Ready for some detailed advice to help protect your reputation online?
The advice you’ll read in this article works for both proactive reputation management, and for those that already have online negative content/reviews about them.
Be advised, however, that some sites may be impossible or very hard to beat.
Major news sites (e.g., The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, New York Times) require significant work to manage.
If a major news site has posted negative content about you, then you really need to be (or hire) an expert in SEO.
The do-it-yourself option is just not feasible at that scale. That said, these tips will help some DIYers before moving on to an expensive reputation management firm.
Up until recently, popular complaint website RipoffReport was also hard to beat.
Recent changes to Google’s algorithm (which we think occurred in September 2018) have pushed some complaint sites lower in search ranking. Read my prior article for more details about this.
Tip 1: Provide Excellent Service
You want to make sure that you really are providing an excellent service to avoid getting negative reviews in the first place. Consider going above and beyond your current efforts.
For example, if you run a restaurant, maybe provide a free appetizer to surprise new or returning customers.
If you notice even the slightest sign that a customer is unhappy, try your best to resolve the issue ASAP. The next best thing is to offer a free service or refunds to make up for the issue.
You can’t make everyone happy. I have been doing SEO services for over 20 years and there have been many times when I’ve had unhappy clients.
I have always either offered free services or provided refunds to my unhappy clients, and this is how I have kept a near flawless record online.
They say the client is always right. I know that sometimes they are not, but consider whether arguing with your customer is worth your reputation.
The decision may come down to the dollar value of your services.
Maybe a negative review on Yelp or Google Maps would not affect your overall rating because you have many positive reviews.
But what would happen if you got a negative review on a complaint site like RipoffReport?
Often, these kinds of reviews rank high for the brand name and can do more damage in a few months than the amount in dispute with your client.
I have offered full refunds to several clients over the years because the threat of a negative review on the right site can hurt.
My firsthand knowledge of the damage done to businesses has made me overly cautious.
One negative review can cost thousands of dollars in online reputation management (ORM) services to try and repair.
Tip 2: Ask for Reviews
Certain professions are more likely to have more negative reviews than positive.
For example, dentists for some reason usually get a high number of negative reviews.
My guess is that no one goes to a dentist with a happy feeling. One usually goes to a dentist to fix a cavity or do a cleaning, which could result in the discovery of cavities and require more work.
Having to spend money you had not planned on spending is a pretty good reason for most people to get upset. Even the best dental insurance requires some kind of a copay, so dental procedures can be expensive.
Even if you aren’t a dentist, you’re more likely to get positive reviews if you ask for them.
If you avoid asking your best customers for reviews, you may end up with more negative reviews than you would have wanted.
Just make sure that you know your customers are happy before you ask for the review.
If you are seeing your customer in person, you may start by asking how they felt about your service right after you finish the job.
Alternatively, you may want to follow up after a few days.
Another tip is to use a different person to follow up then whoever served the customer. If it is one of your staff that did the work/sale, then either a manager or you should do the follow-up.
This way the customer is more likely to tell you about a negative experience, and you won’t feel as defensive about it since you were not the one involved.
Tip 3: Incentives for Reviews
Consider offering some kind of incentive for reviews, but be warned that this practice is against Yelp. If you do this, make sure to never ask for it in writing, but always verbally.
If someone reports you to Yelp for doing this, you may get a warning or a demotion in Yelp’s search results.
I have seen businesses post messages behind their business cards asking for Yelp reviews, with a discount for positive reviews.
A customer just needs to take a picture of this and send it to Yelp. Yelp will quickly follow up with a Consumer Alert on your account.
Tip 4: Offer Refunds to Unhappy Clients
If you have clients that are unhappy with your services, at first try to resolve or fix the issues, but if this is not possible, then offer a full or partial refund or some other incentive such as discount coupons or even retail gift cards.
Accept that you were wrong. Trying to resolve issues will always sit better with clients than trying to argue.
Refunds can either help avoid the negative review or lessen the damage and turn the negative review into a somewhat positive one.
I’ve had clients where even a partial refund has meant the difference between a 1-star and a 4-star review. Even a 5-star rating may be possible.
Tip 5: Review Generating Platforms
Many companies offer platforms for review generation. The basic concept is to collect your customer’s emails and/or phone numbers.
After their visit, or every so often, you can send a survey email or text message to ask for feedback.
The message will ask how they felt about your services and if the answer comes back positive you can then ask them to give you a review on the review site of your choosing, such as Yelp and Google Maps.
If the answer comes back negative, you will see the message and can reach out to them to try and resolve the issue before they think about posting a negative review in the first place.
These services typically cost as little as $30 per month to run yourself, or up to hundreds of dollars for a full-service provider (ORM company). Some companies that offer this service include:
Tip 6: Consider Revising Your Business Model
I have a client with an ecommerce fashion store that dropships items from China, even though the business is based in the U.S.
The delivery time is usually 2 to 5 weeks, which is slow for most people. In addition, sometimes the Chinese sizes run smaller than US sizes.
So this business often gets many negative reviews and requests for returns/refunds. They also further upset clients by asking the customer to send back the item at their own expense.
As you can see, this kind of business cannot avoid negative reviews unless they change their business model.
The main benefit of their service is that it’s affordable. In fact, they are extremely cost-effective compared to similar fashion items found at major department stores.
So, what can a business like this do?
My advice begins with an adjustment to their sales copy informing customers that items are delivered from China and that shipping may take 2-5 weeks.
This tactic reduces some of their sales, but it avoids so many unhappy customers and unnecessary refunds.
Most people would probably not mind waiting a little if that would save them some money.
The customers that don’t want to wait that long are usually the ones that would complain most because they probably needed the item to be there for an occasion.
Also, they can offer free or reduced shipping costs for returns.
If the item is pretty cheap, another option is to provide a full refund and have the customer simply keep the item. Amazon used this tactic effectively in its growth phase to encourage Prime users.
The good news with this business is that they decided to change business models and keep inventory on hand to ship from the U.S. after I consulted with them.
They have been getting fewer negative reviews since they did this couple of months ago.
So my point here is to take a look at your business model to see what adjustments you can make to avoid situations that lead to negative reviews.
Even if it is going to cost you some business or money, you would be better off in the long run.
Not only will you increase business from new customers (thanks to positive reviews), happy clients will return and refer others to your business.
Tip 7: Be Proactive, Not Reactive
There are a number of things you can do to create a positive online image.
Your goal should be to populate the top 20 of Google with positive content about your business, which in turn may help to keep negative content out.
I plan on writing another article soon to cover more specifics, but in general, here are a few recommendations:
- Register your social media profiles on the top social media sites, and stay active on those platforms.
- Active Twitter profiles often get in the top 10 for their brand names, and Google may even show the latest feeds from them taking additional real estate space.
- YouTube videos will often rank well for brand names. You can create a professional video for less than $1,000, or an even lower budget video using your smartphone. Also, you can hire a freelancer on a site like Fiverr to do a slide show type video about your business.
- Distribute press releases every few months. Try to use different networks for distribution to get maximum coverage.
- If you don’t already have a blog, create one and post on a regular basis (once a week is what we recommend to our clients as a minimum).
- Create mini sites or blogs with subdomain blog platforms, such as wordpress.com or tumblr.com. Make sure your brand name appears as part of the subdomain (i.e., yourbrand.wordpress.com).
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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