How Google’s Pirate Update can kill off sites stealing your content

Google has revealed that it now has a specific penalty that it applies to sites that receive repeated upheld DCMA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown requests. In other words, it has a special button it can press to kill off sites hosting pirated content.

According to Google, sites hit with the “pirate penalty” can see their traffic from Google drop by an average of 89%. Quite why the reduction isn’t 100% is a different question, but it’s good to see Google taking real action against websites hosting pirated and copied content. The Pirate update actually dates back to 2014, but this is the first time in a while Google has reported on its efficacy.

In a new document released Feb 2022, Google said “we have developed a ‘demotion signal’ for Google Search that causes sites for which we have received a large number of valid removal notices to appear much lower in search results.”

It’s a little vague what constitutes a “large number” but this new penalty is an important reminder not to take it lying down if your copywritten content is being stolen and reused/shared on the web without your permission. (Especially as Google has a habit of ranking copied content above the original)

You can find more information on how to file a DCMA Takedown request with Google here.

All (Good) Things Must Come To an End. Is Facebook dying?

Facebook isn’t cool any more and users are leaving in droves. Ad revenue is down and shares are plummeting just at the point when Marky Mark Zuckerberg needs every penny he can scrape together to build “the metaverse”; a virtual world in which people can work, play, and live out a fantasy existence where Facebook remains implausibly relevant for anyone under 25.

Incredibly it wasn’t helping Donald Trump rise to power, being one of the significant factors in the success of the Vote Leave Brexit campaign, Cambridge Analytica, or being home to all your favourite anti-vax swivel headed loons that blew a hole in Facebook. It was short form video and the rise of the teenage dance craze of TikTok.

Yes, not since line dancing, Lindy Hop or the Mashed Potato has copying dance moves been the cornerstone of such a mass movement. Facebook tried to catch up, launching its TikTok clone “Reels” on Instagram, but it’s never captured the zeitgeist like TikTok has.

The architects of “surveillance capitalism” at Facebook made two fatal missteps. They didn’t realise people like to be watched even more than Facebook liked to watch them and it worked too hard to keep what it had instead of thinking about where it needed to go to stay relevant. As Facebook battled governments, technology companies, and their own users over privacy concerns, TikTok captured a user base who were quite happy to dance around in their pants online… just as long as Grandma wasn’t watching.

Let’s eat, Grandma!

We’ve reached a stage where Facebook has perhaps simply existed too long.

When I joined Facebook is was in my 20s. Now I’m in my 40s and I’ve got kids. I don’t think Facebook is cool. My kids definitely don’t. And they sure as hell don’t want to be on the same social network as their old man.

No new users + Users leaving the platform + New Privacy rules = Trouble for Facebook.

This is, perhaps, the fate of all social media networks.

When I grow up, I want to be an influencer

Back when I joined Facebook, there was also no such thing as an “influencer”.

Celebrities endorsed products, not people who were only famous for already (somehow) being famous. Today being “Instafamous” has replaced real famous and if you’ve got an audience online it’s incredibly easy to monetise it.

Building an audience on a new network is much easier than on an established one. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are all crowded spaces. TikTok, however briefly, was virgin territory and a great opportunity for influencers to build their audience. We are into our second generation of online influencers now, savvy Internet natives who have grown up watching the generation before and who understand the game.

So, what happens next?

Facebook isn’t going to die tomorrow. A long lingering death beckons, a thousand cuts delivered by an army of regulators, competitors, and disengaged users.

Could someone buy it? Maybe, but you’re looking for a buyer with a huge amount of money and the appetite to take on a tarnished brand. After MySpace and Tumblr, I’d expect most businesses to be a little shy about the prospect of buying an ailing, but expensive, social network.

As much as I hate to say it, the metaverse might be Facebook’s only viable play. There are no formats left to move to – text, audio, video are all sewn up and easy to replicate. The metaverse is a new format, a new space that Facebook could control in a way it hasn’t been able to control the real world (no matter how much it has tried).

The Rules of Social Media: How to Protect Your Business from Changing Algorithms

I have a few rules when it comes to building online engagement through social media. They’re not designed to enable “get rich quick” tactics, but to ensure longevity and robustness for businesses who rely on the traffic that they get from social media to fuel their businesses.

Rule 1 of understanding social media:

“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product”

The balance of power between you and a social network will always be in favour of the network. The more you want from the network, the more you have to give the network.

Rule 2 of understanding social media:

Social networks make money when you watch and/or click on ads and everything they do is to make you watch and click more.

The more time that you spend on the platform, the more ads you see and the more likely you are to click on something, making the platform money.

The first purpose of “the algorithm” – that mysterious machine that decides what you see and what you don’t see on each social network – is not to show you the *best* things or the most *relevant* things but the things that are most likely to engage you and keep you on the platform.

Rule 3 of understanding social media

The platform is nothing without your content, but the platform owes you absolutely nothing.

This might be a tough pill to swallow, but it is true. Facebook is a business. LinkedIn in a business. Twitter is a business. YouTube is a business. It’s not a community, it’s certainly not a family (or “fam”), and it will do what is best for its profits not what is best for you.

YouTube frequently changes its algorithm and YouTubers complain bitterly that they have lost followers, lost views on their videos, and lost revenue. The interesting thing? YouTube doesn’t lose revenue when this happens. YouTube makes more money when this happens.

What does this mean for me?

In short – never build your business on a platform you don’t control and never, ever a single social media platform. Never assume that because you can sell on Facebook today, or sell on Instagram today, that those platforms will be there forever and that their algorithms will always work for you.

Social media platforms must be treated in the same way that you would treat a print advert, or a poster, or getting your brand name on the back of the bus. It might be your message, but its not your means of delivery. The audience isn’t your audience, you’re only renting them and you pay that rent by creating engaging content for the network.

Your aim should always be to have your audience engage with you on a platform that you own. Your website is the ideal vehicle for this.

So, I just link to my website then, right?

No, not exactly. Remember Rule 2?

Unless you are paying for that click, the social network isn’t going to be keen to let you have it. Some networks make it more difficult than others to even include a link (Instagram, for example) whilst others are widely agreed to limit the exposure of posts with links in them (such as LinkedIn, where users often put links in comments rather than in the body of the post).

The ideal way to migrate your customer from your social media channels if you’re selling a product is to include something with the product, like a discount voucher, that you can only use via your business website and not through a social media channel.

If you’re in the content game, make sure you have exclusive, high quality content on your website that isn’t available anywhere else. Not only will this increase your organic exposure as search engines find this content and index it, but it is something you can point your audience to with a simple “check out my website for exclusive content” message *without* posting a link – all the social media platforms will let you include a link to your own website in your bio or profile.

Should I just come off social media?

Absolutely not – just make sure you understand that posting on social media is a transaction both with the platform and with your audience and taking nothing for granted. Today’s Twitter is tomorrow’s MySpace…

(Actually, today’s Twitter might already be today’s MySpace. Maybe today’s TikTok is tomorrow’s Twitter? I hate time travel…)