Google currently accounts for over 66 percent of all online searches in the U.S. With this kind of market prominence, business owners should keep an eye on the slew of recent changes that Google has made to its search algorithm, especially one that may have serious implications for business search results.
Google is now taking into account the number of valid copyright removal notices it receives for a website. Sites receiving removal notices because they contain copyright-infringing content may now appear lower in search result pages, or worse, may be removed from Google’s index altogether.
Copyright removal notices are typically filed when a rights holder believes their content (photos, videos, illustrations, articles, audio files, etc.) has been used without their permission. So, a photo posted on your company's blog that you lifted without permission from a Google Images search is likely to damage your search results.
The Google Transparency Report showcases all requests Google receives to remove copyright-infringing content from its search index. According to the report, the search giant has logged over 4.6 million such requests in just the last 30 days alone. That’s more than the total number of requests Google received in all of 2009.
Related: What Google's Panda and Penguin Updates Mean for the Future of SEO
While the majority of take down requests come from entertainment industry businesses, anyone is free to file such a claim. Which is why you and your website management team need to remain vigilant about what appears on your site.
First, if your website hosts pirated content, remove it immediately. Even if you think your site is free of copyright-infringing content, it’s a good idea to audit the entire site.
Next, If your business allows users to upload content to its website, craft Terms & Conditions for your site that state that by uploading content, the user agrees that what they are posting doesn't infringement on a copyright. Then, make sure to include a process that blocks users from posting content to the site until they have agreed to the Terms & Conditions.
Finally, if you work with an outside company to manage your website’s SEO, make sure they aren't filing erroneous claims against competitors on your behalf, in order to bump the competition down in search results. Those sort of “black hat” tactics will draw Goggle's attention, and harm your company in the end.