Back in the mid-2000s, the term backlinking was often associated with shady practices of link-building.
It was not uncommon to stumble on a website or a blog that contains large chunks of jibberish text and hyperlinks. Shady SEO marketers were using these sites to artificially inflate their SEO ranks so that they appeared on top of Google search results.
Then Google stepped in and put an end to all these nonsense, by tweaking their search engine’s algorithm. Since the introduction of the Panda update, Google has effectively killed off this unethical practice.
Even today, Google is still making changes to its search engine algorithm, which makes low-quality content an ineffective way to rank in Google search results.
Instead, only websites that produce top quality and highly relevant content will be able to depend on their content to rank on top of the world’s largest search engine.
Today, Backlinking can involve using guest blogging, social media sharing, and even user reviews, but it all depends on having quality, relevant content on your site too.
But, if you know how to obtain links to your content from top sites in a relevant fashion, you will never run out of traffic for your website.
Backlinks are still important to Google, and therefore you should really care about them too.
But then another issue arises from this – Because of the constant demand for quality content, your own original content sometimes ends up at somebody else’s website. As a result, they are syphoning traffic away from you by using your content!
The problem with getting your content swiped
In today’s world of information, it is nearly impossible to prevent anyone from stealing your content. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and this is usually proof of how great your content actually is.
A recent study by RavenTools revealed that nearly half of pages have a low word count or duplicated content issues.
This guide will show you how to get sites which use your content for their own purposes to link back to the original article, as well as measures you can take to prevent them from getting stolen.
Whether it’s a blatant swipe or the writer simply forgot to give you credit, you can easily turn these situations into opportunities to increase your reach. So don’t treat them as your enemy, but an ally for your business and brand.
After all, they are using your content, which means that you must be writing stuff that is good enough for them to use.
Therefore, for the rest of the article, I will refer to the person who has swiped your content, and whom you are writing to request for links as your Backlink Buddy (or BB).
Practical ways to Request for Backlinks
Link reclamation is the practice of identifying links from other publishers who have mentioned your brand or content but didn’t provide any links back to your website.
When Most people see someone stealing their content, their immediate reaction is anger. They start sending stern warnings, threaten with lawsuits to force the Backlink Buddy to take down the copied content.
They will usually ignore you.
Being aggressive –such as using copyright law or license part of your pitch makes you sound rude and is a sure way to get your email straight into the trash.
Instead, you should do it by professionally conducting yourself – that means you use strategies to influence their decisions.
You should put some effort to build relationships with your Backlink Buddy before you can expect them to take the effort to go to their site’s dashboard and provide you the links that you’ve requested. Even if they’ve had used your content, you’ll still need them to be on your side and to give you something really valuable: A link to your website!
In the world of SEO (search engine optimisation), links come in 2 flavours – follow and nofollow links.
Follow links are considered more valuable than nofollow links because these give you the most amount of SEO juice for your website. Therefore we are looking to get follow links to get web traffic directed back to our website.
I am going to lay out 8 different tactics that I use to reclaim backlinks. Using these methods, you can dramatically increase the chances of your Backlink Buddy following through with your requests. I’ve also included email examples that you can adapt for your own strategies.
1. Create a Valuable Resource to Link To
Let’s say you’re a business that sells pet supplies. Another website swiped your article on house training puppies.
Instead of hitting the BB with an unfriendly takedown warning, do the opposite – offer him a valuable resource.
Create and give him a PDF guide, an infographic, powerpoint-style Youtube video, or a printable ebook about house-training small puppies. Make sure that the info is comprehensive, unique and relevant to the BB. More importantly, include a link that leads straight back to your own website.
This Valuable Resource is going to be the foundation for the rest of the strategies, so make sure you make one.
Now you may be feeling apprehensive about spending extra time and effort to create a valuable resource. But think of it this way, think of it as a piece of marketing content that you can freely distribute, like a brochure.
Once it’s done, it’s time to send the email.
Hello (blog or website owner’s name),
I wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your article on (topic).
I would also like to thank you for sharing my article and using my information to spread the word!
