Jul 23

Surviving a SEO duplicate content attack

Those of you who've been keeping up with my work know that zapnap and I just got done launching a new song lyrics site that is trying to clean up the space.

A big part of that game is search engine optimization, because these lyrics sites aren't destinations. Most people simply query google for some lyrics and get on with their business.

We've been good citizens, using white-hat techniques to try and climb the rankings, while most other people are using black-hat methods. To this end, I'm constantly checking Google Webmaster Tools in order to see how we're ranking and who's linking to us.

When I logged in today to check backlinks I was shocked. A domain had thousands of inbound links pointing to our new site. At first I thought, this is great - we must be ranking for all of this! Then I visited the site...it was our site?

It looked like someone had ripped our entire site - design, content and all. However, when I went to do some research on the site it ended up that they weren't stealing content at all. They were pointing the domain to our site.

It took me a few minutes to realize it, but this is a classic attack on our SEO rankings. Someone in China had registered the domain sustc.info and was using it to try and rank with Google, getting our site hit with a duplicate content penalty in the process.

After a bit of searching, it seems that SEO attacks of this nature are very common. With some helpful advice from that post, I was able to write the following Apache rewrite rule:

RewriteCond %{http_host} !^lyricful.com$ [nc]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://lyricful.com$1 [r=301,nc,L]

Hopefully the change will be picked up soon and our rank will pop back up. I suppose that we'll just have to maintain a watchful eye on backlinks to check for this type of activity in the future.

Has anyone else dealt with this type of issue before? How have you handled it?

Written by Seth Banks

Seth spends most of his days leading the design team at Green Bits and improving Cashboard. Occasionally he finds time to write about music, design, startups, and technology.

Tagged: seo, lyricful, apache