Mueller Explains Success of SEO Content Copycats Improve Site Quality to Beat Out Content Thieves, Says Mueller

author image Written by: Wade Morris           Categories - In The News, SEO

Plagiarism is one of the most irritating problems in the world of content production. SEOs and content creators are constantly finding their content taken word-for-word by other sites. It’s particularly frustrating to see another site rank higher on SERPs than yours after stealing your content.

Google pushes back against pages that plagiarize – so why do so many make it through the cracks and rank higher than the creators they stole from?

Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller spoke about the issue on a recent installment of Office Hours, Google’s SEO-themed livestream series.

A viewer asked Mueller what to do if their content was copied by a page that would go on to perform better – and what Google’s stance on the issue would be.

Mueller confirmed that Google does, in fact, check to see which page is the original.

“From my point of view, it’s something that we can determine to a large extent,” said Mueller. 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.”

Mueller provided an example: the original page may rank lower if it does not appear trustworthy or if is ‘low quality.’

“If a higher quality website were to take some of 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.”

Mueller suggests investing in the quality of your website to avoid this problem.

Publishing relevant content with solid metadata and a good supply of backlinks can achieve this result.

You can view the Office Hours episode here.

Wade Morris

Wade brings an energetic approach to writing – he is always on the hunt for stories and angles that matter. With years of experience in journalism and marketing environments, Wade has written about everything from politics to education. Now, he writes about SEO and digital marketing trends.

Google Offers Up Advice for Improving Content


From Proper Use of Headings to Interstitials – Google Talks Improving Content Focus

As what we can only assume is an early Christmas present, Google has offered up some sound advice for improving web content. During a recent Webmaster Hangout this week, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, was asked how content marketers can go about improving page content focus. More specifically, Mueller was asked about poorly indexed Product Description Pages and whether making content more prominent would help with this. Mueller responded that no, he did not believe this to be the case. “Just shifting the location of content within an HTML page, I don’t think that plays a big role at all. So, in that regard, I wouldn’t really worry about this,” he said. As a bonus, Mueller also offered up two key pieces of content advice.

Content Tip #1: Proper Use of Headings

A common misconception is that headings are considered important ranking factors. Because of this misconception, important keywords are often added to headings when they don’t need to be. So, while heading tags are important, they aren’t a tool for telling Google which keywords you’re looking to rank for. So, what are they useful for? “Headings are useful in that we can take a heading and see what images and which text kind of apply to that heading,” said Mueller, reiterating that moving text around to make it more prominent over images will not help to get content properly indexed.

Tip #2: Interstitials Can Block Indexing

Another interesting nugget of wisdom provided by Mueller is that an improperly deployed interstitial can interfere with content indexing. When provided with a link to a particular website as an example, Mueller noticed an interstitial for picking a country that might block Google from properly indexing content. “One thing I did notice when looking at that example page that you link to is that when I loaded up, after a certain period of time, it switches to… a country picker interstitial,” he said. “I don’t know how you’re…triggering this and if you trigger this in all locations, but for example, if you were to trigger this when Googlebot crawls and renders your pages that might also result in Googlebot not being able to index your pages properly. So that’s one thing you might want to double-check.” As for what he would recommend, Mueller suggested using a banner or other user interface object for site visitors to select the country they are in. “Because if you’re using a banner, even if that does end up being rendered in Google’s systems, then it wouldn’t block the indexing of the rest of your content. Whereas if you have an interstitial that in the worst case… takes out all of the old content and replaces it with this…country or language picker, then we might not have that much content left on the page for indexing,” he added. So, there you have it. While this may not be the secret to cracking BERT, Mueller’s words do still provide some interesting insight from a content marketing and SEO perspective.

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Survey Shows New Google Ranking Factors And Trends Affecting SEO


SparkToro Ranking Factor Survey Affecting SEO

A recent survey conducted by SparkToro, founded by co-founder and former CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin, shows how 1,585 SEOs feel about Google’s rankings.

According to the results, Google entering verticals and competing directly against publishers, advancements in machine learning and AI, and zero-click searches are the top trends most likely to affect SEO in the next three years.

Trends That Are Here To Stay

Survey respondents were presented with a list of choices and asked, “How much of an impact do you believe the following trends will have on SEO in the next 3 years?” Options were ranked on a zero-to-four scale; zero meaning “no impact” and four meaning “huge impact.”

Sparktoro graph showing trends that will impact seo
Source: SparkToro

According to SEOs, outcomes from US Congressional and Department of Justice Investigations, visual search advances, and “content-nudging” products such as Google Discover are the trends less likely to affect SEO.

Google’s Versatility

On top of being the most popular search engine, the company has also expanded into travel by launching Google Flights in 2011 and, more recently, Google Hotels along with a trip planning tool that is heavily integrated with Maps and consolidates bookings based on email confirmations.

Moreover, Google’s travel offerings increase the odds that vacation-goers will use Maps to plan their trips because their reservations, along with places they’re interested in, can all be viewed in one place.

Machine Learning

Machine learning can also affect SEO in many different ways, such as identifying signals, personalizing results based on a user’s search history, better understanding of search intent, and much more.

As search algorithms continue to use machine learning and technology continues to advance, marketers may find themselves focusing more on creating the best possible content for their audiences while leaving the smaller details such as metadata, keyword research, alt text and the like up to machine learning to figure out.

Do Links and Keywords Matter?

Some of the most surprising findings of the research revolved around SEOs’ views regarding the importance of links and keywords.

SEOs believe that keywords have their place in the content, title, and metadata of the page. “Exact (or near exact) use of the searched-for keywords in the content, title and meta data of the page” was ranked sixth overall in importance as a ranking factor, with relatively high levels of consensus among SEOs.

When it comes to links, SEOs ranked both the quality of sites and pages linking to a particular page, and the quantity and diversity of linking websites highly in terms of overall importance, at #2 and #7 respectively.

However, SEOs were less convinced of the importance of link anchor text or of external links used on a page to a high ranking on Google.

How Much Has SEO Changed In The Last 10 Years?

The SEO industry has changed a lot since 2009. Tactics that we would now consider to be dubious were far more commonplace 10 years ago. And things like Google algorithm changes and manual penalties could have detrimental effects on a business’s revenue, sometimes causing it to sink altogether.

Even still, when it comes to priority, Moz’s Ranking Factors Survey in 2009 suggests not so much has really changed. While some of the ranking factors that SEOs considered all-important in 2009 have fallen out of favour, many are still considered important in 2019.

SparkToro trends impacting SEO
Source: Moz

In 2009, SEOs considered “Keyword focused anchor text from external links” to be the most important ranking factor for SEO – but that has since changed considerably.

However, second and third on the list were “External link popularity” and “Diversity of link sources,” which map to the combined factor “Quantity & diversity of linking websites” in the 2019 survey. SEOs in 2019 still ranked this highly, at #7 out of 26.

All things considered, over the course of 10 years, some of the fundamentals of SEO remain the same. The role of content in SEO has shifted and changed along with the internet, while certain tactics like keyword stuffing and link spamming have diminished as Google now penalizes them.

Machine learning may also advance to resolve searches more quickly, which may mean more no-click searches, but can also mean that users find the content they’re looking for even faster, potentially driving higher quality traffic to your pages.

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