Here’s an (infographic, e-book, course) I’ve created that explains (topic) in a way that’s easy to digest.
(Remark one or two points from your resource.)
Here’s the link: (include link)
Let me know if you think this would be useful for your audience!
Notice that I actually praise him for sharing my content, and even go as far as to flatter him. Instead of going on about accusing him of content theft, thank him for finding value in your work and encourage him to share more.
2. Become Friends
If a guy on the street walks up to you and asks for £20, how would you feel? Would you hand him the money?
What about a close friend or a family member walks up to you and asks for £20. How would you react?
It’s all part of human behaviour. We tend to be less empathetic or responsive towards favours from people we don’t know. But fortunately, we can turn this around and use it for our benefit.
So, how exactly do you make yourself known?
With social media, of course. Anyone can become famous using social media nowadays, and with a bit of effort, you can become a mini-celebrity in your niche.
With social media, you can easily interact and interact with the BB by replying to his posts or tagging others in comments. Use Facebook, Disqus, and Gravatar to comment frequently on their page or blog.
The key is to be frequently present, so he or she knows of your presence. You can even go further by trying to starting discussions with him in the comments section. Instead of replying ‘great post’ or ‘I agree,’ talk about your own perspective and experience on the blog post subject matter.
Continue to do it until you feel you have built some connection with the person. Once you do, it’s time to send him that email!
Hello (backlink buddy), You probably remember me from the discussions we’ve been having on (social media network or blog post). I enjoyed talking about (a topic you were discussing). That makes a lot of sense! I saw the article about (topic)on your blog the other day. I think it’s great that you find my information valuable, and I want to thank you for sharing it with everyone. I actually have a (video, PDF guide, infographic, etc.) that covers (related topic). Here’s the link, in case you’d like to reference it in your blog post: (include link) Either way, I’ll be keeping updated on your blog posts, they’re really awesome!
Hello (backlink buddy),
You probably remember me from the discussions we’ve been having on (social media network or blog post). I enjoyed talking about (a topic you were discussing). That makes a lot of sense!
I saw the article about (topic)on your blog the other day. I think it’s great that you find my information valuable, and I want to thank you for sharing it with everyone.
I actually have a (video, PDF guide, infographic, etc.) that covers (related topic).
Here’s the link, in case you’d like to reference it in your blog post: (include link)
Either way, I’ll be keeping updated on your blog posts, they’re really awesome!
3. Anticipate what your Backlink Buddy wants
This works well if your BB is a high-authority blog.
Before most authority blogs hit ‘publish’ on their new content, they look out for relevant posts and information sources that can link and refer to inside their articles. So that before their content goes live, it already has all the sources of info it needs.
For you, that means this is the best opportunity to provide them the resource for their upcoming article.
By simply anticipating their needs, you can catch them before their content goes live. This isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Look through the content of the blog or website in its entirety. Go through all their previous posts, and you’ll be able to predict what sort of material they are going to publish next. It will be even easier if you and the targeted blog are in the same niche.
Create the resource that is relevant to the upcoming article, then send him or her the email.
Hello (Backlink Buddy), I’ve been reading your blog for some time now. I really enjoy your article on (the type of post that you enjoy). Could you tell me if your content team is planning a resource/article on (the topic of your resource)? I’m creating a (case study, e-book) right now that deals with (topic). (Here, you’ll want to add about 2 to 3 good points about your resource. Keep it short, but be as specific as you can). Let me know if this (resource) sounds interesting to you!
Hello (Backlink Buddy),
I’ve been reading your blog for some time now. I really enjoy your article on (the type of post that you enjoy).
Could you tell me if your content team is planning a resource/article on (the topic of your resource)?
I’m creating a (case study, e-book) right now that deals with (topic).
(Here, you’ll want to add about 2 to 3 good points about your resource. Keep it short, but be as specific as you can).
Let me know if this (resource) sounds interesting to you!
4. Replace Outdated Resources
Blogs with a ton of content usually have a lot of dead links or outdated information that they have not updated. Sometimes it’s due to the lack of time or resources, or they may have simply fallen off the radar.
