Hijacking Google Search Results With Duplicate Content

Dan Petrovic has explained how he hijacked a few pages in Google to show his copied version over the original version of the page.

For example, he was able to confuse Google into thinking a page on MarketBizz should really show on dejanseo.com.au instead of on marketbizz.nl.

How did he do it? He simply copied the full page, source code and everything and put it on a new URL on his site. He linked to the page and gave it a +1 and the result worked days later. He is a picture of Google’s search results for the page using an info command and also searching for the title of the page:

He did the same thing on three other domains with varied levels of success.

We emailed Google last week for a comment but have yet to hear back.

In some cases, using a rel=canonical seemed to prevent it from hijacking the result fully but not in all cases. There also seems to be a case where using the authorship might be prevent this as well.

Dan Petrovic was even able to hijack the first result for Rand Fishkin’s name (with Rand’s permission):

The way this seems to work is that Google’s duplicate content system feels that the new URL is the more important page and thus replaces the original page with the more important page. It is how the competitive link trick seemed to have worked as well.

Postscript: Google has taken action against these attempts with a notification sent to the webmaster for “copied content.” Those pages were removed from the index.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://twitter.com/Greekgeek Greekgeek

    Well, that’s worrisome! I hope they can find and pin down that loophole quickly.

    Barry, might this also explain why Google SERPS often ignore validated rel=author tags if the name of a prominent person in Google Plus (or even just a book by that person on Amazon) is linked to in the body text of the article?

    I and a bunch of writers are having this problem on publishing sites where authorship is hard coded into the template and working on other articles where we do NOT name names. It’s a cent phenomenon, too — prior to about two months ago, those articles showed the correct author in the SERPs.

  • Mark

    Search for ‘online slots’ on Google.co.uk, there are 3 domains in top 10 with Wikipedia as cached content, all being redirected to 1 particular domain. If you try to type in these URLs they all give 404 error. WTF is going on with Google these days?

  • http://www.patrickwagner.com/ Patrick Wagner

    This is very interesting. I’m going to definitely test this out on my test blogs. Google is always looking to provide the freshest content they can in their search results.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelownarob Rob Sullivan

    I wonder if this is a freshness thing? It would be interesting to see if these pages last more than a few days? Or have they?

  • Stefano Zanardi

    I’ve found this trick a few months ago, when a webmaster sold me his domain and started with the same site’s content in a new domain.

    I’ve made up a little htaccess and a index.php that copy on the fly all his new site on my new domain(included images, js css etc etc).

  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com/ George Michie

    Could it also be a temporal benefit of a social vote? We’ve seen instances of social mentions helping rankings for a short while, but those signals seem to age out of the algo pretty quickly. Links have an evergreen quality that social signals don’t at the moment.

  • Tino

    This has been a problem for a while. There have been many instances where entire blogs have been scraped (including my own blog), where the scraped content ranks way above the original. I’m sure google knows about this problem (as do losers who scrape other people’s work)

  • Alan

    Google couldn’t care less! More people moving to adwords because they can’t get listed above the scrappers!

  • Alan

    To add to this he did a follow up. You want to know you competitors full backlink profile? no problem! steal his content then check webmaster tools. Google will give you the full backlink profile http://dejanseo.com.au/google-plus-crowdsourcing-user-data/

  • http://twitter.com/lordofseo Lord of SEO

    Eh isn’t it because you’re logged in? Also you will be getting personalized results even if you aren’t logged in with the big spy net, aka ip location, cookie tracking and more, +1′s do jack shit for rankings as no one clicks them. PR can filter fast, but you would need some authority link like PR5+ Rand Fishkin is the biggest SEO fraud around LOL nice experiment tho.

  • http://twitter.com/lordofseo Lord of SEO

    The best idea is to trick Google into ranking your site higher, they don’t care about you. They care about Wall Street, you’re all brainwashed by the Minister Of Disinformation Matt Cutts. He churns out webmaster videos and deviates around almost every question asked. Need to get real guys ty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ydropp Yves Dropp

    That’s pretty crazy. just tried it and you’re right!

  • Dk

    Yeah even more crazy is if you type payday loans into uk google sift through the spam and you’ll actually see a nature reserve website, Jewish organisations etc. google is getting messy!! I could easily show 20 very high volume keywords in the uk where similar things are happening. This shouldn’t be happening for such massive terms.

  • Shaun Long

    I would like to think that Google authorship would make this less of an issue as it becomes more widely used.

