While researching this article, I turned to an old reliable – the keyword research tool – to find out what topics were most popular when it comes to copying websites.
Expecting at least a balance between those searching what to do if someone copies your website, and those looking to copy sites, you can imagine my surprise when I realised that the majority of keyword searches are focused on how to copy a website.
It would appear that copying websites is a popular pastime for many internet users, and sadly, one of our clients recently fell victim.
The whole website has been duplicated – only the name of the business and the contact details were changed.
It can be a worrying situation, especially if the copied website is operating within the same industry or regional area.
The owners of the copied site will be concerned that genuine customers may end up being tricked into purchasing from the fake website, or that their own reputation might be damaged by association.
So, what to do if someone copies your website?
As soon as you realise that your website has been duplicated, take screenshots and document everything.
Keep notes on when you found the copy, the URL, and the registered owner.
Use the following resources to gather as much information as possible;
- Companies House
- Wayback Machine
- Any site analysis tool such as SEMRush, Screaming Frog, or Ahrefs
Save everything you find in one place – keep it digital so everything will have a timestamp of when you found it.
Contact the website owner first
Before getting on the phone to your solicitor, contact the copied website owner first. This is an important step to take because they might not actually be aware that the website they have is a duplication.
Many businesses use third party companies to build their websites, and some companies are better than others.
It may be that the company they used decided to save time and money by copying another site.
If they are not aware and you fill them in, they may remove the site themselves.
Just make sure you get everything in writing. If you call them, get their address and follow it up with an email or written document detailing everything you discussed.
Note – you can’t record the phone conversation without the other person’s permission, so either get that before you press record, or follow up with written confirmation.
Contact the website’s hosting company
If contacting the website owner does not yield results – they may be uncontactable or simply ignore your request – don’t worry! There is more you can do.
You will likely need to provide them with the information you have gathered so just remember to keep copies of everything.
This includes the communications between yourself and the website owner, if you have them.
You can then request for the site to be taken down directly.
Notify Search Engines
Regardless of how the previous steps are progressing, there are other ways you can help minimise the impact on your website.
If the copied website is ranking in Search Engines, such as Google and Bing, you can file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint.
Please note, this will not remove the website from the internet, but it can stop it being listed within search results.
Once the duplicate site has been removed, you can also use the Google Removal Tool to remove the outdated content.
If all of the above steps have failed to remove the copied website, your next port of call should be to your legal team.
This is a final step when nothing else has worked as litigation can be costly. However, you may find that the stolen website’s owner might be more inclined to respond to your request when confronted with legal documents.
Securing your website for the future
Unfortunately, there is no way to 100% protect your website from being copied. However, there are things you can do to make it harder for people to copy different aspects of your website and its content.
Thankfully for our client, we followed the steps above and got the duplicated website taken down – Result!