Fri 10th Aug 2012 a new but potentially site killing Google ranking algorithm update rolled out which went largely unnoticed amongst the SEO community. Without an official name (yet) the Google ‘Pirate’ update seeks to remove domains/urls from its search results, or in what seems to be alot of cases simply render those sites lower in its search results, that it deems is pirating other sites content.
Whats it about?
Specifically the algorithm update takes into account DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown requestS against ‘offending’ web sites. Given that DMCA takedown requests are just that, requests, and not proof of infringment this can be seen as a fairly scatter gun approach to penalising web sites and ive already seen instances where the ‘offending’ web sites have proved legal compliance, which Google seemingly isnt (cant) take into account.
The idea here from Google is to prevent all kinds of sinister and dodgey sites that Pirate content, or misuse trademarks from other companies/websites, appearing higher in search results than the genuine sites. You know the kind of thing, theres a million Ugg Boot or GHD Straightener impersonators or bedroom operators out there damaging consumer trust and corporate credibility.
How many are affected?
This update affects a teeny weeny number of all the sites out there, (Google lists less than 32k right now) hence the lack of coverage in the SEO press about it compared to certain other algorithm updates beginning with P! As many of you know Google’s ranking algorithm updates cause much grief and strife for many site owners, and when I say grief and strife I mean life changing, financial ruin in the blink of an eye, type trouble. Given this its annoying that Google hasnt contacted site owners directly or, to my knowledge, via Google Webmaster Tools notifications, which it seems to be doing in spades now for other penalty warnings i.e. detected unnatural links.
I bet theres alot of people out there right now who have no idea why their Google traffic has tanked, and serves many of them right but I wonder how many sites have been unfairly damaged by this. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? OK in reality Google cant deal with complaints from millions of webmasters but surely theres a better way to go about penalising rogue sites e.g. with Googles paid search platform Google you need to submit a pharmaceutical id to advertise medicines and certain herbal products. Why not submit a ‘required proof of trademark compliance’ notification in Google Webmaster Tools or similar?
What to do if you are affected by the Google Pirate update
If you think your site has been unfairly affected by the Pirate update (file sharing, ugg boot site owners – I said unfairly) heres what I suggest you do.
- Check to see if your site has a DMCA takedown request submitted against it – you can find that info here. Be prepared to hit the next button alot as there is currently no downloadable spreadsheet for this however if you replace ‘example.com’ with your root domain in the following url this ‘should’ take you straight to the page concerning takedown requests against your site/s
This will give you detailed information including who complained about you and when. Unfortunately Google only lists DMCA takedown info if it was submitted via their online form. If it was faxed or emailed it wont be there. (Not sure yet how you’d find that info).
- Talk to the complainant (chances are you already know who they are) and try and work out a way forward.
- After talking to the complainant you will probably need to make adjustments to your site/pages (and possibly real world items) in order to meet the compliance. In reality, depending on what your site is about (sorry Ugg Boot phoneys) there may not be a way for you to comply.
- When you’ve done this ask for a written notice of compliance that you can pass on to Google.
- ONLY when you have done the above and are certain nothing more can be done tell Google your situation and what you have done to rectify it and why you believe your pre 10th August rankings should be restored. You can do this here http://support.google.com/bin/request.py?hl=en&product=websearch&contact_type=lr_counternotice. NOTE – As with all reconsideration requests to Google: be honest, tell them what you did to fix things and reference specific details e.g. Removal request id’s, dates etc to make their job of understanding your case and reinstating you easier. If you got a written notice of compliance from the complainant note you can only paste the info into the form, there is no upload file facility. If there is a legal settlement now or in the future agreeing your compliance be sure to reference that and the case file/court case number.
As I learn more about the Google Pirate update ill add it to this blog, until then if you have your own thoughts or advice about it or how to recover from it let me know.