Search engine optimization, when done correctly, can take a lot of work. This is why so many people are so eager to take shortcuts.
Fortunately, there are some tasks that don’t require as much effort, compared to tasks like link building, yet still yield significant gains.
I’m a big fan of efficiency, so I love tactics that deliver a greater return on my investment of time and/or money.
In this article, I’m going to explain five of these tactics which are easy to execute successfully but can deliver powerful results.
These easy SEO wins will help you get more out of your efforts and sprint past your competitors. They will also help to leverage better results out of your other SEO efforts like link building and content development.
1. Prune Outdated /Low-Quality Content
You probably created all of the content on your website with the best of intentions, but still, it’s almost a certainty that some of it is garbage.
There are a variety of reasons for this, and it happens to the best of us. The solution in many cases is to prune this content. In fact, Danny Goodwin and Loren Baker recently hosted a webinar on exactly this topic.
Some people are hesitant to get rid of any content, no matter the reason. The thinking is generally that it can’t do any harm to leave it there. And Google has reinforced this thinking time and time again.
But the reality is that despite what Google’s representatives say, outdated and/or low-quality content can negatively impact your ranking and traffic.
It probably should impact your credit score too, but apparently, I don’t have the clout necessary to make that happen.
Identifying Content to Prune
Once you’ve worked up the courage to start pruning, the first step is to identify the content that should be deleted.
The easiest and most complete way to do this is to use software like Screaming Frog to crawl your website and generate a list of URLs. This helps to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Next, you’ll need to begin the tedious task of reviewing this list, URL by URL, to determine which content is outdated or low quality. This means you actually need to manually visit each page and review the content.
It may help to prioritize this list. Google Search Console gives you the ability to export a CSV file of the URLs Google has indexed for your website, which you can then sort by traffic.
From here, you’ll want to start evaluating the URLs with no traffic, working your way up.
It’s important to point out that a lot of this content you’re deleting can and should be redirected to a stronger, high-quality page.
But don’t fall into the misguided approach of redirecting them to your homepage. If there is a legitimately relevant page on your website, redirect it there, otherwise, just let it 404.
But what about the content that’s not a complete dumpster fire, and is still relevant?
2. Improve Quality Content
If you’ve been doing things right, a lot, if not most of your content should survive the executioner’s blade.
This content should be improved based on your visitors’ needs.
The advantage here is that this content already exists, the URL has a history in Google, and it may even have some inbound links. Because of these factors, it makes a lot more sense to improve that content rather than starting over from scratch.
Depending on circumstances, this might include:
- Editing your content to improve readability, increase engagement, and to make it more comprehensive.
- Adding relevant and useful media, including images, video, and PDFs.
- Including original data, research, statistics, and case studies.
We’ll want to prioritize the content to improve based on quick and easy wins. This means we won’t be targeting topics we don’t already rank for, but we also won’t be focused on improving positions we already rank highly for.
So let’s go back to our Google Search Console export and sort the data based on URLs that rank anywhere from Position 5 to 30 in the search results.
We’ll then further sort this data by relevance and potential search volume. From here, we will compare these URLs to our competitors who outrank us to identify opportunities to improve.
Some of the things we’re looking for could include:
Despite what you may have been told, size does matter.
While not a worthwhile metric on its own, it can help to determine how comprehensive several URLs are in comparison to each other.
Generally speaking, the top ranking pages across all industries tend to be more comprehensive than those that they outrank. This doesn’t mean that longer content will always win, but it can be a powerful factor.
Does your content effectively and completely answer not only the original query, but also any related questions that may come up as a result?
You need to think about not only the immediate topic, but everything related to the customer journey. This might include:
- Related definitions
- Frequently asked questions
- A summary of relevant laws and regulations
- Explanation of a process
- Technical specifications
- Statistical data
- Case studies
How well-written is your content?
This is not something you want to evaluate by gut feel – you need an objective measurement.
- Yoast gives you a readability score while editing content right in WordPress.
- SEMrush enables you to test readability both within their platform and with a Chrome add-on that integrates with Google Docs.
- There are countless other tools as standalone websites, apps, and addons/plugins, available.
Your immediate goal is to make your content easier to read than the content that’s outranking you, but that’s just a starting point.
