One of the scariest things that can happen to a budding entrepreneur is losing their Google listing. Just imagine, a listing that previously may have brought you hundreds of visitors a day suddenly vanishes, and all that business that was being generated from that position vanishes overnight.
There are a number of reasons why your Google ranking could be affected – and it has caused untold stress to many business owners – however today I want to talk about one situation that is particularly insidious – because it can be brought on by your competitors! And no, I’m not talking about the old ranking battle – where you and a competitor battle it out for #1 and #2 position. No, what I am referring to is how a competitor can completely wipe you out from the competition!
How can they do that? With a DMCA complaint.
What is a DMCA Complaint?
A DMCA complaint, by standard dicitonary terms is:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM) that control access to copyrighted works.
In laymen’s terms – if a competitor finds content on your website that is infringing copyright – he can notify Google – and Google will TAKE YOUR OFFENDING PAGE OFF.
Now, just to clarify:
Google will only take down the specific page that has a copyright infringement – so let’s say you have a page called Gardening Supplies which lists some products that you sell online – and one of the images is lifted from a magazine – that particular page will no longer be visible on Google’s search results.
It is hard to avoid becoming vulnerable to DMCA complaints if you have thousands of products in your store.
If you are building a small 6 page website you are safe – just ensure that the images you use are either yours – or obtained legally – such as buying them from iStockPhoto. However IF you have an online store for example, and you have thousands of products (and thousands of images) – there’s a high chance that one of those images could be stolen.
This opens up your website to being flagged as a copyright infringer with Google – and having your listing terminated.
Your listing is not restored when you remove the offending image
A DMCA takedown notice is no joke – EVEN if you remove the infringing image your penalty stays on. The only way to relist your website is to go to [url goes here] and explain to them (very politely) how you see the errors of your ways and have removed the offending image.
This is a tactic used by some businesses to destroy their competition – and it’s not just DMCA takedowns but license numbers too
If you own a business and you notice one of your competitors is using an illegal image – you can inform Google and have their business taken offline. This is not just limited to DMCA takedown notices – if you are a security company and you do not have your Security License number displayed prominently you can be fined thousands of dollars.
You may not even know you’ve been blacklisted
If you are ranking for 20 high traffic keywords and one of them drops off – if you don’t know where your traffic comes from you won’t even know you’ve been blacklisted! Google will not inform you.
I hope this has brightened your day.
Check the DMCA notice at the bottom of search results
If your website is not showing in a search results page look for this:
at the bottom. This message means Google has manually blacklisted a page due to a copyright infringement.
Lodge a DMCA Counter-Notification Form
Go to this link and inform Google that you have removed the infringing image – and tell them you won’t do it again!
Note: you may want to get someone who is a professional at this, you may say the wrong thing and delay the amount of time it takes to get your website relisted.
Talk to your data entry staff – and tell them to use licensed images
It is not your fault your website was delisted – if you have thousands of products in an online store there is a high chance the data entry person used an image from eBay/Google Images etc. when inputting products, or while updating an image slider.
In summary – be smart and don’t give your competitors the opening to take you out of the game. Better safe than sorry!