#ContentPolice: Facebook and Google cracking down on copied content

Posted on October 22, 2018

We’ve all been taught plagiarism is unacceptable. Even in grade school, being a “copycat” would typically come with stiff consequences. Still, producing blatantly copied content to be promoted on Facebook has been an all-too-common practice in the internet age. However, that should not be the case any longer.

Facebook recently announced it will begin downranking links in its news feed that are detected to have taken information from other sources and republished the information without noticeable changes. It’s a decision made after Facebook conducted surveys and unsurprisingly found the average user strongly dislikes such content. So, we’re finally at a point where one of the most influential social media platforms is dishing out consequences for something even school-aged kids understand is wrong.

These consequences are expected to be significant, too. Referral traffic will take a hit as a result of downranking, which leads to decreased ad revenue. Essentially, it will likely cripple your entire approach to generating revenue via Facebook if you’re primarily pushing out copied information.

If you’re writing a fair amount of original content and adequately reworking aggregated stories, Facebook apparently isn’t setting out to downrank you. But you still need to be careful. Don’t include anything that can be perceived as “bait” in your content. This includes clickbait via exaggerated or misleading headlines. It also includes engagement bait, which is blatantly coaxing users into interacting with your content. For safe measure, be sure to review Facebook’s fair use guidelines.

“The best way to help make sure that the content you post to Facebook doesn’t violate copyright law is to only post content that you’ve created yourself.” — Facebook copyright guidelines

Facebook is identifying violators by flagging matching content across multiple sites. If a match is found, that’s when the “bait” element comes into play. If your content is centered around clickbait headlines and/or engagement bait, you’re going to be downgraded. The amount and quality of ads on your site will also be taken into consideration to help determine which source is the original creator.

This is very likely to weed out nearly all scraper sites that add no value to the Facebook experience. These sites deploy bots to copy directly from other sources without change. They’ve had their advantages in the past by creating so much content traffic numbers would be high enough to generate ad revenue. The ads for these sites, however, are almost exclusively low quality. That’s why Facebook is also examining ad quality before downgrading.

Facebook’s focus on punishing these practices puts the platform on the same page as Google. The combined efforts of both have the potential to play a significant role in helping curb copied content across the internet.

Google has been increasingly factoring copied content into its page quality (PQ) rating system for at least the past couple of years. The page quality rating is designed to give an evaluation of how effectively a site is accomplishing its perceived purpose. If your main content (MC) is primarily copied, Google does not see your site as achieving a purpose. Your PQ rating will be negatively impacted as a result, causing your site to lose SEO standing.

“The quality of the MC is an important consideration for PQ rating. We will consider content to be Low quality if it is created with little or no time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.” — Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines

It’s important to remember Google has different definitions for copied and duplicate content. There is no obvious penalty for duplicate content, which is viewed as being gathered from another source with its own unique wording and proper credit. That doesn’t necessarily mean that duplicating is all that beneficial, either. Such work is filtered by Google with top priority going to the highest ranking sites. If the majority of your MC is duplicated, you almost certainly won’t end up very high on that pecking order.

Sites clearly need to be based around creating unique content to reap the coveted rewards of ranking well with Google. The same is now becoming true on Facebook. With both cracking down, being a copycat is continually becoming far less advantageous. It’s becoming mandatory for content creators to start putting in the time and effort it takes to make quality work.