Conor Treacy

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Hey guys,

We have a lead that asked us to look into their site and how we may be able to assist them in ranking. At first glance, there's nothing much that we can help with. Our technical review scores 99 out of 100, with just a few images over 1MB in size, but everything else is looking good.

They currently have 10 pages on their site and 80 blog posts.

EVERY blog post is content that has been taken from other sites. Not a single page has more than 10% unique content.

Many of the pages on their site are also showing lifted content. Aside from that, it reads spammy with their keyword target mentioned pretty much every 5th or 6th word in a single paragraph.

Knowing all of this, their site ranks for more than 1600 keywords, of which 109 are in the top 10 positions. 7 of those keywords have more than 5,000 searches per month, and 52 have more than 100 searches per month.

We're not talking about small numbers or impact. They get traffic (4500+ visits a month). Their inventory is specialized and limited, so they sell out every couple of months.

So, knowing all of this - would you change anything? :) It violates every possible rule and guide, but it works.

Ethically, I can't see us working with them as we would be suggesting rewrites in areas, etc, but in doing that, they will definitely drop traffic. They'd be within the rules, but they'll likely take a ranking hit for doing it correctly.

What would you do? :)
 

ElizabethRule

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Though duplicate content across domains is not in itself grounds for action or removal from Google's search engine results, taking content from a different site and putting it on your own without permission is definitely not something I could advise anyone to do.

If any of the content they are using violates copyright or is found to have the intent to be "deceptive and manipulate search engine results" it can be reported per Google's guidelines.

I would recommend creating unique, high-quality content of their own to avoid any future copyright issues.
 

Phil Rozek

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@Conor Treacy, what @ElizabethRule said. Though Google is unlikely to do anything about plagiarism, the business's hosting company will if it is sent a credible DMCA takedown request by the true owners of that content. I've done a good number of those, and generally the hosting companies are good at forcing the offenders to remove the content.

Anyway, if I were that business (or worked with it) I'd do three things, in this order:

1. Stop churning out the ripped-off posts. For that matter, don't post anything. Clearly the business isn't willing to put in the time to do it in a long-term-effective way.

2. Put serious work into the static pages on the site, particularly the "money" pages: the homepage, the "service" pages, FAQs page, "about" or bio page(s), and maybe even "areas served" or "city" pages. On my site and in other forum posts here I've talked about what is involved in that, and I'm sure you know what's involved.

3. Remove the lifted blog posts, or REALLY rewrite them (i.e. don't just spin the content). Maybe haul over to the pages (see point #2) any proprietary, non-plagiarized content that would be a shame to get rid of. Wherever the posts and pages are similar in terms of content, maybe 301-redirect a post to the equivalent page. The traffic from those posts will still probably dry up, to one degree or another. But (1) I imagine most of the traffic is just for educational terms and doesn't convert, and (2) the business might as well do it on their terms, rather than after they are forced to remove the content, or the posts just naturally stop ranking for anything, or both.
 
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JeffClevelandTN

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Hey Conor, it is rare to see you posting a question, you are normally sharing your wisdom ;).

Did your prospect create the content or was it done by a previous vendor(s)? The prospective client may give you some grace regarding any possible drop in website traffic if you make them aware of the situation and the possible ramifications. Their response will also tell you a lot about their professional integrity. If they are willing to take the potential performance drop due to the need to rewrite all that content, that is a prospect I'd want as a client :).

We had a very similar issue with one of our prospects that was looking to replace their existing SEO/Social agency. It not only involved lifted copy but the prospect was unable to provide any evidence the photography being used was legally acquired. We told the prospective client we could not continue working with them unless we relaunched the entire site. They agreed to our terms and literally a week after redoing their website with unique copy and properly licensed photos, they received a financial damages demand along with a cease and desist letter (related to the earlier website's images) from a very prominent law firm representing the photographer of the images, who happened to be a photographer for major publications such as NY Times and Atlanta Journal & Constitution :oops:.

A funny sidenote, the client's attorney that handled the situation was one of our client's too! He later told me that because of the effort we made to make their website "legal", the financial consequences fell squarely on the former agency.

Best of luck!
 
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Conor Treacy

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Though Google is unlikely to do anything about plagiarism, the business's hosting company will if it is sent a credible DMCA takedown request by the true owners of that content.
When I ran a hosting company we received dozens of requests each week, to the point that we had to implement a policy where sites would no longer be welcome on our servers if there were several violations. DMCAs can be quite effective!

Did your prospect create the content or was it done by a previous vendor(s)?
In this particular scenario, the client actually "wrote" it. The other SEO company would add some extra keywords into the article and then generate links or push to social media, but the actual content end of things is done by the client.

... literally a week after redoing their website with unique copy and properly licensed photos, they received a financial damages demand along with a cease and desist letter ...
Talk about perfect timing! At least they weren't offline for weeks while rebuilding something.



It's always interesting talking about copyright issues with clients. Many will say "oh, I just pulled this from a site I like" or "I saw this on Google Images" or whatever else regarding content. Of course, if the shoe is on the other foot, all hell breaks loose! :)

As an update to this client scenario, we have not yet talked further about working together. We delivered our information to them, they responded that they understood that the site needs some serious overhaul to prevent possible future financial damages, and they are aware that if we found these issues so easily, any competitor can also find and report the issues to the rightful owners of the copyright.
 

chadkimball

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I would recommend replacing dup/junk/plagaraized content slowly, if you can, to avoid affecting their rankings. It is possible they'll get hit with a future google update, that would be the main thing you'd be helping them avoid.
 

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