This is the step where we get to have a little bit of fun with the scrapers. At this level of escalation we might cause a little bit of collateral damage to the site’s reputation (if it actually has a user-base and community like the one I’ve come up against recently) – so let’s not rush in to the fun part even if its tempting to start off with this.
The basic problem with scrapers is that they’re stealing your content, so why not give them some content they’d actually rather not have? In this case, I decided to post a simple article describing the situation:
With the bait in place, it didn’t take long to get a bite on the line.
OK, remember, there’s actually a purpose to this beyond having fun at the expense of someone who has wronged you! Although, now that I’m thinking about it, that’s probably a good enough reason to go through this step of the escalation process.
If the emails haven’t gotten anyone’s attention yet, this kind of move almost certainly will. And sure enough, the administrators of the forum came in and deleted the poisoned bait post within a few hours of publishing it. Someone over there was finally starting to notice what was going on…
But this also gives us a bit of evidence to use later if we need something for the hosting provider, search engines, or the site’s advertisers. We’ve got the equivalent to a confession on our hands now, and we can really bring the hammer down to crush them if we felt so diabolically inclined.
In my case, the story ends here. Shortly after the poisoned bait was posted, the forum’s administrators responded to my private messages to assure me that all of that moderator’s posts had been deleted, and that all future submissions by that individual would be subject to extra scrutiny. Sure enough, all of the offending posts have been removed and the individual in question is no longer moderating the scholarship forum. In a few days or weeks, Google will realize that the scraped versions no longer exist, and I’m sure I’ll get all my indexing and ranks back for all of my original articles that had been canned as ripoffs.
So in a sense, I did get lucky. These guys had a powerful empire of scraped content, but the owner seems to be a rational individual who would rather use the content of people who aren’t complaining about it and actively working to get it removed. Further, they’re not really selling anything on their site, just providing some informational articles about education. While the articles aren’t necessarily attributed properly, the site does seem to provide a service for its members and I wouldn’t want to set back the cause of education in places that need it – I just need to make sure that their effort isn’t being carried out in a way that hurts my own attempts of advancing education! Oh yeah, there’s that mortgage I gotta pay too 😉