This isn’t my usual type of post, but it’s something that’s been weighing on my mind lately, and I thought writing about it might help. For those of you who aren’t bloggers, feel free to skip this one. You won’t hurt my feelings. :)
As bloggers, we work very hard to create content that will be interesting and meaningful to our readers. It’s discouraging when others take our hard work and make it their own. I’m not talking about content scrapers. The ones that take your entire post, verbatim, including pictures, and re-post it to another blog like it’s new content. That’s annoying enough. What I’m talking about here is very different. In fact, it’s so common, you may have even done it yourself without meaning to.
To illustrate my point, let’s take a look at two scenarios.
A tale of two bloggers
Betsy blogs about a new idea. Lizzee sees Betsy’s post and likes the idea, so she blogs about it too. She painstakingly takes her own pictures and tells everyone, in her own words, all the details of Betsy’s idea. She includes Betsy’s link so that if her readers are interested, they will click through to read the original post on Betsy’s blog.
Betsy blogs about a new idea. Lizzee sees Betsy’s post and likes the idea, so she blogs about it too. She painstakingly takes her own pictures and mentions Betsy’s post and talks about why she likes her idea. She includes Betsy’s link so that if her readers are interested, they will click through to read the original post on Betsy’s blog.
Both scenarios are similar, and maybe both even seem innocent, but only one of them is the right way to do it. The other, well meaning as it may be (or not), is plagiarism. Also known as stealing.
So what makes one scenario stealing, and the other sharing? In the first scenario, very few of Lizzee’s readers will click through to Betsy’s blog. Why? Because all the information they need is right there in front of them, on Lizzee’s blog. Lizzee has effectively taken Betsy’s traffic. To some bloggers, it may not be a big deal. But to others who are trying to build an audience and increase traffic flow, it can mean everything. Especially if they’re trying to earn an income through that traffic.
In the second scenario, Lizzee’s interested readers will click through to Betsy’s post to read it because Lizzee has introduced the idea to her readers, not plagiarized it. Lizzee has helped to drive traffic to Betsy’s blog, instead of taking it away. She has gained credibility with her readers because they appreciate the useful information she has shared with them. She has also likely gained the respect of Betsy and countless other bloggers by sharing content this way.
How do you know if you’re stealing someone else’s traffic?
So how do you know if you’re sharing someone else’s content, or plagiarizing it? Read your post with an objective eye, and ask yourself this question:
“If this is the first time my readers are seeing this idea, how likely are they to click the link and visit the blog where the idea originated?”
Assuming you weren’t talking about how much you disliked the content in the original post, if the answer is “not likely,” then you’re probably plagiarizing. Even if you take your own pictures, use your own words, and offer a link, it’s still plagiarism. And it’s not right.
Do the right thing
Instead of plagiarizing, offer a snippet of the original content (a quote, a picture, a few words, etc.), along with a link and proper credit to the author. As Kait Nolan states in her blog post The Correct Way to Share,
The entire point of reblogging is to share someone else’s content in a way that gives the source credit and will drive traffic back to that original source. So all the people who post someone else’s entire post are not really reblogging. They’re plagiarizing.
And in case you missed it, the above is an example of the correct way to share.
Not to belabor the point, but I wanted to share one more example with you. This is from one of my early posts back in November of last year. It was about how to make a DIY Pottery Barn Roman Shade. Here’s what I said:
Then, following this tutorial (why reinvent the wheel, right?) that I found on Pinterest, I made my own roman blind, using the drape for the fabric.
I could have shown you each and every step of how I followed the tutorial (and you know I like my tutorials) but then very few of my readers would have gone to Jen’s blog, and I would have taken away over 1,500 visits to her blog, which is how many I’ve sent her way to date. Who knows how many comments or followers she has gained from those 1,500 visits. I know that’s not a lot to some of you, but it’s a lot to me, and more importantly, it may be a lot to her.
What to do if you’ve plagiarized someone else’s content
If you’ve plagiarized someone else’s content, consider going back and changing your post so that the owner of the original content will not only get the credit, but also the traffic they deserve. If it’s a recipe you’ve tried, remove the recipe, and put the link to the original post in its place. If it’s a tutorial you followed, remove the tutorial, keeping only those parts you might have done differently, or things you learned from following it. Will you lose some traffic? Possibly. But who knows, doing so might actually improve your traffic in the long run, because who doesn’t like an ethical blogger? :)
What you can do as a reader
Even if you are the most ethical blogger and have never plagiarized someone else’s content, there’s still something you can do to help combat this problem. If you come across a post where someone has clearly plagiarized another’s content, take the time to click once more and read the content on the original post. That goes for pinning too. Try to pin from the original source, not the person who plagiarized it. Chances are pretty good that if there’s one original idea on that other blog, there are probably more. And who knows, you may find a new favorite blog. :)
What to do if someone has plagiarized your content
In case you haven’t guessed it by now, I’ve run into this problem myself. It’s disheartening, to say the least. Particularly since the one doing the plagiarizing doesn’t even need my traffic. (I’m purposely not naming her, because that would drive even more traffic to her blog).
I’d like to be able to offer helpful suggestions to others about how to most effectively handle this situation, because up to this point, all I’ve done is stew about it. And write this post. Have you run into blatant plagiarizing of your content? If so, how did you handle it? Did you contact the blogger personally? Leave a comment? Ignore it? Blog about it? ;) I would love your input. Please leave a comment below and let me (and others) know about your experiences and any suggestions for handling it. Thanks a bunch.
Before I let you go, I wanted to share with you one more picture from our vacation. This one is from the Red Cliffs Lodge where we’re currently staying in Moab, Utah. That’s hubby and our little guy in the bottom left of the picture. The scenery is straight out of a western. In fact, many westerns have been filmed here, most recently The Lone Ranger. Definitely another highly recommended place to stay, if you’re in the area. Don’t believe me? Just ask Johnny Depp, who stayed here during filming!
I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better. Thanks for sticking around today. :)