According to Google's John Mueller, there may be a website quality issue if copied content is consistently above the original source.
Mueller brought up this issue during Google Search Central's SEO hangout recorded on March 12th.
The website owner, Mohammad Mehdi Abbas, advises Müller that his original content is being stolen from other websites and republished. The stolen content is now beyond its own rank.
He asks Müller how he can protect his website from content theft and how it can be prevented that copied content will rank above his in the future.
This leads to Miller saying that there may be a website quality problem if it is an issue that keeps coming up.
What to do if copied content is on top of the original?
If a website owner finds their content is being republished on another website without permission, one of the options they can look into is the DMCA opt-out process.
This allows website owners to report stolen content to Google on a per-page basis. If the content is found to have been copied without permission, Google can remove the relevant page from search results.
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Since the DMCA process is a legal process, Miller declines to offer specific advice on when and how it should be applied.
“The most important thing you can do, depending on the situation, is to investigate the DMCA process. The DMCA process is a legal process so I cannot give you legal advice on when it applies and when it would not apply. But that might be something you could investigate.
With the DMCA process you are basically saying, my content is my content and someone else copied it. And you give google this information per page. On this basis, our systems or the legal team – I don't know the details – will check this and take appropriate action. And let the other side know too so that if they were the original source, for example, they could raise concerns and try to find another solution. But I think that's the primary approach 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 be any less likely to recur in the future.
If copied content is consistently above the original source, it could indicate a problem with the quality of the website, according to Müller.
Site quality reassessment
Mueller suggests re-evaluating the quality of your entire website when other websites copy your content and get higher search results.
"The other thing I would also think about is that if you regularly see other people with copied content ranking above yours, it indicates to me a situation where the overall perceived quality of your website may be somewhat is that ours algorithms have problems with it. "
According to Müller, Google should be able to determine which website to trust as a source based on its overall quality – compared to a random website that doesn't own the content.
“This could be something that might make sense to take a step back and think about your website as a whole and find ways to significantly improve the quality of that website. To make sure that when our algorithms run on your website with the content on it, and on a random website they don't know about, with the same content on it, they say well, in fact, your website is the one we should trust . And not so much as a random website is maybe as good or even better than this website that we know we don't trust as well. "
The quality of a website has always been a challenge as there is no tool that can be used to calculate how Google perceives the quality of a website.
However, you don't need a tool to help you determine that quality needs improvement when copied content consistently ranks above yours.
This is a sign that it's time to make some changes.
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Hear Mueller's full answer in the video below: