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How a New Mock-Pinterest Site Can Harm YOUR Website (and How to Stop It)

Penned by Kimberly White

Pinterest’s unprecedented success has inevitably spawned loads of imitation-Pinterest sites, and now Demand Media’s “eHow” has jumped on the bandwagon with its recent launch of “Spark.”

The problem for you as a website or blog owner, is that eHow has added a sinister twist to their Pinterest doppelgänger that allows them to harm your website by using your own content to compete against you.

This is how it works: Spark users download a clipping app for their browser that allows them to “clip” anything they see and have it automatically post scraped content to eHow’s website.

eHow is promoting Spark as a way for users to clip inspiring images and text from other websites and create their own DIY projects based on the clipped inspiration, then write a new article and post the new images from their projects to eHow. Users can network and help each other by giving project advice.

Spark’s model is to have users, which currently appear to be mostly Demand Media employees:

  1. Directly copy original craft, cooking, gardening, or other DIY project content from other people’s websites and post it to eHow.
  2. Create a new project based on the other person’s original post (so far, not too different from Pinterest).
  3. Document the new project.
  4. Post the new project on eHow Spark with new text and images (this is where the threat to your site begins).
  5. Promote the new eHow/Spark version of the project via social media.

If you don’t understand how this model threatens your website, imagine this scenario:

  1. You spend hours, days, or weeks, creating an original DIY project and then you post your original instructions or details to your site, along with your images.
  2. You expect to earn some money from ads placed on your site to support your DIY habit, and you want your idea to reach as many other people who are interested in it as possible. And admit it; we all want people to see how creative and inspiring we are.
  3. Gaining traffic and earning ad revenue from your website happens when search engines, especially Google, place your site or blog near the top of search results relevant to your post.

Now imagine this scenario:

The top content provider on the Internet searches Google or Pinterest (which is where they seem to have pulled their content from, ironically) and discovers your article. They have searched for a specific phrase that they already know is searched for often enough to be profitable.

The larger website commandeers your content without your permission and publishes it on their own site. Along with your “clipped content” as “inspiration,” eHow posts a new article about a project that you thought of, created, and shared online.

They are using your content PLUS their own new content to further describe, keyword, and elaborate on your project.

And there’s an unfair competition angle to this: Demand Media is not only the largest content farm/provider online; it is the single largest video contributor to YouTube, helping to earn millions of dollars in annual revenue for Google, which owns YouTube. Looks like there is some room for favoritism there, doesn’t it?

Guess who will eventually win the ranking battle for YOUR project? Over time, it won’t be you. Not only will eHow Spark gain direct search engine traffic for your original content, but visitors to eHow who are already on the site to read other content, will be led to eHow’s version of your project.

You lose.

And a little something to ponder: What is the purpose, exactly, of eHow duplicating your content? I mean, if someone wants to learn how to make a project like yours, can’t they just find your project through Google?

Well, sure, but then you would earn any ad revenue for that visit, and Demand Media would have to write their own content and earn their money the old-fashioned way—by working for it.

Christopher Freeburn of InvestorPlace.com reported two weeks ago about Demand Media’s latest earnings saying that, “The website publisher recorded adjusted revenue of $88.7 million, up 16% from last year.”

The bottom line is this: eHow intends to outrank you for your own content, and they can do it if you let them.

Now you know why eHow wants to grab and exploit your content. Do you know how they specifically chose your content to exploit? So far, it’s not so much “users” that are posting to eHow as paid Demand Media employees, and they choose which content to grab based on the same criteria they have always used—by examining their site analytics and determining which keywords have low competition and relatively high traffic and/or advertising value, and then writing specifically to those keywords.

You should have a pretty good idea by now of why eHow wants to copy your content. And while Pinterest does exploit your images too, it’s at a far different level than what eHow has planned.

For example, when a DIY crafter sees your awesome creation on Pinterest, they are often motivated to visit your site to find out how it’s done. They might have to dig a bit if someone downloaded your image (or if the original Pinner cited “Google.com” as the source of your image—it happens), and then uploaded it to Pinterest versus simply having “Pinned” it from your site. But they’ll probably find you.

When Pinterest outranks you for your own content, it can be a good thing if you would otherwise not rank on page one or two of search engine results for a particular search phrase. In that case, Pinterest provides another means for visitors to find you. And even if you already rank well, searchers can see that Pinners have ‘voted’ for your site with their Pins.

