As I read through one of my favorite daily newsletters, The Hustle, I came across a very interesting headline about the rise of “link-jacking” as an SEO practice.

Link jacking is term that typically refers to the act of stealing content off of a website, posting it to another site, and then submitting the link to web 2.0 news sites such as Reddit and Quora in an effort to get traffic to the new “imposter” site before it was noticed. This form of link jacking still happens all the time, but the method mentioned in the Hustle article is a bit different.

A new market has emerged where people can buy link traffic coming from their competitors sites. These links are found by crawling older sections of websites to see if any of the outgoing links are now pointing to dead domains. If the dead domain has been abandoned and as available for sale, they can be purchased and redirected anywhere. Now your site has an old dead link, that you weren’t even aware existed, and it’s pointing to a competitor’s website passing valuable “link juice” and boosting their SEO and traffic.

I experimented with this technique almost 15 years ago. I was working for a company that was really gaining massive traction with the organic SEO techniques I was implementing at the time (all of which are outdated now). While researching a competitor’s site I came across a text link on the their homepage for an event they were hosting. They’d purchased a unique vanity domain for this event but had let it lapse, so I quickly bought it up and redirected those clicks to my employers site. It remained in their homepage for nearly a year before it was removed.

This technique is now commonly used by black hat SEO agencies that sell this link traffic for a hefty price. It’s very easily done and can have a harmful effect on your site if someone takes advantage of an old dead link on your site.

How do you prevent people from link jacking your site?

Monitoring broken links should be included in any active SEO campaign. These bad links should be cleaned off the site or updated as soon as they are found. If your site has no dead links, then it is much harder for someone to buy them up and use them maliciously since the domains are still actively in use.

Many people get caught up on the “content engine” mentality and only focus on creating new content as often as possible. Older posts are archived away, pushed down the list and eventually forgotten about. This is a missed opportunity though

Part of your content strategy should be to review older posts and see how they can be improved and expanded upon. Long form content consistently ranks better right now, so if new content could be added to an old post to increase its size and value, then that should be considered. If you are concerned with the post date being old, you can easily change that in order to let people know that it has fresh information.

Start an SEO audit to ensure that your site has no broken links.

A basic SEO audit can determine if your site is vulnerable to link jacking. The Apache Interactive team can create a broken link report in less than 24 hours in most cases. Contact us if you are interested in knowing more about the health of your website and to identify ways that you can improve your organic SEO performance.

How do you monitor stolen content from your website in order to prevent other forms of link jacking?

Identifying content that has been stolen from your website is very important. It can be a daunting task considering how vast the Internet is. Fortunately there are services such as Copyscape that can do a lot of the heavy lifting and identify other sites that appear to be using the same text as yours. Quoting your content, and attributing credit and a link is one thing, but blatantly copying from someone to try to get website traffic is unethical and violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. These violations can be reported to their web host for removal.

Images are stolen even more often than text. Using the Google image search tool you can drag and drop your photo into the browser and it will show you a listing of every other site that has the same image. If the images have been modified much they can slip past the Google image search tool, but in most cases Google can find it. These are definitely a violation of the DMCA as well and should be taken down. Asking the owner of the site first is the logical first step, but if they refuse it can be sent to their web host. In most cases the web host will take it very seriously and remove it.

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