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On a Google SEO Office-hours hangout, John Mueller explained why Google might rank plagiarized content over original content this can happen for many different reasons. One of the main reasons is that the publisher of the original content is of poor quality overall.
John Mueller answered a question about the reasons why an article thief will outrank the original content publisher. The questioner was concerned about being outranked by another site that was using content from their site.
During the interview, he asked John Mueller if Google could tell which site published the original content and which site copied it. The person asked: “Can you tell me if someone who is copying my content consistently and ranking better than us, …what could be the factors which we should look into or what measures we should take…?”
Initially, Mueller discussed filing a complaint under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This is a legal process that applies to American publishers. In response, the person asks whether Google can determine whether content is original or plagiarized.
John Mueller began his answer by affirming that Google knows which site originally published the content. Later, he explained why, in some cases, Google would rank a plagiarizer higher than the original content publisher. He stated: “From my point of view it’s something that we can determine to a large extent.
But even if we know which one is the original and which one is the copy, sometimes it makes sense to show a copy in the search results. So that’s something where it’s like it can happen. And one of the situations where I have seen this happen consistently is if a website is of lower quality overall, where when our systems look at it they’re like, well we can’t really trust this website.
But if a higher quality website were to take some of this content and publish it, we would say, well we know more about this website and actually maybe we should show this content in the search results. That’s also one of the situations that you might be running into where maybe it’s worthwhile to also invest in improving the quality of your website overall. So not just that one article that apparently people like. But also the rest of your website overall.”
How Google evaluates website trustworthiness:
Several factors can make Google distrust a website. It’s relatively safe to disregard content as a quality issue if Google is ranking another site that contains plagiarized content. In addition, poor quality outbound and inbound links are among the most important quality concerns.
Quality issues include inbound and outbound links in addition to content itself. It has happened on rare occasions that a poisoned domain was used for spam previously. That’s an old penalty that doesn’t appear in Google Search Console and can prevent a site from ranking for its keywords. In most cases, a site may rank for its domain name once a month, but then drop out of search results after a few days.