Nobody reader will like to get their hands on dead links or outdated info, so your task is to locate all the broken or outdated links, and offer to replace them with your Valuable Resource.
There are tools available online that you can use for free to crawl for broken links on any blog, such as Link Checker.
Finding old articles is going to be a little more challenging. You’re going to have to look through the website and manually pick out information that is no longer relevant or outdated.
Another method is to check if any of their older, outdated articles have backlinks coming to your BB, using an online research tool like Monitor Backlinks. But you’ll need to pay to use this tool.
Once you have created a list of old and broken links, you’re in a treasure-trove of opportunities to backlink. All you need to do is create the Valuable Resources to replace these links, and send the email.
Hello (backlink buddy), I was looking for information on (topic), and I stumbled upon this great article on your blog, (title). It’s a well thought out piece of content. But I noticed that this post has an outbound link to (website). I was reading through this reference and found some of the points outdated date. (or ‘I found that some of the links are no longer available’). Recently, I ‘ve written this (Valuable Resource) which is related to the topic on (title). Here’s the link: (include link) (Include a short sentence which summarises the highlights of your article.) Maybe you will find an interesting reference for your post. Anyway, thanks for the info on (the topic of the blog post you initially mentioned)!
Hello (backlink buddy),
I was looking for information on (topic), and I stumbled upon this great article on your blog, (title).
It’s a well thought out piece of content. But I noticed that this post has an outbound link to (website).
I was reading through this reference and found some of the points outdated date. (or ‘I found that some of the links are no longer available’).
Recently, I ‘ve written this (Valuable Resource) which is related to the topic on (title). Here’s the link: (include link)
(Include a short sentence which summarises the highlights of your article.)
Maybe you will find an interesting reference for your post.
Anyway, thanks for the info on (the topic of the blog post you initially mentioned)!
5. Turn Mentions of you into Backlinks
Sometimes your Backlink Buddy mentions your name or quotes you in his article, but doesn’t leave any links back to you. This can be frustrating because it doesn’t provide any organic traffic back to your website.
Fortunately for you, in this case, you most likely already have the upper hand. That’s because your Backlink Buddy who has mentioned you (probably) already likes you, and likely be open to the idea of adding a link to that mention if you ask him.
But first, you need to locate the articles that mention your name or your website. This can be done by using Google, or a keyword search tool simply called Mention.
You can also run a search across social media platforms using Buzzsumo. Try searching for your name, website or brand within social media like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. This will show you who has been mentioning you on social media.
Once you have located those mentions, it’s time for a quick email.
Hello (Backlink Buddy who already likes me), I noticed that you mentioned me in your article/post about (topic). You can’t imagine how happy I was to find my name on the internet! I’m so glad that you enjoyed (whatever they mentioned about you in the article/post). I want to thank you. Also, can you do me a favour: Could you to include a link to my website along with my name? I would gladly appreciate it! By the way, here’s a (Valuable Resource) for you to share with your (readers/followers). (In this case, the Valuable Resource can be optional) Thank you again for the mention!
Hello (Backlink Buddy who already likes me),
I noticed that you mentioned me in your article/post about (topic). You can’t imagine how happy I was to find my name on the internet!
I’m so glad that you enjoyed (whatever they mentioned about you in the article/post).
I want to thank you.
Also, can you do me a favour: Could you to include a link to my website along with my name?
I would gladly appreciate it!
By the way, here’s a (Valuable Resource) for you to share with your (readers/followers). (In this case, the Valuable Resource can be optional)
Thank you again for the mention!
Protecting your content by making it shareable
No, you can’t stop people from plagiarising your content. But you can incentivise your Backlink Buddy to link back to your website, or even encourage your readers to share and like your website content.
When your content becomes highly-shared, your website will gain the advantage in authority. Your readers will know if someone else has stolen your content. They become your eyes and ears. You would be surprised how often I’ve received emails from my readers telling me some website has stolen my content.
Build a network of social media influencers by platforms.
Share your content with these networks, mention them in your social media posts or message them directly about your new articles. Build a rapport with your followers. Offer them something extra that isn’t mentioned in the article you've published, or give them info before you publish the article.
