It could feasibly happen to anybody that owns and operates a website, somebody using your active public content on a similar domain to yours (or an old one) for their own, usually malicious, purposes. Freeola Chat Forum user Hmmm... found himself in such a situation in the past few weeks. Hopefully his story can assist you if you find yourself in a similar situation.
I had a domain name registered and in use for around 12 years (all via Freeola/GetDotted naturally!) when I decided to move to a new more suitable name. I moved the website to the new domain name and kept the old name registered for a couple of years, directing any visitors with old Bookmarks etc. to the new address. The website had a number of inbound links from decent sites and I managed to successfully get all the links updated to the new address.
Always Check Your Visitor Stats
Earlier this year I decided to let the old name expire as you can’t keep everything for ever. I noticed that someone else (anonymously) registered the old name within a short time. But as it was only being ‘parked’ with no activity on it, I thought no more about it until I happened to be trawling through my visitor analytics following searches that people use to find my site and I noticed the old address had popped back up into the results!
Investigating carefully, in case it was something malicious, I found some lowlife had put a few pages together using random articles from my live website along with a number of images all taken without permission.
The site wasn’t a replica, just something thrown together using WordPress, but all the content and images were mine!
...All apart from an additional section on the home page linking to a US Real Estate website.
I visited the property website and used the contact details to send a polite email informing the owner in simple terms what I had found.
Giving them the benefit of doubt, I said that I could only think an ‘over keen’ search engine company may have set this up and plagiarised my content with the aim of improving their search engine results?
No reply for a day or two
With no response I decided to submit DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take down requests with both Google and Bing as I wasn’t happy with the new owner of the domain using my content and images and also confusing people looking for the original site here in the UK.
The addresses to do this are here.
Removing Content From Google
Microsoft/Bing – Copyright Infringement
Google allow you to monitor the requests via Webmaster Tools, specifically the DMCA Dashboard.
Microsoft sent email confirmations that the request had been successfully received.
After giving the Real Estate people a few days I followed up with another (still polite) email asking for a reply. This time I received a reply saying they would investigate and get back to me. Half an hour later ALL the stolen content had been removed! I wrote back thanking them and explained if an SEO company did this for them then it can backfire; so it’s worth checking what they are up to if they were employing one!
Unfortunately there are many dodgy Search Engine people out there so it’s easy to get caught out. When Google and Bing receive DMCA complaints it’s possible they can end up penalising the site and those that they link to – obviously having the opposite effect of what was trying to be achieved!
A few hours later I got another email from a US SEO company “reaching out to me” and assuring me all the content had been removed!
Always try to be polite :¬)
If you are a website owner be careful if you should sign up to any Search Engine Optimisation offers you will receive on a regular basis. I'm always very suspect of any company cold calling me with SEO offers!
Hopefully that's the happy end to my story - and I'm not hit by a Black Hat SEO comeback stronger than my own ;¬)