Google tackles piracy and plagiarism with new update

pirate flagGoogle has made another significant change to its algorithm, which will have a negative effect on sites that use black hat SEO techniques. Although it’s not quite on the scale of previous updates such as Panda and Penguin, it will have a big influence on website rankings – this time, with a central focus of penalising plagiarism and piracy.

Under the new system, any site with a high number of copyright removal notices filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will be demoted and given a lower ranking in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Amit Singhal, SVP of Engineering at Google, posted a blog detailing the reasoning behind the new update, stating, “We’re now receiving and processing more copyright removal notices every day than we did in all of 2009 – more than 4.3 million URLS in the last 30 days alone. We will now be using this data as a signal in our search rankings.”

However, as Singhal went on to clarify, “Only copyright holders know if something is authorised, and only courts can decide if a copyright has been been infringed; Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law”. It is for this reason that sites will only have their ranking lowered, rather than being removed completely.

Although the update is primarily geared towards piracy of music and video content, it does highlight the importance of ensuring that any content you post on the internet on the internet is original, or credited accordingly. Google has always stressed the importance of unique, original content rather than duplication, but with this latest update it seems that it is taking the issue more seriously than ever.

So how can you avoid the wrath of Google when creating articles and other digital content? It’s a tricky issue to tackle. By anyone’s standards, it’s perfectly acceptable to use another article for research purposes – for example, the facts, figures and quotes from a single press release will often form the basis of hundreds, or even thousands, of subsequent articles. However, if you’re putting together a blog post, a news story, or any other kind of online content, you need to be on the safe side when it comes to plagiarism. Our advice is to follow these four simple rules, to help your article stand out from the crowd and avoid the accusations.

1) Give an opinion
News reporting can often become fairly generic, with many articles simply repeating facts in the same mundane manner. Whilst it is sometimes appropriate to simply summarise the news, offering your take on the issue is a great way of adding a unique slant to your piece.

2) Go to the source
If you find a press release or article that summarises the results of a survey or study, go to the website of the organisation which collected the data and look at the results for yourself. Chances are, you’ll find something interesting to write about which isn’t even mentioned in the summary piece.

3) Change it up
If you are tasked with reporting on the same data, statistic, study or announcement as several other writers with no subjective slant, you should at least look to structure the news in an alternative manner to the pieces you have already read. If you’re writing about a statistic-based report, for instance, look for an equally exciting but less commonly mentioned figure to lead with.

4) Credit your quotes
If you truly feel that someone has summarised what you want to say in the best way possible, then let them know! In your piece, cite the phrase as having come from them, and link to their website to let them know you acknowledge that it’s their wording. Not only is this good etiquette, it can help build positive online relationships – who knows, you may even get a link back in the future!

If you need more advice on any aspect of online content, we’d be happy to help. Drop us an email at [email protected].