Add social media sharing buttons on your pages
Nowadays, most modern sites have a floating toolbar that allows users to share content on their social media platform of choice (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, etc.). These buttons are great because it lets users share them almost instantaneously. But more importantly, they make sure that the social media post links back to you correctly so that you won’t lose any traffic.
Using your email list
In case you don’t know your email list is one of the most powerful assets to your business because it allows you to build one-on-one relationships with your readers.
Using your email list, you can automate an email responder that sends out whenever you have just published an article. Alternatively, you can send them information on the articles you are about to publish. This will build personal relationships with your readers, and they will be more likely to share your future content too.
Design attention-grabbing infographics
Infographics are great because they are highly shareable on social media. You can use online tools such as Canva to design professional-looking infographics in minutes. Choose a topic that is highly interesting to your audience. Any info that touches on money, relationships, health and is relevant to your niche will do very well on social media.
Reward people for sharing
Everybody loves free stuff. You can use discounts, free gifts, or even a series of Valuable Resources that you can continue to reward your readers for sharing your content. The only issue is what is free for your audience might not be free for you (you’ll either spend money or time to make them), so use this method wisely, and in the most effective way possible.
Put up informative content
By constantly add highly informative blog articles to your homepage, you can gradually build authority for your website. Your article should be long, educational and highly relevant. These should be the main reason why people are visiting your site to find out. Update the information regularly, or better yet, make the information evergreen so you can continue to use this article for years to come.
Tweak your website visual style
Sometimes your content doesn’t get shared enough because of the visual elements of your website. The size of the text, the colours used or the background of the website all plays a role in making your site more user-friendly. Today, most users consume web content on their phones. Make sure your web content is readable on mobile devices, and buttons are clickable with fingers. You’ll be surprised there are still a ton of websites out there that are not optimised for mobile screens. This gives your website poor user experience and a dated look.
Use media to keep your content engaging
If your content is too text heavy, your readers can easily lose focus and interest. Readers nowadays have a short attention span, so you shouldn’t bore them with large chunks of text. Always use pictures and videos to break up the monotony and keep your readers engaged.
Optimise your headlines
Experiment and tweak the headlines of your content to get the highest click rate. While short, witty and smart headlines work well in traditional mediums like newspapers and magazine, they tend to perform poorly online. Forget them and go for highly descriptive and longer headlines instead, so readers will know what they are expecting when they click on your link. Never use clickbait headlines to deceive your readers.
What about images?
If you are a content provider that produces graphics and images (such as a graphic designer or photographer), there are a couple of ways you can protect your content.
There are image recognition companies that can reverse-search and identify images that are stolen from you. Once you recognised them, you can follow the steps above to request a backlink.
One such company is TinEye, which lets you look up stolen logos, infographics or even companies’ staff photos that are used without your permission. You can also use Google Image Search to look for similar-looking images.
For something a little more low tech, you can embed a code into your image using an Embed Code Generator. Embedding code on your images is like engraving your name onto your bike. While you won’t be able to stop anyone from stealing it, it reduces the chances of someone not referencing or crediting you.
Preventing your images from getting stolen
Unfortunately, there are no real methods of preventing images from being stolen either. Even if your pictures are completely locked up, anyone can still steal your pictures with a simple screenshot.
Some of the most common ways that are used by content producers include placing a watermark over your image.
While it may look more aesthetically pleasing to place the watermark at the corner of your images, your Backlink Buddy can just crop out the watermark. So always place your watermark across the whole image (like an overlay) to make it more difficult to remove with image tools.
Other methods include placing a copyright warning at the footer of your webpage, or a DMCA badge to deter would-be thieves from stealing your images. It works similarly to how some houses have a warning sign that says they are protected by a burglar alarm system.
If you are using Wordpress for your website, there are some plugins such as Shrinkwrap that can protect your images.
What it does is automatically add a small invisible image on top of your real image. So if anyone tries to download your image, they will download the invisible image instead.
