Google’s DMCA Update Effects: Less Search Traffic For Pirates (But Users Still Visit Them Directly)

More than two weeks ago, Google introduced a new search signal which was designated to demote the rankings of sites with high number of DMCA removal requests. The main suspected targets of this update were file sharing websites whose content pirating practices obviously leads to the highest rates of copyright removal requests.

So now, over two weeks after the new DMCA update has been thrown into the wild (since the week beginning on August 13th), let’s examine cautiously the primal impact of this algorithm update on those who are being fouled by content removal requests the most.

First, to understand who are those sites exactly which have most likely been affected by this DMCA penalty, let’s take a look on the top removal requests’ specified domains of all time from Google Transparency Report, and then sample the traffic of the first five by using Alexa.

Top Removal Requests Specified Domains

Note: I’m aware of Alexa’s inaccuracy issues, but nonetheless it can still paint a pretty precise picture of the general trending.

It seems that overall traffic mostly remained unchanged after the roll out of the DMCA update. However, it does seems that it lost about 20%-30% of its search referral traffic after the launch of the update compared to the couple of weeks before.

A possible explanation for this contradiction is that now, after is (supposedly) appearing less in Google, more people entering the site directly instead of through the search engine, which before might have referred them to other file sharing websites as well. Traffic


Surprisingly, overall traffic has only increased over the past month and in fact, over the last few days it almost doubled compared to the beginning of the month. However, the increase isn’t driven from search referral traffic- Search traffic is actually down by about 30% at the same period of time. Traffic

It doesn’t appear that was affected at all by the DMCA penalty as its overall traffic remained stable throughout the month and even though its search referral traffic declined, it mostly occurred before the DMCA update. Traffic

Since the roll out of the update, only gained some traffic but just like the aforementioned sites, it didn’t came from search. Search referral traffic for is actually down by about 20% compared to the week before the update and down by about 40% compared to the week before that. Traffic

It doesn’t look like that the overall traffic of has been damaged since the roll out of the DMCA update. Interestingly, it seems however, that it lost about 30%-35% of its search referral traffic but only after a week since the update was already live. Traffic

Although it’s still a very early stage in the life of this new anti-pirates update, and which can obviously still change in the future, I can conclude two things from the stats:

  1. Websites which were impacted by the update can expect a reduction of around 20%-30% in Google’s search referral traffic.
  2. It doesn’t appear that the update is slowing the file sharing websites down. Instead, it can even just reinforce the major ones as users would simply enter them directly rather than through search.

So even though Google is doing its part on the war against online piracy, I’m not sure if the guys from Hollywood will be satisfied from the not-so-much of a consumer change they hoped for.