If your competitors content reads like someone spilled a bowl of alphabet soup, don’t set out to simply be a little better than them. Your goal should be to blow them away.
Are original and useful images included within your content? How about video and/or audio files?
Images can provide additional context that helps search engines understand what your content is about. So can video, provided that schema is properly used.
But both serve another more important role, and that is to improve the user experience.
Look for opportunities to use media to provide additional information that’s not included in the text.
Both images and video are great at making complex topics easier to understand, but video is particularly effective at keeping visitors on your website longer, which is always a good thing.
It’s always a wise idea to include a watermark on your images to prevent competitors from stealing them.
Sure, you could file a DMCA complaint after the fact, but it’s always easier to avoid the problem in the first place.
3. Update Internal Links
Internal links can be a powerful tactic in your SEO toolbox, but it’s important to review them from time.
Your internal links should point to any pages that you want to rank well, and they should be placed on any pages with content relevant to the link destination. Equally important, these links should be direct.
This is a pretty common problem in websites where content is frequently published, moved, or deleted. The solution is to use a tool like Screaming Frog or SEMrush to crawl your site and identify any redirect chains.
As for managing these internal links, I’m a big fan of automating this task, and this is easy for WordPress websites.
There are several plugins available that enable you to specify certain words/phrases to automatically link to specific URLs.
This allows you to instantly create, edit, and delete links across your entire website, whether you have a few pages or a few million pages.
4. Improve Page Load Speed
The longer a webpage takes to load, the fewer leads and sales you’ll generate. To compound this problem, slower websites also tend not to rank as well compared to faster websites.
This makes page speed monumentality important.
Most websites are painfully slow, but the good news is that it’s relatively easy to improve.
While improving page speed requires a moderate level of technical expertise, I still consider this to be an easy win because the improvements you make will have an immediate and sitewide effect.
I’ll briefly share a few tactics here, but I encourage you to check out another article I wrote, explaining how to improve page speed, in great detail.
Dump the Budget Web Hosting
The cheaper web hosts tend to oversell their services, so your website is crammed onto a server with hundreds or even thousands of other websites.
Because these servers often lack the horsepower necessary, the websites they host often suffer in terms of page speed.
Reduce HTTP Calls
Fewer HTTP requests typically means a faster website.
So how do we get there?
You should also minimize the number of image files by using CSS to create the desired design effect and/or using sprites to merge multiple frequently used images.
Optimize Media Files
Images and videos on many websites tend to be larger than they need to be.
The first step is to to make sure your media files are in the ideal format. For example, JPG is best for photographic images, while GIF or PNG are better for images with large areas of solid color.
Then, you’ll need to ensure your media files are properly sized. Images and video should be no larger than they will be displayed.
For example, if a particular image on your website will be never displayed at more than 800px wide, the image file should be 800px wide.
Finally, you’ll need to compress your media files. There are a number of free tools available online for compressing various file types. There are also WordPress plugins that can compress all of the images already on your website.
These three steps are a good start, but as I mentioned earlier, I highly encourage you to check out my previous article on improving page speed for more tactics and greater detail.
5. Implement Schema Markup
There is no definitive evidence that schema markup has any direct impact on ranking, however, it’s still critical to SEO.
That’s because it has the potential to increase your website’s visibility in the search results, which results in higher click-through rates.
Since most websites today still don’t use schema, this creates a tremendous opportunity for those that do. Take a look at this example and tell me which result caught your eye first?
Fortunately, implementing schema is relatively simple. There are three types, and they are used in different scenarios.
- Standard schema microdata, which is marked up directly in HTML.
- RDFa, which is used in a variety of different document types including XML, HTML 4, SVG, and many others.
In some cases, you’ll use JSON and add it to your website just like you would any other script. In some cases, you’ll add markup to specific elements on your website, and in others, you might add RDFa to a different document type.
Roger Montti wrote a great, in-depth post on schema, so rather than reinventing the wheel here, I’ll just direct you to his article.
But schema goes a lot deeper than where it is today and I anticipate that it will play a much larger and more direct role in the search algorithm. Especially as voice search begins to gain traction.
Montti explains in another article how Google is currently using speakable markup, which I believe will become a more prominent factor in search in the coming years.