On the other hand, when a DIY crafter sees your creation on eHow Spark, your content is positioned as mere inspiration for eHow’s version of the project, which is posted in its entirety with new images, directions, and a list of supplies. And eHow’s advertising and more eHow crafts to keep the visitors’ eyes and interests busy.

What are the odds they’re going to look you up after that, and if they do, will they spend the same amount of time on your site as they would have if they’d found you first? I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing they won’t.

But there is one more critical factor to understanding why you should not allow eHow to scrape your content, and that factor lies in the difference between eHow’s and Pinterest’s terms of service.

Here is just one example:

Pinterest Terms of Service:

“You retain all of your rights in all of the User Content you post to our Service.”

eHow Terms and Conditions of  Use:

“You also hereby waive any moral rights you may have in such User Generated Content under the laws of any jurisdiction. You hereby appoint us as your agent with full power to enter into and execute any document and/or do any act we may consider appropriate to confirm the grant of rights, consents, agreements, assignments and waivers set forth in these Terms.”

That is only a small portion of each site’s terms, and I encourage you to read both thoroughly before deciding how you feel about either site using your content.

And by the way, eHow’s terms also state that they grant themselves the right to modify your content and use it in any way they see fit for eternity. Seriously. They can even remove your watermark, should they be so inclined, according to them.

So now that you understand how this can harm your own blog or website by stealing your content, and hence, your traffic, here are some solutions to protect your investment in your website that require a little extra work on your part, but that may save you a lot of grief in the long run:

  1. First of all, your original images should always be watermarked. If they’re not watermarked, they will be infringed upon at some point. Even if they are watermarked they will be infringed upon, but you will have an easier time enforcing your copyright on images watermarked with your domain name and stating “all rights reserved.”If you have a WordPress website or blog, there are plugins that will quickly and easily watermark your images. If not, you can download a free program called IrfanView that will easily do the job.
  2. Secondly, you should install code on your site, or ask your webmaster to install code, that prevents Spark users from directly “clipping” your content.

Here is the code to copy and paste into your blog or website header template (usually ‘header.php’ on WordPress websites):

<meta name=”ehow” content=”noclip” />

Make sure that the quotes are straight quotes and not angled “smart quotes” by first typing it into a basic text editor such as Notepad before pasting it into your site header.

After you have added the code, clear your website cache if you use a caching plugin, close your browser, then re-open your browser and test your site using the “Clipping” app from eHow to make sure it’s working, or just test CrunchyData.com if you want to see it in action.

You will need to sign up for eHow and sign in with your Facebook account for the clipping app to work, so remember to delete the app from your Facebook permissions settings after you are finished, because the app gives eHow access to your Facebook profile and allows it to post to your account.

(And by the way, if you prefer that your images not be pinned on Pinterest, they also offer a similar code that you can find in the support section of their site.)

By watermarking your images and adding the above code to your website’s header, you’ve made a great start, but there is, unfortunately, no guaranteed way to stop eHow from scraping your content. Here are a few more actions you can take that will hopefully increase the odds that you will prevent this, or at least be able to enforce your copyright in the event of infringement.

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney, and this is not to be construed as legal advice. I am simply sharing with you what has worked for me so far:

  • Post a visible link to a terms-of-use page for your own site, preferably in the left upper quadrant of your website.
  • Specifically state on your terms page that your content is not to be copied to eHow, and that by using your site, visitors agree to abide by your terms.
  • If you know how to block IPs in your WordPress .htaccess file, feel free to take the additional step of adding eHow’s IP (, though this won’t help with downloaders/uploaders or people who clip from Google. If you don’t know how to modify your .htaccess file, ask your webmaster to do it, but don’t mess with it unless you are willing to crash your site and have to call Kimberly Studios for help!
  • Post a “Say No To eHow” image in your sidebar to make it crystal clear to visitors (you are welcome to use the one below), and to provide yourself with documentation if you need to fight infringement later on.

If you have any more ideas about how to prevent eHow from scraping content, or any other thoughts on this subject, please share your feedback in the comments below. And please share with others who need to be able to make informed choices about who is—and is not—allowed to profit from their hard work.

About the author: Kimberly has a B.S. in IT Management and owns Kimberly Studios, a design and development company. She studied database technologies in grad school before launching “Crunchy Data” in 2002 to help small businesses organize and mine their website data. She now combines her data analysis skills with her passion for design and writing by developing integrated WordPress website solutions for small businesses.

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