A little while ago I wrote about how easy it was to launch a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) complaint against a website and how writers and other creatives could use this to get websites that were stealing their content removed from the Google index. (And, if you’re not on Google, frankly you aren’t anywhere…)
It occurred to me at the time that DCMA requests could be used maliciously if Google weren’t paying proper attention. I didn’t include it in the article, it seemed a bit far-fetched that Google would just remove a site without properly investigating it. I was wrong.
Moz.com, one of the most popular websites about SEO and digital marketing, vanished from the Google index recently after a DCMA request that included Moz.com was actioned by Google. The error was quickly spotted by eagle-eyed SEO pundits and reported to Google, prompting a response from Google’s Danny Sulivan. Whilst Sullivan’s response is short and somewhat lukewarm, the replies to it make for interesting reading – Moz.com evidently isn’t the first site to be hit like this.
Google were quick out of the blocks to resolve the issue and moz.com was back in the index less than 12 hours later, a much quicker response than other site owners have reported getting.
Why should it matter to you?
This matters because if it can happen to a big, well-known site like Moz.com then it can happen to anyone. Moz.com have got clout in the SEO space and if its traffic had been significantly damaged by this, Google would have heard about it loud and clear from the SEO community. This was a highly visible error and it was corrected quickly. If other reports are to be believed, less prominent sites have a much harder time getting DCMA penalties reversed.
What this means is that any “bad actor” can target your site, bury its domain in a long list and send in a DCMA request that could get you kicked out of Google’s index. The process of your site reappearing in the index won’t even begin until you challenge the complaint, and you could be in for a long wait. This seems like a great place for Google to be working on cleaning up their index without human intervention but, as has already been established, Google is not great at working out who the original creators of online content are.
What can you do about it?
Short answer? Absolutely nothing. Just keep a close eye on the amount of organic traffic you are getting from Google and investigate thoroughly any significant dips.