Featured Image: Created by author, April 2019
All screenshots taken by author, April 2019
How Your Company Can Prevent ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits
Every day, websites and mobile apps prevent people from using them. Ignoring accessibility is no longer a viable option.
How do you prevent your company from being a target for a website accessibility ADA lawsuit?
Guidelines for websites wanting to be accessible to people with disabilities have existed for nearly two decades thanks to the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative.
A close cousin to usability and user experience design, accessibility improves the overall ease of use for webpages and mobile applications by removing barriers and enabling more people to successfully complete tasks.
We know now that disabilities are only one area that accessibility addresses.
Most companies do not understand how people use their website or mobile app, or how they use their mobile or assistive tech devices to complete tasks.
Even riskier is not knowing about updates in accessibility guidelines and new accessibility laws around the world.
Investing in Website Accessibility Is a Wise Marketing Decision
Internet marketers found themselves taking accessibility seriously when their data indicated poor conversions. They discovered that basic accessibility practices implemented directly into content enhanced organic SEO.
Many marketing agencies include website usability and accessibility reviews as part of their online marketing strategy for clients because a working website performs better and generates more revenue.
Adding an accessibility review to marketing service offerings is a step towards avoiding an ADA lawsuit, which of course, is a financial setback that can destroy web traffic and brand loyalty.
Convincing website owners and companies of the business case for accessibility is difficult. One reason is the cost. Will they see a return on their investment?
I would rather choose to design an accessible website over paying for defense lawyers and losing revenue during remediation work.
Another concern is the lack of skilled developers trained in accessibility. Do they hire someone or train their staff?
Regardless of whether an accessibility specialist is hired or in-house developers are trained in accessibility, the education never ends.
Specialists are always looking for solutions and researching options that meet guidelines. In other words, training never ends.
Many companies lack an understanding of what accessibility is and why it is important. They may not know how or where to find help.
Accessibility advocates are everywhere writing articles, presenting webinars, participating in podcasts, and writing newsletters packed with tips and advice.
ADA lawsuits make the news nearly every day in the U.S. because there are no enforceable regulations for website accessibility. This is not the case for government websites.
Federal websites must adhere to Section 508 by law. State and local websites in the U.S. are required to check with their own state to see what standards are required.
Most will simply follow Section 508 or WCAG2.1 AAA guidelines.
If your website targets customers from around the world, you may need to know the accessibility laws in other countries. The UK and Canada, for example, are starting to enforce accessibility.
In the U.S., there has been no change in the status of ADA website accessibility laws this year.
Some judges have ruled that the lack of regulation or legal standards for website accessibility does not mean that accessibility should be ignored.
Is Your Website At Risk of an ADA Lawsuit?
Some businesses feel as though they are sitting ducks, and rightly so, since in some states, there are individuals and law firms searching for websites that fail accessibility.
Since the Federal government has put a hold on addressing accessibility standards for websites, several states are taking matters into their own hands.
In California’s Riverside County, the DA’s office is pushing back against a law firm and individuals accused of filing more than 100 ADA lawsuits against website owners and small businesses. According to a report by the Orange County Breeze:
“Abusive ADA lawsuit practices are not new, but the defendants in this case are responsible for a significant volume of the ADA lawsuits that have been filed in Southern California over the last several years. Rutherford has been a party-plaintiff in more than 200 separate ADA lawsuits the defendants have filed against businesses in San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.”
In New York, which saw 1,564 ADA cases in 2018, two plaintiffs filed over 100 ADA lawsuits against art galleries this year. Artnet News reports:
“Technology has changed, that’s why we’re dealing with this, says Frank Imburgio, founder and president of the website development firm Desktop Solutions. “The state of speech recognition and speech synthesis that’s in everyone’s Alexa? That same piece of software embedded in your browser means blind people can avail themselves of your website, but the websites were not designed with that in mind” five or ten years ago.”
New York State Senator Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, chairs the Senate internet and technology committee that considers legislation affecting issues related to technological advancements, like artificial intelligence and digital currency.
It was recently announced they are planning legislative action to curb the surge in the number of lawsuits.
Florida is a hotbed of ADA lawsuits. Flagler County paid over $15,000 to settle an ADA lawsuit brought by a blind person who was unable to use their PDFs.
