“Other Sites Scrape Our Content and Publish It on Their Sites.” Google Gives Non-Legal Advice

Isn’t it infuriating when someone steals your content and then...ranks higher than you? Here are a few options.
SIA Team
November 2, 2021

NOTE: While the content below does delve into the legal side of this issue (the issue being copyright and intellectual property), neither SEO Nitro nor Google are providing legal advice. We’re not attorneys (well…at least I’m not), and we ask that you go to the proper legal authorities. 

DMCA stands for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and it’s basically a US-based law that discourages and criminalizes the unauthorized use of copyrighted digital content. 

The site, DMCA.com, is a good resource and watchdog that offers seals/badges of protection.

With that, let’s dive in…

“Sites Scrape Our Content.”

During the English Google SEO Office-Hours From October 29, 2021, at around the 28-minute, 35-second mark (queued video below), Google’s John Mueller addressed a question:

“We keep coming across sites that scrape our content and republish it on their websites, sometimes including a link to the original article and sometimes not. 

“How does Google handle this? 

“Is DMCA takedown necessary for every case? What happens if Google indexes the scraped content first? Would this then be seen as the original?”

A Tricky Situation

John began his response (which I’ve slightly edited for clarity):

“Yeah, I think this is always a bit tricky, because it’s uh kind of a mix of search and almost legal topics here, and it’s something that just happens quite a lot, in that some sites don’t care about things like copyright and they just take content from other people and republish that.”

“Is This a Critical Issue for Your Site?”

“So, kind of the way we handle it is kind of nuanced and includes lots of different things. The first thing I would consider as a site owner if you’re seeing this with your content is to think about whether or not this is a critical issue for your website at the moment and on a case-by-case basis.

“If there is a critical issue, then I would recommend trying to see if there are legal things that you can do to kind of help resolve this–even outside of anything SEO-related, and that could be the DMCA.

I can’t give you advice on legal topics, so that makes it a little bit trickier for me to say that you should use a DMCA or not, but in many cases the DMCA process would be appropriate here, and could be something that you could use here.

“So I would, on the one hand, read up on that process, and on the other hand, get local legal advice as well, so that you’re sure that you’re doing the right things when it comes to the legal side of things.

On The Google Side…

“On the Google side, in the search results, I think there are a few things that come into play here. 

“On the one hand, sometimes copies are also relevant in the sense…that especially when it’s not a pure one-to-one copy of something but rather you’re taking in a section of a page and writing about this content. 

Even Google Gets Copied (Though That’s Not to Justify The Copying of Your Content)

“We see that sometimes, for example, when we publish blog posts that other sites will take our blog posts and include either the whole blog post or large sections of it, but they’ll also add lots of commentary and kind of try to explain, ‘Well, what does Google actually mean here?’ or ‘What is Google saying between the lines?’”

“Or maybe–giving some more simple examples of how this could apply here and essentially building out a bigger picture–on the one hand, they’re taking our content and copying it but on the other hand, they’re creating something newer and bigger based on that content. 

“So in the search results, if someone were to search for that content, I would expect to see these kinds of other pages ranking as well, because they’re providing a slightly different value than just what our pages are providing, and we do see this happening and sometimes these pages rank above ours and that’s all fine, I think. 

Spammers and Scrapers Are Usually Very Good at Getting Their Content Indexed Faster

“With regards to indexing, the scraped content [ranking] first or not, I think that’s something that is kind of tricky to do there, because what we’ve seen in the past… is that oftentimes, spammers or scrapers will be technically very well versed and they’ll be able to get content indexed almost faster than the original source. 

“And then if we were to purely focus on like, ‘Who got this into Google’s systems first?’ and then it can be that we’re accidentally kind of favoring those who are technically better at publishing content and sending it into Google, versus those who are publishing the content naturally. 

“So, from that point of view, I think just purely focusing on the publish date doesn’t make much sense. 

But, There Is Hope

“What I’ve seen in our systems over the years is that we tend to look at the bigger picture for a lot of things. 

“When it comes to websites, and if we see that a website is regularly copying content from other sources, then it’s a lot easier for us to say, ‘Well, this website isn’t providing a lot of unique value on its own,’ and we can treat it appropriately, based on that. 

“So that’s something where, usually, the ranking side kind of settles down…a little bit.”

Sound Confusing? John Admits to Giving a Confusing Answer

John continued:

“I feel that was kind of a confusing answer.  I don’t know, so..I think, stepping back…the first thing with these kinds of problems, I think [what] I would always do is first figure out: is it actually a problem for you?’ 

“And if you do see that [it] is a problem for individual pages, then consider if there’s a legal solution that you can apply here, because if you can solve this by having the content removed, for example, then you don’t really have to worry about the SEO side of things.

“Then the third one I think is [that] sometimes, it’s okay for copies to also appear in the search results or some kinds of copies…but essentially, it depends quite a bit on the individual-use cases there, and I think also, maybe as a last step, if you’re seeing that this is really causing problems, then submitting spam reports to us is also a good way to let us know about these kinds of issues. Maybe that’s a little bit clearer.”

So, there are your options: the legal/DMCA route, and via spam reports. There’s also another legal route that John didn’t mention: g.co/legal, and you can read about it here: “Someone Stole My Content, and Even Monetized It. Google, What Do I Do?”

Source: Google Search Central YouTube channel