Its not uncommon to come across stories on the internet of new websites quickly reaching levels of success. Over the past three years, I believed that one of the websites I put my personal time and effort into was one of those success stories. I was wrong.
I started Maciverse.com in 2008 with no money and just a little time to invest into building the site. I worked hard at creating interesting and helpful content and gradually I saw a steady increase in traffic. During the first year, traffic on Maciverse.com grew from just a handful of visitors to 12,000 each month. Growth continued over the next couple years, reaching more than 200,000 visits in one month. On April 4, 2011 site traffic reached a daily high of 7,052 visitors.
The site had grown on average 20% each month from the very first month that I started publishing content. I started earning money from advertising and affiliate programs on the site and realized that the only way to continue to grow was to hire a group of Mac experts and professional bloggers. These experts helped me continually create quality content for the site on a daily basis. Everything seemed to be going smoothly with these authors as traffic continued to increase, but that all changed on April 14th. That morning, I logged onto Google Analytics to check on site traffic and saw the graph below.
Almost overnight, I had lost more than 50% of my site traffic. I frantically started doing research and discovered that Maciverse had gotten snagged in Google’s international Panda update, a Google algorithm adjustment aimed at minimizing the appearance of content farm sites in the search rankings. I did not understand how or why my site could be mixed in with content farms as we produced high quality content and editorial reviews. I reached out to others on the Google Webmaster forum to get their input, and the overwhelming consensus was that Maciverse had been caught by mistake – an innocent casualty of Google’s war on content farms. Again, I (and everyone else) was wrong. It was not until I did significant research that I realized that something else was happening.
Maciverse.com’s content was stolen. After researching for several weeks, I discovered that one of our authors was selling the same content he wrote for Maciverse to other websites. Over 100 articles that he published on Maciverse were also found on other Mac websites. This, I believe, is the reason why Maciverse triggered Google’s Panda flag and was hit with a painful ranking penalty.
I learned a hard lesson on April 11th. I needed to do more to protect my sites content.
How to Protect Your Content From Being Stolen
I learned by losing 50% of my sites traffic overnight that I should have been smarter about the content I was publishing on my website. I would periodically do checks on the content the authors submitted, but once it was published I rarely looked back to see what else the authors were doing with the content. I now realize that I should have been continually checking the content that was published to see if it was also showing up elsewhere.
With the Panda Update, Google has made it clear that they expect web-masters to police their own sites. It is now your responsibility to make sure that your site contains unique content and that its not being published elsewhere. Matt Cutts, who leads Google’s Web Spam team, has explained that you should file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) report if your content is being scrapped or republished.
To file a DMCA report you need to be able to identify when other sites are publishing your content. Below are three tools I now use to help protect Maciverse and other sites from stealing my content.
- Google Blog Search – The advanced search feature on Google Blogs search allows one to find other sites that are publishing my work. In addition to searching for keywords, the advanced search options allows searching of exact phrases, post titles, and even author names. Entering a few sentence from articles on your site may help uncover other blogs that are publishing your content.
- CopyScape – This is a plagiarism tool that lets you enter your web address to find other sites that may be publishing your content. Premium versions of the software let you check specific content and their CopySentry tool will monitor the web regularly for the content you’ve published.
- Grammarly – An excellent Grammar Check tool that will scan your content for grammatical mistakes and will also warn you if any piece of your content may be plagiarized. I find myself working more with Grammarly to check my content, and the content of authors on my sites. It improves the quality of their articles while identifying pieces of content that I should not publish because the content is already found elsewhere.
Recovering From the Google Panda Update
If you identify your site contains content that has been published elsewhere you have two options. You can either file a DMCA report with the site and fight for them to take down the content, or you can remove the content from your own site. For Maciverse, I removed every article that the author sold to other sites.
With the content removed, I anxiously awaited the next Panda Update as Google had stated that it is not a daily occurrence. I assumed that Panda updates would be pushed out towards the beginning of each month and now believe that to be the case. After removing the damaging content from my site I waited a little over a month and on June 5th I started to see a dramatic change once again. Maciverse’s rankings were being restored to the top positions they held before the Panda update. Search traffic was returning to the site and over a couple days the daily traffic improved by 70%. The traffic pattern has continued over the past few days and much of the traffic lost from the Panda Update has returned.
Of course I have still lost the traffic from the 100+ articles that were removed from my site because the author had published them elsewhere but I’m happy to be able to compete once again on level ground for search ranking positions in my niche.
If you’ve been hit by Google’s Panda Update I suggest you follow the steps described above on how to protect your content and ensure that its of high quality. The process appears to have worked for Maciverse.com and I hope it works well for you also.
Be sure to check your site with the tools mentioned above so that you’re not penalized in the future for having your site content stolen.