Google launched a significant change to their search algorithm, targeted at sites that copy large parts of their content from other sources. Here’s a brief explanation from Google’s Matt Cutts from his personal blog:
This was a pretty targeted launch: slightly over 2% of queries change in some way, but less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content.
Despite the statement that just over 2% of queries change, many SEO professionals have lit up the blogosphere as they move into damage control mode, complaining of their clients’ sites plummeting in rankings. Sites that used to be getting top results, they say, are no longer even on the first few pages.
This welcome and needed algorithm change is a perfect example of why you want to be sure you hire an SEO firm that does not violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. The so-called “algothrim chasers” look for short cuts to get fast ranking, and sometimes they work — but never for long. Instead of spending their time building a quality site and following approved SEO methods to ensure Google rankings, they spend their time on fast and questionable methods that are sure to be fixed by Google in the next algorithm change.
So what were these sites doing that this algorithm change fixed? In general, we’re talking about sites that had close to zero original content of their own, just a little bit, and then copied verbatim the content from other websites — they had their site set up to steal and post this content automatically. Thus they created a site that was frequently updated with lots of keyword relevant content, and if they structured things well they could even rank higher than the original site for those keywords.
I’ve written for a couple of sites that were targeted by these content scrapers, and it was annoying as heck to see everything I had written copied exactly on yet another fly-by-night website. So I’m thrilled with the Google algorithm change. No sites I maintain lost any rankings (some gained), the change makes it more likely you’ll get the real deal when you search, and the shady SEO guys got another slap on the wrist.
Maybe, one day, they’ll learn.