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Google: Possible Quality Issue if Copied Content Outranks Original

Copied content ranking above the original version might indicate there’s a site quality issue at the source.

Google: Possible Quality Issue if Copied Content Outranks Original

Google’s John Mueller says there might be a site quality issue if copied content is consistently ranking above the original source.

Mueller addressed this topic during the Google Search Central SEO hangout recorded on March 12.

Site owner Mohammad Mehdi Abbas tells Mueller his original content is being stolen and republished by other websites. The stolen content is now ranking about his own.

He asks Mueller how to protect his site from content theft, and how prevent copied content from ranking above his in the future.

That leads to Mueller saying there may be an issue with site quality if this is a problem that keeps happening.

What to Do if Copied Content Ranks Above Original?

If a site owner discovers their content is being republished on another website without permission, one of the options they can look into is the DMCA takedown process.

This allows site owners to report stolen content to Google on a per-page basis. If the content is proven to be copied without permission, Google may remove the offending page from search results.

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As the DMCA process is a legal process, Mueller declines to provide specific advice regarding when and how it should be used.

“The primary action you could take there, depending on the situation, is to look into the DMCA process. The DMCA process is a legal process, so I can’t give you legal advice on when it applies and when it would not apply. But that might be something that you could look into.

With the DMCA process you’re basically saying, my content is my content and someone else has copied it. And you’re giving Google that information on a per-page basis. And based on that, our systems or the legal team – I don’t know the details – will review that and take action on that. And also inform the other side about that so that if, for example, they were the original source they would be able to raise a concern and try to find a different resolution for that. But that’s, I think, the primary approach that you could take there.”

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Using DMCA takedowns to remove pages from search results is one way to solve the problem of copied content ranking above the original.

However, it won’t make the problem any less likely to return in the future.

If copied content is consistently ranking above the original source, Mueller says that may point to a site quality issue.

Related: Google: Sometimes Copied Content is More Relevant

Reassess Site Quality

Mueller suggests reassessing your overall site quality if other site’s are copying your content and achieving higher rankings in search results.

“The other thing that I would also keep in mind is that if you’re regularly seeing other people with copied content ranking above you content, then to me that points at a situation where maybe the overall perceived quality of your website is something that our algorithms are having trouble with.”

Mueller says Google should be able to determine which site to trust as the source based on its overall quality – in comparison to a random site that doesn’t own the content.

“That could be something where maybe it makes sense to take a step back and think about your website overall and try to find ways to significantly improve the quality of that. To make sure that when our algorithms run across your website with the content on it, and some random website that they don’t know about with the same content on it, that they say: well, actually, your website is the one that we should trust. And not so much like some random website is perhaps just as good or even better that this website that we know about that we know we don’t trust that well.”

Site quality has always been challenging to assign a measurement to, as there’s no tool that can calculate how Google perceives the quality of a site.

Though you don’t need a tool to tell you the quality needs improvement if copied content is consistently ranking above yours.

That’s a sign that it’s time to make some changes.

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Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below:

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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