A tweet with Danny Sullivan of Google and someone from BuzzFeed highlighted a possible bug in how Google ranks pages. Google is supposed to rank the articles articles first. Instead, Google is ranking articles published by others who cite the original author, but not the original article.
Original Reporting Not Shown In Google
The tweet was by someone from BuzzFeed News. They were concerned because they broke a story about a celebrity. A week later, several other websites reported the same news with a citation to BuzzFeed News original article.
There would be no articles on the topic if BuzzFeed News hadn’t published their report.
So it must be frustrating to publish original content only to see others rewrite it and rank ahead on Google.
This is the tweet:
@dannysullivan hey danny! sara from buzzfeed news here. we published the original reporting on the ellen show's work culture last week, but it is not even in top news or even in the top publishers. (query here was "ellen") pic.twitter.com/NKcWvFXrMT
— Sara Yasin (@sarayasin) July 20, 2020
Google Wants to Rank Original Content
Google’s Danny Sullivan responded that publishers who don’t add additional content like interviews or provide new insights should not outrank the publisher who published the original content.
Content that helps a reader understand something better or gives it more depth is called Value Add.
Value Add is something that can make an article unique and ideally significantly more useful.
Typical value adds can be graphs, statistics, interviews, research, and insights from experts. Anything that can make the information more useful or interesting can be considered a value add.
Related: How Search Engines Rank Pages
Google Wants to Rank Original Content Source
Google’s Danny Sullivan affirmed that Google aspired to rank the original source for an article and not those who rewrite it without adding anything distinctive that qualifies as Value Add.
I’ve seen it happen in the past to some of the articles I publish. For example, after I publish an article with original research, it’s distressing to see someone outrank my article a week later using the exact same documents that I discovered, using content that is rewritten but based on my original research.
For example, when Danny Sullivan announced a new Google technology, it reminded me of a research paper I had read. So I put a link to it and discussed it as part of my value add.
The research paper that I cited was not mentioned in Google’s algorithm announcement.
The research paper was not mentioned by anyone else. The only publication to mention this research paper was in the article I wrote for Search Engine Journal.
This other person published an article on the same topic about a week later. His article also cites the same research paper. Presumably the content re-writer must have thought that the citation came from Google and included it in their own article, without any citations to my original article.
Even the screenshots are similar to my screenshots. It’s clear that this person rewrote my article.
So where does Google rank the content re-writer? Google ranks the content re-writer in the featured snippets. This has been going on for the past two years.
Danny Sullivan responded:
“I’m assuming this wasn’t the case when the story broke four days ago? In either case, yes, we’d still want to be surfacing the original content ahead of stories that reference without value add. I’ll pass this on to the team.”
Related: What to Do When Google Is Ranking the Wrong Page for Your Keywords
Value add is a great concept for making high quality content. It is especially useful when creating original content. It can be productive to stop and consider if there is anything else that would make the content more useful.
For some of my original SEO projects I might take photos and create a step by step to visually illustrate something. Original images can be a great value add.
Value add is great for creating high quality content that ranks.
But it can be discouraging for the original publisher to see someone else rewrite your content without adding additional value add and outrank you with it.
Are content re-writers outranking you?
Does Google rank original content sources higher?
Google does want to rank original content sources higher. Google’s Danny Sullivan affirmed that Google aspired to rank the original source for an article and not those who rewrite it without adding anything distinctive that qualifies as Value Add.
Can non-original content outrank original source in Google?
Yes. If the content helps a reader understand something better or gives it more depth. That can make an article unique and ideally significantly more useful.