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Google Answers Why Entire Top 10 is “Stolen” Content

Danny Sullivan explains why deduplication may temporarily cause an article headline search to drop original article to page 2 of search results

Google Answers Why Entire Top 10 is “Stolen” Content

An editor from the popular news site The Verge tweeted that a new article was replaced on page one of Google’s search results by other sites that had copied it. Danny Sullivan answers why that is happening.

Copied Content that Ranks Frustrates Publishers

Copied content that outranks the original is something that publishers have expressed frustration about for many years.

Some of the complaints are due to a misunderstanding.

For example, when a person searches a nonsense phrase like randomly selected words from an article, Google doesn’t know what to do with that’s not a real search query and there is no answer for a nonsense phrase.

So what Google does is to default to a text search, which means that Google is returning search results based on the words in a search query matching the words on a web page.

The real test for whether copied content is outranking the original content is when copied content outranks the original content for competitive keywords that users actually make.

Should a Page Rank Twice if It’s in a Top Stories Result?

But this situation that popped up introduces a different scenario. What happened is that Google will not rank an article headline in the top of the normal search results if that web page is already ranking in the Top Stories featured results, at the top of the web page.

Top Stories is a featured result where Google shows news articles related to a search query.

So if someone searches for a headline Google will usually show the article at the top of the search results in a Top Stories section.

But in this case it doesn’t show the original article in the top of the normal search results because of what Google calls deduplication, an algorithm that stops the same page from ranking twice.

So the question is, should Google rank the same page twice, once in the Top Stories and again at the top of the normal search results?

Entire First Page Consists of Stolen Content

Someone from The Verge tweeted that aside from Google’s featured news section at the top of the search results, a search for a headline from a new article resulted in Google showing an entire top ten that consists of nothing but stolen content.

The person tweeted:

“Hey Google, I just searched for a headline that was published on my website and the ENTIRE FIRST PAGE after the news box was of websites stealing our content. The Verge didn’t show up until page 2.

This problem is getting worse.”

Google’s Danny Sullivan acknowledged that writers searching with a headline expect to see their articles ranking at the top of the search results, not on page two.

But he also noted that searching by headline is not necessarily how regular searchers would search.

Danny’s response is debatable. A reasonable argument could be made that many people search the title of an article when they want to find it to share with a friend or on social media. So there is a real reason why people other than the author of an article may search for the title of an article.

Danny Sullivan from Google tweeted:

“We’ll take a look. I know searching by headline is common for writers and yes, I’d expect this to show first for that. But it doesn’t reflect how most people might seek this content (and for how they might search, I do find it). But again, we’ll look to improve.”

Danny next followed up with an explanation for why an original article ranks on page two for it’s own headline:

Search Queries That Trigger Alternative Search Results

Danny Sullivan’s next tweet explains how a search query with a lot of terms, like a headline term, causes Google’s algorithm to sort of drop out and begin return search results that are more like old style keyword searches, where the search results are not based on search intent or links but just based on the keywords themselves.

Here is what Danny tweeted:

As I mentioned above, there is a search intent behind searching for headlines. It may be that Google hasn’t recognized “headline-oriented searches” as a search intent that the algorithm should be aware of.

Danny continued his answer:

News Articles and Deduplication

Deduplication is when Google attempts stop one article from ranking twice in the search results. Danny Sullivan stated that the reason an article might not appear in the regular search results is if it is already ranking in the Top Stories and if that Top Stories ranks at the top of the page.

So the question is, is this a situation where a web page should rank twice, because a user might want to see the original article at the top of the search results, even if it’s already in the Top Stories section?

Once the Top Stories section disappears the news article should rank at the top of the search results.

Content is Top Ranked After Top Stories is Gone

Content Ranked at Top

And that, as can be seen in the above screenshot, is what is happening right now.

This is an interesting question where Google has to decide what is fair for the publisher and what is useful for the searcher.

Category News SEO
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Roger Montti

Owner at Martinibuster.com

Roger Montti is a search marketer with over 20 years experience. I offer site audits, phone consultations and content and ... [Read full bio]

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