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Got yourself a website copycat? Here’s how to protect your digital space.

The internet can be a dastardly place. Websites and social media have become a critical component in doing business, but it’s becoming more and more essential to watch your back.

Website copycats are becoming increasingly common. These digital mimics replicate existing websites with the intent to deceive, scam, or exploit unsuspecting visitors. In this article, we’ll deep dive into what website copycats are, explore the motivations behind their mimicry, examine the methods they employ, and provide insights on how to protect your digital space.

Protect your business from website copycats

What are copycat websites?

Copycat websites, often referred to as clones or replicas, are unauthorised duplicates of existing websites. These mimic sites can closely resemble the design, content, and functionality of the original, making it challenging for users to distinguish between the legitimate and the fraudulent.

The primary motivation driving website copycats is often financial gain through scams or fraudulent activities. Copycats may attempt to deceive visitors into sharing sensitive information, making unauthorised purchases, or clicking on malicious links. There’s also the unscrupulous out there who aim to boost their web presence by capitalising on the established reputation of an original business to boost their own credibility.

 

How They Do It

Website copycats employ various tactics to replicate the appearance and functionality of legitimate websites. Common methods include:

  1. Source Code Copying: Copycats may inspect the source code of a website to replicate its structure, design, and functionality.
  2. Content Scraping: Copycats might use automated tools to scrape content from the original site, reproducing articles, images, and other media.
  3. Domain Mimicry: Copycats often choose domain names that closely resemble the original, with slight variations such as misspellings or different extensions.
  4. Design Plagiarism: Copycats may replicate the visual elements, layout, and colour palettes of the original website to create a convincing duplicate.

How to protect your digital space

Safeguarding your digital space from copycats requires a proactive approach. Here are some essential steps to protect your website and its content:

  • Monitor Your Online Presence: Regularly check for duplicates of your website or content. You can achieve this easily by setting up alerts for mentions of your brand using the Google Alerts website. Sites such as Brandwatch and Mention also offer tools that enable you to monitor the web for content regarding your brand.
  • Deploy anti-scraping software: Depending on your website platform, there are many apps or plugins that may be configured to lock your sites content down. This software effectively hides source code, prevents right click to stop image downloads, and blocks copy/paste functionality so your website text can not be copied. Whilst this isn’t a fail-safe the more tools you put in place to deter copycats the safer your site will be.
  • Secure Your Domain: Register multiple domain extensions related to your brand to prevent copycats from using similar names. The more domain suffixes you lock down, the less chance copycats have to use them.
  • Use Copyright Notices: Display copyright notices prominently on your website. This informs visitors that your content is protected, making it easier to take legal action against copycats.
  • Digital Watermarks: Apply digital watermarks to your images and media files. This can deter copycats from using your visuals and makes it easier to identify unauthorised use.
  • Legal Action: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) criminalises production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works. It also addresses the takedown of websites which are operating to facilitate fraudulent activity. If you discover a website copycat, consult with legal professionals to explore your options. Issuing cease-and-desist notices or pursuing legal action can be effective in protecting your intellectual property.

To start the process yourself, there are a couple of steps you can take:

  1. Notify the website owner of the breach in copyright and request immediate removal to avoid legal action. If you’re unable to locate the owner of the site, or if they don’t act on your request, contact the company hosting the website and/or domain registrar who are often more proactive in removing bad actors from their servers. You can find information about the site admin or owner via sites such as AUDA or ICANN.
  2. File a report with Google notifying them of copyright infringement and requesting that the infringing site or content be de-indexed and removed from search engine results.

If this doesn’t work, consider engaging a professional to take down copycat sites. Companies such as CyberTrace are specialists in this area.

Final Words

Website copycats pose a significant threat to the online ecosystem and your business. They cast your business in a poor light, damage customer trust, and harm unsuspecting users. By staying vigilant, implementing preventive measures, and taking prompt action when needed, you can safeguard your digital assets and maintain the integrity of your online presence.

Have you got a copycat?

Talk to us about strategies that may be deployed in your unique situation to protect your web presence and brand reputation moving forward.

NB: Webhance Digital does not endorse and is in no way affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article. Please make your own enquiries should you wish to use their services.

Talk to us about protecting your web presence today