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How to Deal With Content Scrapers: Customize The RSS Footer

How to Deal With Content Scrapers: Customize The RSS Footer

Photo by Slechtvalk at DeviantArt

Photo by Slechtvalk at DeviantArt

If you’ve been blogging for any amount of time, you have probably already dealt with content scrapers. What are content scrapers? Well, you know how you’ll see some site that uses portions of your posts and (sometimes) tracks back to your site? Basically, people write up a code and subscribe to your blog via RSS so that they can copy your content and make it appear on their site. Why do they do this? Well, because in order to get AdSense revenue, sites need content. They scrape your content, and then they can generate keywords for Google ads, and every once in a while, somebody will wander around the internet, stumble upon their site, and click on their ads. And this is how they make money.

Now, what you’re thinking is, how can they make money doing this? AdSense pays like one bazillionth of a cent per click. True, but if you have tons and tons of scraper sites, and you’re not generating any of the content, this could possibly turn into a lucrative business, particularly if you have some well-placed domains or “parked sites” (like www.gogle.com, for example, which might get people looking for google but misspelling it). Listen, I don’t know. But there are a bunch of them and they keep coming back like cockroaches, so I have to assume that somebody somewhere is making money from doing this.

What can you do?
The short answer is that you cannot do anything to stop content scrapers. Some people will write to people when they find a content scraper and ask them to take their stuff down. I guess this might work, but the truth is that if the scraper is just using a portion of your content, it’s probably not copyright infringement anyway, especially if they attribute it to you. But more important than the subtle nuances of patent law (about which I know nothing), I don’t think this is a good way to spend your time. After you’ve been blogging a while, you will have your content everywhere via scrapers. I’d much rather not chase all those people down, frankly. You might consider using a summary feed for your RSS on your blog, but personally, I don’t think this issue is big enough to warrant that. Summary feeds alienate your readers and ultimately don’t help your stats, in my totally unscientific opinion. I would stay away from them, personally.

What I do to deal with content scrapers is customize the footer of my RSS feed, so that at the very least, people will be seeing my footer if there is a site that tries to put my content up without attribution. It also makes it slightly more difficult to control the content of the scraper’s site, which appeals to me. It’s a stop-gap measure, and probably not all that effective in the final analysis, but I feel like it’s ultimately the best way to handle things without making myself crazy. Here’s what my footer looks like:

ABDPBT Tech Footer--customized with title, author, and site info on each post in RSS feed.

ABDPBT Tech Footer--customized with title, author, and site info on each post in RSS feed.

How do I customize my RSS footer?
There are several wordpress plugins for customizing your RSS footer or adding a copyright notice. The one I use is called Better Feed, which I like because it offers many options for styling the footer (adding dynamic information about the blog post and date, for example). The interface is pretty easy to use and can be customized to suit your purposes.

The BetterFeed settings panel allows you to customize a copyright footer.

The BetterFeed settings panel allows you to customize a copyright footer.

By the way, if you are selling advertising on your RSS feeds, you can use Better Feed to place ads in the feed as well–regular html and other styling works through the main panel.

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