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Google Answers Why Entire Top 10 is “Stolen” Content

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Google Answers Why Entire Top 10 is "Stolen" Content


An editor from the popular news site The Verge tweeted that a new article was replaced on page one of Google’s search results by other sites that had copied it. Danny Sullivan answers why that is happening.

Copied Content that Ranks Frustrates Publishers

Copied content that outranks the original is something that publishers have expressed frustration about for many years.

Some of the complaints are due to a misunderstanding.

For example, when a person searches a nonsense phrase like randomly selected words from an article, Google doesn’t know what to do with that’s not a real search query and there is no answer for a nonsense phrase.

So what Google does is to default to a text search, which means that Google is returning search results based on the words in a search query matching the words on a web page.

The real test for whether copied content is outranking the original content is when copied content outranks the original content for competitive keywords that users actually make.

Should a Page Rank Twice if It’s in a Top Stories Result?

But this situation that popped up introduces a different scenario. What happened is that Google will not rank an article headline in the top of the normal search results if that web page is already ranking in the Top Stories featured results, at the top of the web page.

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Top Stories is a featured result where Google shows news articles related to a search query.

So if someone searches for a headline Google will usually show the article at the top of the search results in a Top Stories section.

But in this case it doesn’t show the original article in the top of the normal search results because of what Google calls deduplication, an algorithm that stops the same page from ranking twice.

So the question is, should Google rank the same page twice, once in the Top Stories and again at the top of the normal search results?

Entire First Page Consists of Stolen Content

Someone from The Verge tweeted that aside from Google’s featured news section at the top of the search results, a search for a headline from a new article resulted in Google showing an entire top ten that consists of nothing but stolen content.

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The person tweeted:

“Hey Google, I just searched for a headline that was published on my website and the ENTIRE FIRST PAGE after the news box was of websites stealing our content. The Verge didn’t show up until page 2.

This problem is getting worse.”

Google’s Danny Sullivan acknowledged that writers searching with a headline expect to see their articles ranking at the top of the search results, not on page two.

But he also noted that searching by headline is not necessarily how regular searchers would search.

Danny’s response is debatable. A reasonable argument could be made that many people search the title of an article when they want to find it to share with a friend or on social media. So there is a real reason why people other than the author of an article may search for the title of an article.

Danny Sullivan from Google tweeted:

“We’ll take a look. I know searching by headline is common for writers and yes, I’d expect this to show first for that. But it doesn’t reflect how most people might seek this content (and for how they might search, I do find it). But again, we’ll look to improve.”

Danny next followed up with an explanation for why an original article ranks on page two for it’s own headline:

Search Queries That Trigger Alternative Search Results

Danny Sullivan’s next tweet explains how a search query with a lot of terms, like a headline term, causes Google’s algorithm to sort of drop out and begin return search results that are more like old style keyword searches, where the search results are not based on search intent or links but just based on the keywords themselves.

Here is what Danny tweeted:

As I mentioned above, there is a search intent behind searching for headlines. It may be that Google hasn’t recognized “headline-oriented searches” as a search intent that the algorithm should be aware of.

Danny continued his answer:

News Articles and Deduplication

Deduplication is when Google attempts stop one article from ranking twice in the search results. Danny Sullivan stated that the reason an article might not appear in the regular search results is if it is already ranking in the Top Stories and if that Top Stories ranks at the top of the page.

So the question is, is this a situation where a web page should rank twice, because a user might want to see the original article at the top of the search results, even if it’s already in the Top Stories section?

Once the Top Stories section disappears the news article should rank at the top of the search results.

Content is Top Ranked After Top Stories is Gone

And that, as can be seen in the above screenshot, is what is happening right now.

This is an interesting question where Google has to decide what is fair for the publisher and what is useful for the searcher.

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer’s Landscape

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer's Landscape

There is a new data revolution happening, and it’s sweeping across the industry so quickly that many SEO and digital marketers are struggling to make sense of the insights and intelligence at their disposal.

To utilize this opportunity, marketers need to evolve their mindsets and use technology to analyze multiple data formats and understand the new opportunities it can bring.

SEO marketers of today and digital marketers of tomorrow will need to extract, structure quickly, and manipulate data to drive the most critical business outcomes.

Data has always been mission-critical to digital decision-making.

The Economist, back in 2017, declared it the world’s most valuable resource.

Fast forward to today and the future, and we can see that the exponential growth of data fuelling this revolution is staggering.

According to the IDC, the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data made since the advent of digital storage.

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Think about that for a second!

