As soon as marketers figured out that links helped your site rank in Google, SEO blogs started writing posts about how to get more links.
Over the years we’ve burned through several link building ideas and trends including reciprocal linking, link wheels, widget spam, paid links and link networks.
And, while many SEO agencies now have “outreach” teams spamming webmasters with guest posting requests, few if any agencies are using the most effective link request email I’ve found.
As the son of a graphic artist and husband to a talented photographer, I’ve become extremely (perhaps overly) sensitive to copyright infringement.
While it may be news to many bloggers and website owners, you can’t just slap any image you find in Google image search on your site. You also can’t just copy and paste an entire blog post on your site for your readers to enjoy.
Content and images, even those published on the web, are subject to copyright restrictions.
And while copyright can be a pain in the neck when you’re trying to find just the right image for your blog post, it can also be a gold mine of links and occasionally additional income.
Copyright Violation Outreach
The tactic is fairly simple and certainly isn’t new or groundbreaking, but it seems to be drastically under utilized by the vast majority of SEOs.
Whether it’s blog posts, white papers, images, or infographics, sites are constantly creating content subject to copyright.
And the web being what it is, that content is constantly being ripped off. So why not benefit from that inevitability?
Instead of getting pissed off and tweeting angrily at the culprit, send them a quick email offering a couple of ways to resolve the situation. Here’s an example we’ve used in the past:
To whom it may concern,
I am the legal copyright owner of the evil Google cartoon which I originally posted on my Gevil site at http://gevil.org and subsequently on our cartoon site at http://toonrefugee.com/toonblog/google-cartoons/google-is-evil.
It has come to my attention that the image has been posted on your site without proper licensing. The offending image is used on the page at:
And is hosted at:
You should be aware this is a violation of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act of 1988, and Google recently modified their algorithm to consider the number of copyright notices they receive for a given site.
We’d like to offer you three options for resolving this situation and avoid having to file a DMCA complaint:
1. Provide proof of a valid licensing agreement.
2. If no licensing agreement exists, pay our standard $500 licensing fee for continued use of our image. (Penalties provided by the legal code (http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/504.html) are substantially higher but I’d prefer not to go that route.)
3. Clearly cite ToonRefugee.com as the source of the image and provide a link to http://toonrefugee.com/toonblog/google-cartoons/google-is-evil so your readers can enjoy our other work.
Let me know which option you’d like go with.
Needless to say, the option of simply providing a link is by far the most popular, and these emails get a MUCH better response rate than guest post requests.
Depending on the popularity of your content, you can find a list of hundreds of potential links with just a few searches.
To find people ripping off your images, I recommend using TinEye or Google’s reverse image search.
For content, you can use a simple Google search with quotation marks around a key phrase or sentence, or a more comprehensive tool like Copyscape.
It should be noted that this tactic isn’t completely risk free. People don’t like to be told they’re doing something wrong and they certainly don’t like to feel threatened. So, depending on your personality or your company’s image, you may want to take a softer tone in your emails and throw in a few comforting phrases like “I’m sure you didn’t intend to” or “I’m sure it’s an honest mistake.”
I once received an angry phone call where the gentleman threatened to sue me for sending him a “threatening” email and proceeded to blast me on Twitter. Personally I found it all very entertaining but most bosses probably wouldn’t. You might want to run your email by your company’s legal and/or PR department before sending it out.
You should also feel free to charge whatever price you’d like for your imaging license fee. However, I’ve found it’s best to charge enough to make people not want to pay it, and low enough that they take you seriously. The more realistic your image use fee is, the better the chance someone will actually pay it now and then!
When you start regularly seeing your work being ripped off, it’s easy to start viewing each offender as a evil bastard who knowingly and purposefully stole your content. The reality is that most people are simply clueless about copyright, not malicious. Try not to turn too many potential fans of your content into enemies.