/host ads) rather than fighting back. –  Ollie Ford Aug 22 at 20:42

Like others have mentioned, filing a DMCA complaint and a copyright civil law suit may be the best options.

For the new content that you publish, you can consider notifying about your site updates on social media (Twitter, Facebook etc.) as soon as you post. The timestamp recorded there can be a fair indicator that you wrote first in case you have to prove it. Through Google Webmaster Tools, you can enforce a setting to have Googlebot crawl your site often. Assuming, popular search engines index your web-pages regularly (use the site operator, site:example.com, to find out) the date in the cached copy can be used as a rough indicator of when the content was published.

Also for the new content that you publish, you can embed watermarks within images and place comments within JS files indicating that you are the original owner of those files.

share|improve this answer
    
If there is a bot copying the content, he could simply include authorship information in the page, so the copied content would contain something like "This was created by Foo, all rights reserved" which makes a really clear case (you could eg. hide that in acrostic, but being a bot, it will work in plain text, and make your case stronger). –  Ángel Aug 24 at 20:34

This is called a Google Proxy Hack, and it happened to me as well.

First things first:

  • Submit a DMCA complaint to the Web Host. Use this link to create a correctly formed complaint, and send it to the host's support or abuse email. If the host is in the US, they must take down the site. Even if they are not based in the US, they may choose to take down the site anyway. (That happened to me once.)
  • Use Google DMCA tool to request the mirrored URL's be removed from its search results.
  • Use Google's Scraper Report to report the failure in Google's algorithm.

Fundamentally though, this a failure on Google's part. For all that they say about ranking being based on "quality original content", this is an absurdly simple counter-example that quite frankly is just embarrassing.

Hopefully if enough people complain about it, eventually Google will get its act together and write the 10 lines of code it takes to check that a site is an exact mirror of a previously established site.

Also, be aware that using canonical URLs do not always work in this instance. Many of these proxy scripts change the canonical URLs to point to the mirror site, thus rendering them useless.

Finally, be aware that they may have also spammed your main site with garbage links in order to damage your rankings. (This happened to me as well.)

If you do some searching and creative thinking, there are some ways to fight back. I really don't think it's a good idea to publish a complete list here because that just makes the hackers' lives easier.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.