Flash drives, for example, were introduced in 2000.

This means that in the next five years, marketers will have to analyze and make sense of 2x the data created in the last 22 years!

The Data Revolution Means More Sources & Complexity For SEO

The data revolution has gone on for some time now, and it’s changed our concept of what counts as “data,” rightfully so.

In the past, we thought only numbers mattered.

But, in this new digital world where everything is converted into ones and zeros, data is broader and contains text, audio, and visual information – all bits waiting to be processed!

  • Machine-based and human-generated data are growing at a rate of 10x faster than conventional business data.
  • Machine-created data is increasing exponentially at a 50x the growth rate. This data revolution is primarily marketing-driven and consumer-oriented who are “always on.”
  • In just the last 18 months, the volume of site processing data we have been generating at BrightEdge has increased by 11x!
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As a result of these increasingly demanding trends, SEO and digital marketers need to adapt and become more like data analysts and scientists in approaching the extraction of structured data insights and business intelligence – without adding more manual work.

Fortunately, SEO is well-positioned to take advantage of this new data revolution.

  • Increasing your keyword universe – More keywords mean more data points to look at with reporting and fuelling insights. While focusing on conversion rate metrics is very important, it wouldn’t be possible without opening the scope of your audience and getting more people in the door. SEO has drifted away from writing for a primary dedicated keyword and is now way more advanced with advancements in search engines like Google’s understanding of intent of searches through RankBrain and BERT.
  • Increasing your search footprint – will also help you discover unexplored of informing your future content strategy or ideate new keyword ideas. However, sometimes you might miss the boat, like the transition of Content Management Systems slowly turning into “Experience Platforms” as they offer more functionality to meet the needs of today’s webmaster or marketer.

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Data Is The Currency Of An Accelerated SEO & Digital Age

By 2025, Worldwide data will reach 175 zettabytes.

But unfortunately, the human brain can’t process, structure, and analyze all that data.

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So technology engines have to help, and digital marketers should be the driver.

There is a massive opportunity for companies that can utilize data to create more engaging experiences.

A recent study showed that 95% of business leaders recognize this as their biggest growth lever over the next three years, which means there’s plenty at stake here!

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Robust data analysis ensures decisions are evidence-based and have more accountability.

Drawing on existing and new data sources to fully integrate business acumen and analytical skills into decision making, sourcing, managing, and analyzing large amounts of unstructured data will ensure continued use and success.

SEO began with data and has evolved.

From the introduction of real-time SEO in 2019 and Page Experience Updates in 2021, SEO’s future lies again with data and the creation of intelligent systems. Here marketers can leverage combined data sources that structures data for them.

As a result, they can achieve business objectives and stay ahead during all data and digital transformation stages.

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Technology & AI Are Helping SEO Evolve

Advancements in technology and, in particular, AI and Natural Language Processing has meant that SEO and digital marketers can become data analysts without having to become an actual data scientist.

This is key to unlocking structured insights from your company’s big data to make more precise predictions about what is coming next based on existing information.

Digital marketers can evolve, understand key trends, and learn in new areas such as:

  • Predictive modeling of future trends and forecasting based on multiple types of data.
  • Real-time identification of opportunities and intelligence.
  • Digital research at scale with both historical and real-time data.
  • Leveraging automated visualizations for various stakeholders.
  • Improved data security and compliance.
  • Market and business intelligence at a macro level.
  • Consumer behavior at the most granular level.

SEO and digital marketers can learn critical skills such as statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and strategy.

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AI, NLP, and machine learning are helping them do this without needing expertise in computer programming and software applications.

What digital marketers must do is combine their communication skills and analytics skills with stakeholders who cannot think outside of the advertising box.

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Data Analysis & Intelligence As Competitive Advantage

The application of technology will be the driving force behind the next generation of data analysis technology.

Therefore, SEO and digital marketers of today should learn how to better utilize insights from data analysis.

It’s becoming more apparent that the marketing platforms of tomorrow will require the capabilities of data analysis and science infrastructure at their core.

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The future of marketing will blend technological know-how, business sense, and an understanding of data analysis.

The next generation of SEO will touch all components of marketing, from video, email, and voice, to digital performance of content.

SEO and data science will converge into one evolved discipline that drives omnichannel acquisition and democratizes data.

Marketers who embrace this new era of SEO will be well-positioned to succeed in the years to come.

Data is reconfirming its role as the new competitive advantage, and as SEO and digital marketers, you must evolve if you want to be part of the future.

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Featured Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock

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