Of course, everyone wants to rank well on Google, but sometimes no matter what you try you just can’t seem to get your website to move.
In this article we’re going to tell you 3 unusual reasons that might be holding you back, and how to fix them (plus 2 bonus reasons that you need to consider). [Update – see 3 more reasons here]
Okay so first of all you’ve probably heard of duplicate content across your own website being an issue, and while that is true, we’re going to tell you about another kind of (in our opinion) criminal duplicated content that you might not even think about.
This is where someone takes the content off your website and sticks it on theirs. They basically copy and steal your words, your hard work, your ideas, and your traffic and business.
We’ve seen this recently, and while you might think Google would recognise that you were the original content creator this isn’t always the case.
In the case we’ve just dealt with the content (literally lifted word for word from the home page) had been on the original website for over 10 years!
However, what seemed to happen is that Google decided the original website had stolen the content, whacked the home page from page 1 to page 24, and all of the inner pages also fell off a cliff with it.
How to Discover If Someone Has Stolen Your Content
All you need to do is to highlight a biggish chunk of text on your page, right click and hit “search in Google” [tip – On the search results page you might want to put the block of text you’re searching for in speech marks].
If you discover another website ranking for you words, click on the result and see if they have indeed copied your content. Sometimes they use an A.I. spinner to change the language a little, but Google is smart enough to realise.
What to Do If Someone Has Stolen Your Content
There are a few things you can do to deal with this:
- Report it to Google. Google have a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) reporting page which you can find here: https://support.google.com/legal/troubleshooter/1114905?hl=en-GB. Report the offending page to them along with evidence that you are the creator (they should be able to see that they found the content on your site first, but you could always point to the relevant page in the internet archive as well).
- Report it to the company that host their website. This may yield some results, but it also seems to be very hit and miss.
- Email the website and ask them to remove the content. I really wouldn’t hold my breath here, if they’re prepared to steal your content, they’re probably not going to take it down.
- File a DMCA takedown request here: https://www.dmca.com/
This however costs a couple of hundred dollars, so if you can do it without spending the money then that’s always a better option.
Results From Our Attempt to Sort Out Stolen Content
When we recently resolved this for a client, we had mixed results from the 4 options above.
The client didn’t want to also pay for the DMCA takedown service (4), which is fair enough.
The offending website did not respond to emails, they simply ignored us, which is hardly surprising, and while they were trying to hide behind Cloudflare you can also report DMCA breaches to Cloudflare and they will notify the hosting company (here: https://abuse.cloudflare.com/).
By far the most impressive response was from Google, who, despite getting goodness knows how many reports per day had removed the offending page from the search results within 10 days!
We thought that was quite amazing, and the results were instant after that.
While the home page (that the content was lifted from) has been bouncing around between c. page 20 and page 10 (and we have high hopes it will recover back to its page 1 position again – we’ll update on this later), the inner pages instantly jumped from obscurity to pages 1, 2 and 3 within a couple of days.
Numbers of impressions within 3 days were up almost 400% and climbing!
Avoiding Stolen Content Problems in Advance
Since seeing this and being quite shocked ourselves that the original content creators were penalised, we have even subscribed to, and added the DMCA service badge to our own website (you can see this image in the footer of our website).
It costs $10 per month but the great thing about this is that if someone steals your content after you are signed up, then the DMCA team will do the whole copyright and takedown process for you, for free.
When something like this happens it causes no end of headaches and there’s no guarantee that you’ll recover your rankings, so it’s a small price to pay to protect what could be years of hard work.
SEO Plugin Problems (WordPress Websites)
Okay so we’re going to do a more detailed post on SEO plugins sometime in the next few days, but another issue we’ve found recently was with a site that had tried using All in One SEO (AIOSEO) and Yoast at different times.
Somehow what had happened was that the settings at some point had decided to no-index all archive pages, which basically meant that every category on the site was being excluded from Google, and since all of the posts were only accessible through those archive or category pages, none of the blog posts were indexed in Google anymore.
