A new RIAA report paints an unpleasant picture of Google's efforts to downgrade illegal content in its search results since August. The "Six Months Later - A Report Card on Google's Demotion of Pirate Sites" report released Thursday concludes that Google's "search rankings for sites for which Google has received large numbers of instances of infringement do not appear to have been demoted by Google’s demotion signal in any meaningful way."
Google announced in a blog post on August 10, 2012 it had developed "over 200 signals to ensure our search algorithms deliver the best possible results." One new signal that would start impacting search results the following week was the number of copyright removal requests Google had received for any given site. Thus, the more often an association like the RIAA submits removal requests for infringing download sites, the lower those sites should fall in Google's search results.
But the report goes into detail about something already found by Billboard: legitimate MP3 sites are still buried under illegal sites in Google search results. The RIAA found that 98% of searches contained a site with more than 10,000 removal requests on the first page of search results.
One part of the report details searches made by the RIAA from March 2012 to January 2013 that looked at number of times a site with more than 100,000 removal requests appeared in the top 5 search results. Rather than see an improvement, the RIAA found sites for which Google frequently received high numbers of removal requests actually showed up in the top 5 search results more often over that time period.
Legitimate download sites can be hard to find amidst the links to illegal sites in search results. According to the report, a person searching for a Top 10 track on Google was likely to find between an average of 1.8 and 2.1 links to a site for which Google had received more than 100,000 copyright removal requests. The incidence of finding such a site was slightly higher for a Top 50 track. In contrast, a legitimate download site like Amazon or eMusic was seen between an average of 0.4 and 0.8 times for both a Top 10 and a Top 50 track. In other words, sites that had received 100,000 removal requests were up to four times as likely to appear in the top 10 search results for a Top 10 or Top 50 song.
The RIAA has been one of the top copyright removal requestors at Google. According to the Transparency Report, the RIAA have requested the removal of 11,724,581 URLs tied to 7,087 specific domains since May 2011.