They removed 7,500 informational PDF documents from their website because they were not optimized for screen readers. In doing so, sighted users no longer had access to this information either.
In the case of Robles v. Domino’s Website and Mobile App accessibility lawsuit, Dominos is taking it to the Supreme Court to fight back.
Every type of website has been the target of an ADA lawsuit. It doesn’t matter if it is owned by one person, a small business or a major corporation.
A Title III public-facing website or mobile app includes travel, hotels, finance, ecommerce, services, healthcare, real estate, and education.
Educational websites and software applications are a growing ADA lawsuit target not only for accessibility to the public, but also for employees and students who use school software.
One recent study found that 95% of U.S. K-12 school websites had errors that made the page difficult for a person with a disability to use. At the state level, schools and universities are facing an avalanche of ADA lawsuits.
What Can Companies Do to Prevent an ADA Lawsuit?
The only way to prevent an ADA lawsuit is to plan for, design and build for web accessibility.
Inclusive design should be a priority and considered the foundation of any website business plan.
Every business with a website, mobile app or internet software application should hire an accessibility specialist who is trained in the application of WCAG guidelines and has knowledge of accessibility laws and guidelines from all countries.
There are only a few companies that specialize in accessibility services, tools or training. They are competitive and busy. You can find alternatives with accessibility consultants focused on just testing or remediation.
If you live outside the USA, you will find accessibility experts and companies who have been doing this work for years and sharing information through podcasts, building new automated testing tools, and stepping forward as accessibility advocates through writings and webinars.
Companies are facing a shortage of accessibility-trained designers and developers. This is a real burden because putting designers on projects who do not know how to build for accessibility is almost as risky as not having anyone at all.
For example, applying ARIA with HTML5 is commonly done incorrectly or image alt attributes are not written properly, especially for infographics or images over background images.
The source of most ADA lawsuits is the inability to access webpages or mobile apps with assistive devices used by sight-impaired users and people who can not use a mouse pointer.
The fun of web design for designers is the visual presentation.
Elementor, a wildly popular WordPress theme building and page design plug-in, makes it easy to incorporate parallax, dynamic content, and animation, can be enhanced to increase the accessibility of the website, and it allows the creation of new themes, headings and footers with more developer control.
What If I Can’t Afford to Hire An Accessibility Specialist?
This question applies to all businesses, but for small and medium-sized businesses, adding an accessibility specialist is out of the question because of budget constraints.
Most small businesses are a team of one person, or the owner has a website person wearing all the hats from SEO to site maintenance, but not accessibility. That is a separate skill.
Find a website company that offers accessibility services. They may provide accessibility testing, accessibility site audits or affordable package deals for their clients such as monthly remediation for PDFs, documents, images, forms, and content spread out over time.
Accessibility reports performed after a company has received a letter of complaint are extremely expensive and unless performed by skilled accessibility specialists, will not hold up in court.
Should I Just Put Up an Accessibility Statement?
The original purpose of an accessibility statement was to show that a site was tested, what standards it meets, what was not tested, and how to contact the company if there are any accessibility issues.
Some accessibility professionals don’t advise using them at all because the pace of technology creates ongoing adjustments to accessibility guidelines.
Unless your company has gone through formal accessibility testing and remediation, I don’t recommend providing an accessibility statement.
Some companies want to put up one that says they are in the process of testing, but users have no proof and there is no accountability here. It won’t hold up in court either.
As a courtesy, every website or application should make it obvious and easy to contact by email or phone, not a form (because they are most often not accessible) and invited to describe the issue they found.
What Can I Do Now to Improve Accessibility?
Optimally, every website or app should not prevent anyone from using it regardless of any physical, mental or emotional impairment, permanent or temporary.
Understanding how to plan, build, and test for accessibility requires advanced knowledge of accessibility to meet Section 508, WCAG2.1 A+ AA guidelines and regulations required by states and countries.
Finding that miracle person who can do all that is unlikely, expensive, and too overwhelming to think about.
Yet, so is an ADA lawsuit, floundering conversion rates, search engine rank roller coaster rides, and a negative brand reputation.