Do note that this plugin does not prevent image downloads entirely either since anyone determined enough can still steal them.
Should I disable right-clicking to prevent theft?
The short answer is no. It’s just not worth the time or effort.
While most people can easily steal content by using the right-click menu, implementing a right click blocker is not easy if you’re not a skilled programmer.
There are also a ton of browser extensions available that can easily disable all your blocking efforts. And any visitor with a 104-key keyboard can easily access the right-click menu with a button, which means that your right click blocker does nothing more than to annoy your website visitors.
If all else fails – Google can help
You’ve tried to play nice with your Backlink Buddy, you gifted him your Valuable Content and asked him nicely to link your content back to you. But he ignores you, or maybe he asked you to get lost. And now he is on the first page of Google search results, and you’re on the fourth page. What should you do now?
Should you seek legal advice? Maybe.
But before you do that, there is another way you can try to get rid of your plagiarised content – Getting the content delisted from Google with a DMCA takedown.
How to inform Google
Tell Googlethat your Backlink Buddy has copied your work and has been uncooperative with your requests, and provide evidence to prove you are the original creator of the content. Once it is approved, Google will outright delete your Backlink Buddy’s website from their search results and put your website in their place. The process should take around 2 to 7 days.
Why does this method work? Simple – nobody wants to be invisible on the largest search engine on the planet.
Not being on Google means a massive loss of traffic or revenue. Also, when you get hit with DMCA, it can be a pain in the rear for the culprit to reverse the decision.
Personally, I have never used it, because I have never felt the need to. But if you are losing a significant portion of your profits due to the loss of traffic or sales, using a DMCA is a less costly method to get rid of stolen content.
Google’s stance on copied content
When it comes to taking down content on Google, there has been quite a lot of confusion.
In essence, Google wants to reward content providers with unique, relevant and informative content by listing them high on their search rankings. Over the years, they are constantly raising the bar.
That means any website that plagiarises, copies and republishes content found on websites are going to have an uphill battle to do well in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages).
While Google penalises the duplicating website per say, but if the site is filled with only republished content – Google won’t rank it above other websites who are providing more valuable content.
Another way to use Google
Google Alerts is an excellent tool for marketing or PR purposes. But in this case, we can use it to monitor any mentions of your name, website or business that has come online recently. Once Google’s crawling bot picks up any mentions, it will send you an email to inform you. You can also opt to receive an alert once a day so you won’t be bombarded with a ton of email alerts.
Best of all, it is easy to setup and Google will send you a daily email digest once a day with the details. Just go to Alerts and type in your URL or brand name, and you’re good to go.
Here’s an excellent tip to supercharge your Google Alerts setting – Include common misspellings of your brand name in your search terms. Some publishers may spell your name wrong, and you can use it as an opportunity to reach out to them to correct it, as well as a request for a backlink.
Misspells can include:
- a digit in a brand name (Heart2Heart Travels instead of HearttoHeart Travels )
- An unusual way of spelling names (Jaime Jamie)
- US UK spelling (Flavor vs. Flavour)
The only way to completely stop anyone from taking your content is to stay completely offline.
Unless you want to give up your online business to protect your intellectual property, you shouldn’t be so worked up about your content being used by others. It just doesn’t make sense for you or your business.
That’s because reclaiming your backlinks doesn’t always have to sound like a desperate plead if you know how to do it correctly.
The above methods that I’ve covered are actual ways to offer real value to the person you’re contacting, making the request feel more like a benefit than a favour.
With all of your emails, it’s vital that you sound professional, but without coming across like an automated machine. Make sure all your emails sound personal to the recipient and how your Valuable Resource can benefit them.
To prevent other people from stealing your content, you should encourage your readers and followers to share your content so you can quickly become an authority in your niche. And when that happens, you won’t have to worry about other sites stealing your thunder.
Lastly, if all else fails, you can find take legal actions, or let Google know by filing a DMCA takedown.
About Murray Dare
A digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur,
Murray runs his marketing agency Murraydare.co.uk and several online startups.
Murray has helped startups and businesses achieve online success through a considered approach to marketing.