There have been a number of recent changes that Google has made to its search algorithm. Since Google currently accounts for over 66% of all online searches in the U.S., it’s important that business owners keep an eye on these changes, as they may have serious implications for business search results.

Google just recently announced that they plan to begin penalizing websites that receive a high number of valid copyright removal notices. Sites that receive these large numbers of removal notices may now start to appear lower in the search result pages, or may even be removed from Google’s index altogether.

Copyright removal notices typically get filed when a rights holder believes that their content has been used without their permission. This can include photos, videos, illustrations, articles, audio files and more. For example, if you posted a photo on your company’s blog that was found on Google Image Search, but did not obtain the proper permission, your site may be reported.

It’s said that the new penalty appears to protect the reasonable interests of copyright holders, and has the support of many content producers. However, the algorithm shift could easily cause penalties against innocent sites, such as those that allow their users to upload content.

For businesses curious about what type of content is being reported and penalized, The Google Transparency Report showcases all requests Google receives to remove copyright-infringing content from its search index. According to this report, they have logged over 4.6 million requests in just the last month, which is more than the total number of requests Google received in all of 2009.

No matter what your business is, experts are saying that you and your website management team needs to remain vigilant about what appears on your company site. Even if you think your site is free of copyright-infringing content, it’s a good idea to audit the entire website. If your business allows users to upload content to its website, define the Terms & Conditions for your site, saying that by uploading content, the user agrees that what they are posting doesn’t infringe on a copyright. Then, make sure to include a process that blocks users from posting content to the site until they have agreed to the Terms & Conditions.

Belicove, Mikal “What Google’s New Stance On Copyright Infringement Means To Your Business” 8/16/2012 (9/1/2012)

Angotti, David “Google Algorithm Update: Search Engine to Penalize Sites Accused of Copyright Infringement” 8/13/21012 (9/1/2012)