  • Yousee

    Still Google Claims that the Search result are accurate and more relevant.

  • http://www.jdizm.com/ JDIZM

    I wonder how many people are trying this right now? =]

  • http://www.facebook.com/sebastian.stawski Sebastian Stawski

    If you search for “live casino” in Google.co.uk you will see two domains in position 2nd and 3rd making redirection to the same site. The don’t have content, nor internal pages. In the first place, they didn’t have backlinks until they reached their actual positions. They used the typical redirection and spam method.

  • Mark

    Yep, must be the same person and the frightening part is that am seeing more and more of these domains popping up everywhere. They all redirect to this one particular domain.

  • yariv peled

    Google is trying to block bloga who try to cheat. They lose on good results now. Goole will not last forever even though it looks like they will. Some others are chasing them.

  • http://www.linkworxseo.com/ Link Worx Seo

    Now, that is an interesting test. Can not believe it. Google is supposed to be stopping spam and that is nothing buy spam. Lets hope Google tries to fix that one, quickly. I will say that not all results are scrapped of course, but I am completely sure if more people know of it, the more people will do it.

  • http://www.tomorrow-people.com/blog Sookie Shuen

    Many thanks for sharing this post, Barry. Interesting to see how Google’s almost total monopoly of the internet search engine space. I’ve recently read this blog post as well that I’d thought could be a good add on to this post: http://www.zooberdigitaltraining.co.uk/blog/bid/209392/Is-Google-Hijacking-the-Internet-FLIP-BOOK

  • http://twitter.com/IndyProdukcija Indy.HR

    Woa, what a mess!

  • Peter Kortvel

    2 things:
    1. It takes Google some time to discover duplicate content, it is not possible for him to discover it in one day, this is why your website was not banned.
    2. You gave the +1 to your website, but this only applies to your personalized search results in Google

    So i don’t understand what you proved with this…

  • Christopher Carlson

    Definitely an eye-opener. As other commenters have said, the fact that you were logged in and getting personalized results makes this a bit less worrisome. But still, so many people don’t seem to know whether they’re logged in or not that it’s nearly impossible to tell what results they’re seeing. Guh.

  • Michael Kiel

    Peter and Lord of SEO…thanks for stating the obvious here. Let’s see what happens when he’s not logged in and Google isn’t tracking his IP address. Everyone…you have to clear the cache and history on your browser if you want to see real results. I use Chrome for most of my Internet browsing but when I need to analyze search engine results on Google I do so with a fully reset Safari browser that has a clear cache and I reset my location in Google to the United States.

    St. Louis Internet Marketing by Leap Clixx

  • James

    Search google for “free stock photos”. Up high in the natural search is foter.com – this site has scraped the entire Flickr database. Unbelievable it even gets listed, let alone page 1.

  • Meki Cox

    I’ve been saying this since the Panda hit – New content is desired over OLD content – making the original site less valuable than a copied version… and it decreases… However – a year and a half ago – I was called Stupid by ohhhh let’s just say “SHOP” shall we? I was LyricalQuestion in that discussion — but then – of course – I know nothing….

  • Meki Cox

    Exactly…

  • http://www.cobwebseo.com/ Ajay Jhunjhunwala

    Just read the same post here http://searchengineland.com/hijacking-google-search-results-without-hacking-139655. Published on 6th November, 2012. Now this post
    is little short but enough to understand the summary. But the former post is
    very elaborate and may be useful if follow the prevention measure.

  • http://dejanseo.com.au/ Dejan SEO

    I was logged in while taking screenshot for the article, not when I tested how the effect works. Hopefully this clears up the “you were logged in and were getting personalised results” comments.

  • http://www.shorttraveltips.com/ Vi @ Travel Tips

    shouldn’t you first log off from your Google account before testing any Google search results? Sorry, but this screen shot doesn’t proof any hacking.

  • Guest

    I read about this rank hijacking in DEJANSEO blog. I was really wondered and thought is such thing happen with my blog post or content. This is no doubt a threat to the small business owners like me. But i will definitely follow the Prevention measure suggested in dejanseo blog. Hope my pages will rank proper in SERP.

  • http://www.shorttraveltips.com/ Vi @ Travel Tips

    James, on the footer of Search results there is “Give us feedback” link, where you can report any incorrect results

  • Selda Kirkan

    I agree on result part that is personilized but showing link backs of the copied site is a google problem

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