Starting somewhere, here are steps to jump in:
- Do accessibility testing using a free automated accessibility testing tool like WAVE, Axe, or Tenon. You may not understand how to make the repairs, but you will see errors, warnings, and alerts you didn’t know existed.
- Hire an accessibility specialist to perform formal accessibility testing that goes beyond the limitations of automated tools. Some tools are better than others. Some are not kept up to date on standards. No accessibility expert relies on automated tools. They incorporate manual testing, too.
- Ask for a quote for a limited accessibility review or site audit. This is where a sampling of pages are tested rather than every single one.
- Look for agencies that include accessibility design or testing services. They are worth gold for your bottom line.
- Train your web designers and developers. Invest in them. Your online business may depend on their skills. They not only need to know how to code for accessibility but also how to develop the entire methodology for planning, development, testing, and long term maintenance.
- Large corporations should hire accessibility companies that specialize in user testing with disabled users. This is the same as user testing, but with the addition of new personas and real users with various impairments.
- Use your keyboard to navigate your webpage or mobile app. No mouse. If you can’t figure out where you are, where to go or got lost, this is a major issue for accessibility.
- Turn on any screen reader app, download a trial of JAWS, or use your mobile phone accessibility settings, and go to your website or app. You will quickly learn what the experience is like for blind and sight impaired people or multi-taskers who are adapting to the use of audible alternatives for reading.
- If you use any third-party software applications or WordPress plugins, require that it meet accessibility compliance by contract.
- WordPress site owners and designers need to know the basics that can be adjusted from the front-end to improve the accessibility of the site. This includes:
- Font sizes (use em), font faces (use sans-serif)
- Proper heading tags in the right schematic order (H1, H2, H3, not H2, H1, H4, H2)
- Test that colors contrast properly (use any free tool).
- Avoid using color as the only visual indicator that the state of something changed or is an alert.
- Make all PDF’s accessible (Adobe has a tool.)
- Underline text links. If you don’t want every link underlined, create rules in CSS to choose.
- Absolutely no centered text unless it is a heading or sub-heading.
- Describe each image using the alt attribute option. At a minimum, describe what the image is. There are lots of rules for alt text. Start with that one.
- Add the WordPress Accessibility plug-in (see resources below) and use it to add focus states, skip to content and other courtesies. And send Joe a donation for using it. He keeps it updated.
And finally, if you don’t need a CMS website, there is more control over the code if you return to an HTML website.
Fortunately, most of the information is available at free or affordable fees. There are accessibility communities, podcasts, webinars, and the WCAG guidelines themselves.
Microsoft, IBM, Google, and Adobe provide detailed how-to advice.
As you apply inclusive design practices, you will see the benefits for SEO, usability and conversions, brand, reputation, referrals, and customer satisfaction.
Accessibility at its most basic level is a human right. Investing in people is worth it.
In addition to the resources listed in Top 36 Web Accessibility Resources for Digital Marketing Companies, check out:
3 Image Optimization Tips for Faster Speeds & Higher Rankings
Some people are visual learners, some kinesthetic, and others auditory. But I’d argue the majority of us are impatient learners.
In many cases, images are the number one issue affecting website load times.
We all understand that high-quality images contribute to positive user experience, but I wonder have we drank too much of our own Kool-Aid?
A 2016 Google and SOASTA study confirmed that complex webpages with more images had lower conversion rates than webpages with fewer images.
While some websites may benefit being “image-heavy”, we should really look at page speed as a scarce resource. The more we dedicate this resource to loading large, bulky resources, the less effective it will be.
With Google’s redesigned PageSpeed Insights, a lot of people are confused about what it means to serve images in “next-gen formats” and what browser support exists to satisfy Google’s concerns.
Additionally, many people are still relying on old technologies to compress and serve images on their website.
Read on for some pragmatic tips to help you optimize images for faster page speeds while preserving your UX.
1. Use Images Responsibly
Minimalistic design often lends itself to good user experience because it provides greater performance. But you need to ask yourself whether an image is absolutely critical to your design.
For more dynamic webpages, it can be tempting to make images interactive and even a focal point of your design.
Unless you’re a photographer, you can leverage alternative resources instead of images to improve your UX, such as:
- CSS3 for interactive elements.