This took the site content from around 150 pages to 30, and of course think of all of the interlinking between those pages that really help Google to understand how the site fits together.
It had suddenly gone from a well-made site with lots of interconnection between pages, posts and sections, to a random collection of pages, many of which were just sat there independently and isolated from all of the others.
If you decide to use an SEO plugin for your WordPress website then you need to carefully check the settings and make sure that archives, etc are NOT set to no-index.
An additional issue that we’ve seen with the AIOSEO plugin was malformed sitemaps that didn’t contain some of the pages on the site, and that repeated pages over and over again with different importance percentages, and that seemed to be impossible to alter.
Basically SEO plugins were originally very simple and just allowed you to set the meta title and meta description, but today they seem to be far more complex, offer all kinds of difficult to understand options (in terms of how they interact with other settings), and if some of those settings are wrong then it could harm your rankings in a big way.
There’s really no need for this today.
Google can understand what your page is about and will often set the meta title and description itself to be a closer match to the search intent.
This is in our opinion only going to be a good thing, since it will encourage more clicks to your site, and that’s what you want, isn’t it?
The solution? In our opinion – stop using SEO plugins! They are pretty much redundant.
Your Website Is Not Mobile Friendly (When It Is!)
Okay this 3rd one was something we found while working on the site above with the SEO plugin issues.
The only way we discovered what was really going on was to install Google Search Console, and we really highly recommend that you do that.
The issues with the pages not being indexed were found under the “coverage” tab in GSC, but what we also found was that the home page and another key page showed under “mobile usability” as not being mobile friendly.
There were a few messages with this warning over time, things like “text too small” and “clickable links too close together” and “wider than screen”. However, …
On running Googles own “check this page for mobile” test – the pages passed with flying colours!
There was actually nothing wrong with them.
So, what we ended up having to do was to go through the Google Search Console process of checking the pages to make sure they were fine, then going through the “verify that we’ve fixed these pages” and then after a couple of days they were marked as fixed.
We’re not really sure why this happened, it seems almost like a bug in the system, but it’s well worth checking for and fixing, because if your website gets a lot of mobile visitors, and Google thinks your site is not mobile responsive, then it’s not going to want to show you to people on a mobile.
2 Bonus Things That Might Be Harming Your Visibility in Google
So, we’ve dealt with some unusual, but very real problems in the first 3 topics that can impact a website of any size or age, and while they might seem obscure, with hundreds of millions of websites out there you can be sure they are causing a lot of people a lot of problems.
These 2 bonus tips are really aimed at newer websites.
Bonus Tip No.1
Until your website is around 6 months to 12 months old your content is going to struggle to rank in Google.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is, but it ends up causing people to stop posting new content because they feel it’s a waste of time.
This tells Google your website isn’t active, which further holds you back and stops you from ranking.
The key is to keep adding regular content, the more frequently you can add it the better, whether it’s a post a day (if you can manage that), or once a week, keep plugging away and as long as your content is good and useful then you will reap the rewards later.
This leads us onto…
Bonus Tip No.2
Make sure that your content has actual value for your visitors, don’t try to write any old thing just for the sake of taking up space, and don’t try to write overtly “salesy” content, think about what kind of topic would your ideal clients like to know and focus your content on that.
Also, it’s no good writing a couple of hundred words or so, you need to think about the topic, think about all of the things you can explain and teach in that topic, and then write a good solid 1250 to 1500+ words that are not fluff or filler, but that actually deliver real value.
If you can do this then people will be happy to share and recommend your content and that means real, genuine links and/or people being sent to your website, which is exactly what leads to higher search rankings.
On top of that Google will be able to see that you are delivering real value and that your visitors are engaged on your site, which will further boost your presence in the results.
So, there are 3 unusual but very real problems that can harm your websites visibility in Google, and an additional 2 bonus tips that can help to push your website further.
Please take a look at them, try out what we’re saying, and let us know what the results are!