Google’s Pirate Penalty – Any Changes Yet? [Updated]
Over a month ago, Google announced that it would be adjusting its algorithm to reduce the presence of sites that have had a large number of DMCA takedown notices. We haven’t seen any changes since then, have you?
It’s rare for Google to announce an algorithm update, and even rarer for Google to make a change that is designed to please content creators in Hollywood, but that is what happened in early August 2012, when Google told the world that it would be adjusting its algorithm to penalize for copyright violations. Search industry insider, Danny Sullivan, dubbed it the “Emanuel” update, and those of us who work in the search space for entertainment clients waited eagerly for big changes in search results.
We haven’t seen any. Have you?
[UPDATE: October 26, 2012. We rechecked the ranks and continue to see very little change. Only two sites dropped out of the ranks, and these were not major players:
iwannawatch.net – 5 ranks last month
4shared.net – 4 ranks last month –]
Out of natural curiosity, and because of our role working with entertainment clients, we wanted to know the effect of this algorithm change. A couple days after Google’s announcement, we ran a rank check for about 35 search queries that are likely to bring up pirate sites. These included “watch movies online” and “direct download movies” as well as keywords including specific film names.
Not surprisingly, we found major pirate and torrent sites running rampant in Google’s results. Sites like Pirate Bay and isoHunt showed up in top-30 search results for the vast majority of the terms we tested.
Two weeks after Google’s announcement, we ran the same rank check again. We expected to see a drop in the presence of pirate sites, but there was almost no difference, as you can see in the before-and-after comparison, here:
(The drop from 254 to 234 in the total top Google positions for these pirate sites is well within normal ranges of rank fluctuation.)
What gives, Google? Is this the extent of the change you announced, or is the algorithm change still yet to come?
Admittedly, our search terms were focused on a single slice of the industry, Hollywood movies. If anyone else has documented a shift that we’ve missed, post a comment and fill us in – we’d love to learn about it!