- Scalable vector graphics for simple logos and designs.
- Embedded videos instead of bulky GIFs.
In fact, vector images tend to maintain greater resolution when being loaded on higher resolution devices.
Furthermore, instead of encoding text within images, which search engines can’t read, you could instead turn to web fonts which improve UX.
Within the PageSpeed Insights tool, you’ll often find that Google recommends deferring images offscreen to improve load outs. This essentially means moving images below the fold so at least the initial loadout for users is faster.
To accomplish this, you’ll need to optimize your critical path rendering.
Inline CSS delivery for header and main document module can also provide users with an instant loadout while all unused CSS and resources are loaded in the backend.
While this is fairly complicated, there are tools to assist in WordPress.
W3 Total Cache caches and minifies virtually every resource in your CDN from HTML all the way to WordPress elements.
This tool also offers HTTP/2 capabilities to further improve loadouts.
2. Automate Image Compression
Probably the two best ways to optimize images for speed are by reducing their size and compressing their files. Image compression is incredibly easy with the right tools at your disposal.
If you’re working with WordPress, you can install Imagify and compress all of your images in bulk in one click. All further images that are added to your library will be compressed using this tool.
This plugin even offers an aggressive setting to compress JPGs and PNGs for massive speed boosts.
If you’re worried about plugins slowing down your site or are working with a more open-source CMS, you can use Image Optim to compress all of your images in a particular folder. It’s drag-and-drop features make it incredibly easy to compress images and then add them to your site.
Additionally, if you’re worried compressing images in your CMS and leaving large file sizes, you can also experiment with compression in the Adobe Suite or Affinity Photo.
In terms of resizing images for different devices, WordPress’s responsive design can do that for you using the ‘srcset’ attribute.
One important thing to keep in mind is that lossy compression may come with the potential to sacrifice the quality of your image.
At larger scale compression, lossy compression will eliminate greater bit depth and provide noticeably reduced file resolution.
3. Serve Images in Next-Gen Formats
Depending on your file format, you will have to use lossy or lossless compression.
Traditionally, we’ve relied on two image formats JPEG (lossy) and PNG (lossless compression).
But tools have begun recommending new image formats, especially for creating fast load speeds and maintaining smooth aspect ratios over mobile devices.
You can choose between a number of new formats, including JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP.
JPEG 2000 is much like traditional JPEG, but with lossless compression. This means that compressed JPEG 2000 files retain their metadata without much of a loss of quality.
JPEG XR supports both lossless and lossy compression at higher compression ratios.
Unfortunately, both of these formats are unsupported by most major browsers, including Google Chrome and Firefox. This means that you’ll need to have the JPEG or PNG format as a fallback regardless.
The only image format that’s supported by Google Chrome, as well as Firefox is WebP. WebP offers lossless and lossy compression, as well as support for animation.
There are a variety of WebP plugins to experiment with and you can convert a JPEG or PNG file to WebP using an online converter or Photoshop.
Of course, it’s ideal to provide a backup to a WebP file. To accomplish this, you’ll need to leverage the <picture> element in your HTML to provide backups.
Plugins like WebP Express for WordPress automatically do this in the HTML and can be used for bulk conversion in your library.
Ultimately, the option to serve images in next-gen formats is not too appealing considering limited browser support.
But leveraging formats like WebP to give your site images greater compression ratios and smaller file sizes over mobile devices will make a noticeable difference in page speed.
Page speed over mobile is hard to maintain, especially on image heavy sites.
Responsive web design and other speed plugins can’t really account for large bulky file sizes and resources are trying to fetch on your site.
Fortunately, by automating compression, resizing files, and images more strategically you can drastically improve your page load speeds.
Featured Image: Pexels
All screenshots taken by author, April 2019
Google on Content Theft and Effect on Rankings
In a Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller answered whether plagiarized content could hurt a site’s rankings. Mueller’s response gave a peek into how Google handles sites that steal content and the effect it has on your site.
Scraper Sites and Effect on Ranking
There are many bad actors who steal content and use it on their own sites. It is done with automated software. The process is called content scraping and the sites that publish stolen content are known as content scrapers.
Stolen content is associated with the loss of rankings in Google. It’s not unusual to search a snippet of your own content and see another site ranking with it.
