Are Sites Outranking You With Your Own Content?

google-scraper-tool-matt-cutts

If you answer yes to this question, then you have a potential search engine ranking problem on your hands. But the good news is that it can be fixed. If you are seeing other websites outrank (or show up higher in the search results than your site) and they appear to have copied your website content, there definitely is a problem. Here is what you need to do in order to fix this situation.

Google has released a new form that allows sites to report scrapers.

To make sure that you’re really experiencing someone who is copying your content and using it without your permission, we first need to check.

1. First, you need to see if someone has truly copied your content. Take one of the URLs that you suspect it’s happening to (a page on your site) and run it through CopyScape.com. This will show you if any of the pages they find on the web are copying your content. If the site outranking your content shows up in this list, then there’s a good chance you have an issue.

2. Next, you need to take the title of one of your pages. I prefer to use the title tag, but it could be a very unique headline (such as the title of a blog post) and put it in quotes and search for it in Google, like this:

"Link Removals: Sometimes Websites Get Taken Down"

That’s the title of my last blog post here on this blog, so I thought that I would go ahead and use it as an example. When you search for the title in quotes (hopefully it’s unique) then you should only see your page or your blog post. But, if something else shows up in the search results, then:

  • The phrase in quotes you searched for might not be unique enough. Try a sentence from your page.
  • You might have shared the post on social media sites like Google+, Twitter, or your Facebook page. That’s okay.
  • The content that’s stolen or copied from your site might be showing up

If it’s the last case, that your content appears to have been taken or copied, then there are generally a few reasons why:

  • Your site is not as trusted as the other site. Unfortunately, sometimes if you have a fairly new site or a site with Google Penguin issues then the other site (the site scraping/copying/stealing your content) is going to rank better.
  • The other site has higher PageRank than your site, and has more links or more trusted links than your site.

This last issue can be a problem. Because the other site has higher PageRank, it gets crawled and its content gets indexed faster than your site’s content get crawled and indexed. Therefore, the way Google’s duplicate content filter works is that whatever page or site gets crawled first, that’s the originator of the content. Then, if Google finds other copies, then those won’t rank as well as your site’s content.

One good way to deal with a situation like this is to get more trust and authority for your website. I know that can take time, and it involves getting new trusted and authoritative links to your website. It’s not an easy fix.

Another way to deal with this, though, is something that you can do RIGHT NOW. Whenever you add new content to your site, like a new page or a new blog post, you must immediately go over to Twitter and/or Google+ and post something about it. Include the original URL of the page, and not just a “tiny url”. It needs to be the full URL if possible. Twitter will change it to a tiny URL, and that’s okay. Google Plus is also important, as well. When you post, Google finds the new URL and will crawl it. This will minimize the chances that the other site will get your content posted and crawled.

If you are using WordPress, and you make a blog post, there are settings in WordPress that will cause your site to send a “ping” to Google (and other search engines and sites) to notify them of an update. It will send them the new URL. This also will help cause Google to crawl your new page.

Another way to deal with copied content that’s outranking you is to file a DMCA takedown request. Find out more about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which, when filed properly with Google and the site’s web host, will cause that content to be taken down. Google will remove the page for their search results and the site’s web host usually complies by removing the content, as well. They might even remove the entire website.

Finally, if you are having trouble with Google search engine rankings of your content and there is a scraper site involved (someone copying your content and outranking your site) then you can use Google’s new Scraper Tool to notify them of the problem. This doesn’t mean that they’re going to do something about it right away, but they may use that information in a few possible ways:

  • Google may use the data to program a new part of their algorithm. Very likely.
  • Google may use the data to remove the other site from their search results. Highly unlikely.

Whatever the situation, Google will use the information you give them somehow. I would first deal with the situation by doing several or all of the tasks I mentioned above. But then you might want to report it. That might, at a minimum, just give you a “warm and fuzzy feeling” that you reported it to Google.

Bill Hartzer is Globe Runner’s Senior SEO Strategist. Connect with him on Google+ or on Twitter as Bhartzer.