9 02, 2016

How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

By | 2017-06-16T12:46:34+00:00 February 9th, 2016|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Imagine that you and your staff have spent countless hours creating engaging content for your website, only to discover that much of it has been stolen and repurposed by others – without your consent.

The appearance of duplicate content could adversely affect your website search rankings, making it more difficult for prospective students, alumni and the community to find you. And as we all know, good content rules. So, why let others break them (the rules, that is)?

At Beacon, we’ve seen what unethical practices such as copy scraping can do. Having personally experienced the theft of our content fairly recently, I thought I’d share the steps I took to alert Google to this offense and protect our company from the negative fallout that can follow.

Here are six easy steps for getting back at the thieves who steal copy.

Step 1 – Verify that your suspicions are correct.

Perform a quick Google search to determine where your copy is showing up across the internet. You can randomly select copy from a webpage (copy and paste a few sentences in a Google search box) to run a query. The search results will indicate if your copy appears on another site on the web other than your own.

For example, here are the results from my search.

Scraped Content

The search results will provide you with a list of webpages where that content appears (including your own, of course). As you can see in this example, there is another website using content I wrote without my consent (see the red arrow above).

Step 2– Investigate the extent of the theft

Stolen ContentScraped Content

When investigating the extent of plagiarism, check to see if your content was been copied verbatim. Also, you’ll want to check if this is an isolated event or if the website in question has copied multiple pieces of content. In our example above, you will notice multiple instances of stolen content. It’s time to take action.

Step 3 – Reach out to the website’s administrator

Reach out to the webmaster of the website that stole the copy. If the webmaster’s email contact isn’t readily displayed, check the about or policy sections of their website. The webmaster’s address is often hidden within these pages.

Once you’ve found an email address, notify him that you are aware of the offending activity and request that he remove the stolen content within a defined period of time. A week to ten days is more than enough.

Should the webmaster voluntarily remove the stolen content, your job is done. Have a latte. However, most nefarious webmasters will ignore such warnings and hide behind a perceived veil of anonymity.

Now, the fun begins.

Step 4 – Contact the hosting provider

It’s time to perform a who-is-lookup. This online tool provides you with the webmaster’s identity and more importantly, their website hosting provider. Armed with this new information, I reached out to the hosting provider and let them know that a website they host had blatantly infringed on my intellectual copyrights. I respectfully requested that they take down the website in question.

Step 5 – File a DMCA request

If the hosting provider fails to respond, then it’s time to file a dirty DMCA request. Only take this step once you have exhausted the other options. Also, keep in mind that you need to have the authority to act on behalf of your organization prior to filing this request.

You have the option of drafting your own DMCA takedown request or downloading this DMCA Take Down Notice Template to customize and send to the offending website owner. After you have sent the DMCA notice, give the website a week to ten days to respond. If you don’t hear back within the time you designate in your notice, it’s time to elevate the complaint to Google and get some sort of resolution.

Step 6 – Request Google remove the stolen content

Log into Google Search Console: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice. This will take you to the copyright removal section within Google (see below). Simply follow the instructions and be sure to describe the nature of the work being copied and include URLs where the copyrighted work can be viewed. Also, include the link to the infringing material.

Scraping Site

The DMCA request tends to work pretty quickly so you want to keep an eye on how many pages are currently indexed and compare it over the next few days or weeks. You can double check this by running another search query containing a snippet of your stolen copy. If you were successful in your attempt at protecting your content, you will see that Google has removed pages from its search engine that were infringing upon your copyrights once they complete their investigation.

Monitoring tip: If you would like to check the progress of your request, perform a site search if the offending site and make a note of the number of pages Google has indexed (see below). Compare this number to future searches and you may find the Google now indexes fewer of the website’s pages than before your request. This is a sign that Google may be taking action.

stolen content before after

You’ll know you’ve reached a final resolution when you run a search query and see the following highlighted message displayed:

stolen content example

Good luck and happy hunting!

18 01, 2016

RankBrain in 2016

By | 2017-06-16T12:52:33+00:00 January 18th, 2016|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , , |


Google has used word frequency, word distance, and world knowledge based on co-occurrences to connect the many relations between words to serve up answers to search queries. But now, due to the recent breakthroughs in language translation and image recognition, Google has turned to powerful neural networks that have the ability to connect the best answers to the millions of search queries Google receives daily.

RankBrain is the name of the Google neural network that scans content and is able to understand the relationships between words and phrases on the web.

Why is it better than the previous methods? In a nutshell, RankBrain is a better method because it is deep learning self-improving system. Training itself on pages within the Google index, RankBrain looks upon the relationships between the search queries and the content contained within the Google index.

How does it do this? Neural networks are very good at conducting reading comprehension based on examples and detecting patterns in those examples. Trained on existing data, Google’s vast database of website documents is able to provide the necessary large-scale level of training sets. When conducting training, Google changes key phrases or words into mathematical entities called vectors which act as signals. RankBrain then runs an evaluation similar to the cloze test.  A cloze test is a reading comprehension activity where words are emitted from a passage and then filled back in. With a cloze test, there may be many possible answers, but on-going training from a vast data set allows for a better understanding of the linguistic relationships of these entities.  Let’s look at an example:

The movie broke all (entity1) over the weekend.