The concern about the effect on rankings is a legitimate one.
Here is the question:
“A few websites have started scraping my content and have been publishing them. We tried to contact their hosts for a DMCA takedown without luck. Does having my content scraped and republished hurt my site? Should I disavow these URLs?”
What is DMCA?
The question made a reference to a DMCA takedown. DMCA is an American law called The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
The law protects hosts, domain name registrars and other businesses from liability for copyright violations as long as they provide a way for content creators to request that stolen content be removed. It also provides due process provisions that allow the takedown to be contested which can then result in costly litigation for the content creator.
It’s somewhat surprising that the publisher tried using the DMCA and failed. This can happen when the web host and/or domain name registrar are in a country outside of the USA. Each country has their own remedy.
Does Copied Content Affect Rankings?
Google’s John Mueller gave an overview of how stolen content affects rankings:
“So from our point of view, other sites copying your content wouldn’t be something that would negatively affect your website. So that’s a very common situation, that sites copy content.
…if you’re not seeing those copies showing up in search for the queries that you care about then it might not be the highest priority to focus on.”
What John Mueller makes sense in the context that scraper sites do not generally rank for actual search queries. Is it possible for scrapers to rank in long tail or non-competitive queries? Almost anything is possible with those kinds of queries.
Why Scrapers Rank for Snippets of Content
It’s not unusual for a scraper site to rank for a snippet of content stolen from another site, but there’s a good reason for that.
Snippets of content are generally regarded as gibberish. If another site ranks for a snippet, it’s not because their thievery has made your site less relevant. It’s because the search algo ranks pages differently for nonsense phrases.
Google’s algorithm is trying to make sense of all search queries. That’s virtually impossible to do when there is no “sense” in the search query.
And when the snippet does make sense, Google may very well rank other sites for that query ahead of your sites, but that’s the algo kicking in, ranking pages for “topics.”
Google does not rank pages by matching keywords, so even if the search is your snippet, that does not guarantee that your site will rank number one.
What’s important is that content thieves generally do not rank for the search queries that matter. So don’t let it trouble you if you see scraper sites outranking you for snippets. That’s not a sign that your site lost ranking strength due to stolen content.
How to Protect Against Scrapers?
WordPress Anti-bot Plugins
There are many WordPress plugins that provide a defense against malicious scrapers.
WordFence is a popular plugin that can be customized to block scrapers for however hours you want to block them. It emails you to let you know when you’re under attack, which can help you increase how swiftly WordFence shuts them out.
WordFence appears to work by monitoring visitor behavior, particularly the amount of pages or the kinds of pages that it is trying to download. It’s the behavior that triggers a wall that blocks the bots.
I use WordFence to stop scrapers and hacker bots and am happy with how it works.
Blackhole Anti-bot WordPress Plugin
Blackhole works on the principle of the honeypot. Good bots will avoid crawling a prohibited link. Bad bots will rush right in. Blackhole sets a trap for bad bots by including a link to the honeypot. Once the bad bot follows the prohibited link the trap is triggered and the bot is excluded from crawling.
All search engines are whitelisted. This means that no legitimate search engine will ever be blocked, even if Google follows the link.
There is a PHP bot blocker called Blackhole. Blackhole can be installed with any server that uses PHP. So it will be compatible with a forum site using software such as Xenforo or phpBB. Read more about the PHP version of Blackhole here.
reCAPTCHA Enterprise Beta
Google recently announced a free beta trial of a service called, reCAPTCHA Enterprise. It is a cloud service that is designed to block automated scrapers, hackers and other malicious bots.
That Google itself is offering a solution to bad bots may be a sign of how important it is to block automated bot software, including scrapers.
Should You Protect Against Scrapers?
I believe it’s a good idea to protect your site from automated bots. Bots tend to crawl at night at the same time that Google and other legitimate bots are crawling. This can become problematic when too many malicious bots are probing your site, slowing down your server. This can cause your server to begin serving error response codes to Google, which will then be unable to crawl your and index your site.
So although John Mueller is correct to say that stolen content does not affect your rankings, you should still try to protect against scrapers in order that Google can properly crawl and index your site.
What’s important is that Google confirmed that scraped content does not affect your rankings.
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