Web Search Rankings And Plagiarism

Search Engines and Duplicate Content

Plagiarism, which is nothing but copied content, produces duplicate content between two websites. It is well known that search engines are adverse to duplicate or identical content and that page rankings can suffer because of plagiarism. Google has guidelines against plagiarism and warns website owners against creating multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content, as stated in its Webmaster Guidelines. Having even a substantially duplicate content, much more a totally duplicate website, will penalize a websites’ page rank.

In addition to having the page rank penalized, the website containing plagiarized work or duplicate content can even be affected so much so that it won’t even make it to the search results listing. This happens because web crawlers, in an effort to be more efficient, do not crawl duplicate and near-duplicate sites that they have determined in their previous crawl. Because of this, duplicate sites do not even get indexed by the web crawlers, and so are not listed in the results page. In Google, mirrored sites are delegated to the link at the bottom of the results page which says “Similar Results have been omitted…”

Higher Ranking for Plagiarists’ Websites

The problem, however, lies when search engines instead of penalizing plagiarists end up penalizing the website that actually wrote the original content. Website owners of original content oftentimes find that websites who have copied their content are given a better page rank by search engines.

Why Plagiarists Get a Higher Page Rank

This problem of being ranked lower than plagiarists’ site happens mainly since Google and other search engines algorithms are unable to distinguish between the original and the duplicate or copied content in their index. Although it is true that search engines in general are adverse to identical content, since there is currently no way for the search engines to know which content is original, website owners of the original content oftentimes find that their site actually gets a lower ranking than a plagiarists’ site. Hence website owners of original content are the one that sometimes get penalized for plagiarism.

Also, plagiarists, who are driven by profit use other SEO techniques that drive their page rank much higher. Hence, website owners with original content but without very good optimization techniques often find themselves ranked lower than content “borrowers”. This is of course a serious issue for website owners, especially business websites whose revenue gets affected by the lower page rank.

One way that search engines address the issue of duplicate content is by assigning priority for the content of the website that was indexed first. By rule of seniority, the first site that posts the content should be the site that contains the original content. This works most of the time but breaks down when plagiarists copy the content quite fast so that crawlers sometimes do index the copied site before the original one. When this happens the site with the copied content gets priority over that of the original content. To avoid this, some website owners use the Sitemaps system to submit their articles or other fresh content to Google. This ensures that the submitted content will be known to Google as the original and not the copy.

Fighting Plagiarism and its Effect on Your Page Rank

Plagiarism has been an issue long before the World Wide Web was created. The creation of the Internet has made it easier and more lucrative for plagiarists to copy content and pass it off as their own without any regard to copyright laws. As mentioned earlier it is a serious threat to business owners and at the very least is a source of irritation to bloggers whose posts or articles oftentimes get ripped off. Because of this, while most companies do their best to fight plagiarists many individuals find themselves losing heart. The fight against plagiarism seems to be a losing battle, especially to those who have no idea in countering plagiarism.

The first thing website owners can do is to find out in the first place if their site has been plagiarized. A good way to do this is by using Copyscape. Copyscape lets website owners enter their web pages’ URL and then proceeds to scan other websites and notify the user for very close matches in content. Using the standard Google search also works. Simply copy a short paragraph from your webpage and paste it in Google’s search box to come up with all the other websites that contain the same or similar information.

In case your content has been copied the next best step to take is to make a copy of the copied page(s) and then send an email to the website requesting them to remove the copied material or at least for a back link and proper crediting of the work, depending on your objective. In case the website owner or administrator doesn’t reply at all or in a favorable manner, the next step to take is to contact the web hosting company they are using. Inform them that the site that they are currently hosting is infringing copyright and that they have a responsibility legally to regulate such sites. This could lead them to pressure the site to remove the copied content. However, this tack doesn’t always work. When this happens it is time to take a more legal action and contact your lawyer. According to an advice given by Roy Sumatra, in case your web page rank is affected by the copied website do contact the search engines wherein your page rank is affected. Google is aggressive and serious in dealing with infringement issues and has guidelines for dealing with infringement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

For those who want to prevent the hassle of being penalized as the copier of your own original content, as mentioned earlier, it is best to submit your content to through the Sitemaps system. By using the system, the content is submitted directly to Google and indexed by them automatically so that the content will be known as the original one and be given priority in case of plagiarism.

Danny Wirken

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