Hollywood’s biggest stars were out on the red carpet at the (entity2) premiere.

After deciphering all of the intricate patterns of the vectors, RankBrain can deliver an answer to a query such as “Which movie had the biggest opening at the box office?” by using vector signals from entities that point to the search result entity receiving the most attention. It does this without any specific coding, without rules, or semantic markup. Even for queries that may be vague in nature, the neural network is able to outperform even humans.

With RankBrain, meaning is inferred from use. As RankBrain’s training and comprehension improves, it can focus on the best content that it believes will help answer a search query. As a result, RankBrain can understand search queries never seen before. In 2016, be prepared to provide the contextual clues that RankBrain is looking for.

27 03, 2013

A Chat with Nextopia’s CEO & Founder, Sanjay Arora

By | 2016-11-18T14:12:45+00:00 March 27th, 2013|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , , , |

In the web solutions business, vendor partnerships are inevitable.  Good ones are essential.  And when you find good ones that provide great products or services, coupled with great support and a competitive price, you stick with them.  But there’s always one more element that I consider as well – “fit”.  By this, I mean, do they fit with your company’s personality or culture?  It’s important because you will be teaming with them on behalf of your customers.

I can wholeheartedly say that one of my favorite partnerships is with Nextopia.  From day one, they have been friendly, helpful, customer-focused and seemingly always available.  We see them regularly at trade shows and truly feel like they are an extension of the Beacon Team.  Oh – and of course, they are keenly focused on delivering a best-in-class site search product.Sanjay Arora

Recently, I chatted with Sanjay Arora from Nextopia, somewhat “interview-style”, and here’s a recap.

MDTell me a little about Nextopia, the company.

SA:  Nextopia was founded in 1999 in Toronto, Canada. Our core focus was, and always has been, search.  Whether you’re a small entrepreneur selling out of your basement or a multinational conglomerate, you need an intelligent search engine.  Since 1999, the company has continued to adapt to the ever-changing needs of both the e-tailer and the online shopper.  Our commitment to our goal shows in our customers, our work and our great employees.

 MD:  What are the main reasons that your customers use or like your product so much?

SA:  There are MANY reasons to use Nextopia, but if we had to pick, we’d have to divide this list into two:

  1. Developers love us because of the ease of implementation. Due to the fact that there are so many different platforms and so many different developer styles, a solution needs to be very flexible and very easy to customize.  Our product integrates very easy with all platforms so all developers are able to work with it.
  2. Website owners love us because of our results!  Nextopia makes it easy for their customers to find and buy their products.  Best of all, our tool is very affordable for any size of business.  We have over 1,500 customers who understand how an intelligent search leads to a positive ROI.

MD:  What do you see as the most important feature(s) of a site search product? 

SA:  Relevant results!  You can add many bells and whistles to a search results page, in terms of filters, sort options, quick views, compare features, etc, but if you’re not delivering relevant results, you’re not best serving the customer.  The key is to understand shoppers and their shopping habits.  In the Nextopia Control Panel, the merchant can customize results to meet the specific needs of their shoppers and target certain demographics.  Knowing your customers and catering to their needs increases repeat business, which accounts for 42% of all online business.

MD:  Anything you want to share about the Beacon-Nextopia partnership?Nextopia Logo

SA:  Nextopia and Beacon have been working together on various site search and navigation projects over the last 2 years.  It’s a natural fit because of Beacon’s expertise in the eCommerce world, and Nextopia’s expertise in the site search industry. When a Beacon customer is looking for an upgraded search solution, they are able to integrate Nextopia quickly and easily.  Plus we really like the people at Beacon, they’re very creative and a fun group to work with and we think our clients will enjoy working with them as well.

MD:  What’s on the horizon for site search?

SA:  Search will always evolve because consumers are always evolving.  They’re getting smarter, more efficient, and less patient.  If they can’t instantly find what they’re looking for, they’re simply going to move on…and we don’t blame them.  So speed and relevancy is always on the forefront.

There will also be a push for better data. We want to work closely with our customers, developers, and the industry as a whole, and teach them how to correctly collect data so it can be optimized in a way that makes it so easy for any consumer to find and purchase any product.  The websites with good attribute data, which allow customers to refine their search to the precise item(s) they’re looking for, will win out over sites with poor data every time.

Nextopia’s biggest initiatives over the next year will be focusing on conversion optimization.  For an internet retailer there is no bigger statistic than visitor to buyer ratio, so we’re designing even more tools to make the merchandiser’s job easier and more profitable.  Bottom line is that an intelligent search engine can alter a website into a tool that provides highly measurable returns.

MD:  I like where site search is going – conversion optimization, analytics and insights – which are also at the heart of Beacon’s digital marketing services.  So I’m sure there will be much more for us to talk about going forward.  Keep up the good work and see you at IRCE!