Search Engine Journal

Google Search Traffic to Pirate Sites Down After Algorithm Updates

Google’s recent algorithm updates are reportedly reducing traffic to piracy websites, according to an analysis of year-over-year data.

TorrentFreak, with help from piracy tracking company MUSO, published a report which shares insights into pirate site traffic from search engines in 2020.

From December 2019 to November 2020, pirate sites lost nearly a third of their search traffic. Several interesting patters were also discovered.

Here are key insights from TorrentFreak’s report on what may be a category of sites hit hardest by Google’s recent algorithm updates.

Google Search Traffic Pillaged From Pirate Sites

Search traffic to pirate sites hit a downward trend in January of last year, and went into freefall in May 2020 after a brief spike when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March.

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As TorrentFreak points out, these dates are not coincidental. They line up with Google’s first two core algorithm updates of last year.

Google launched a core update on January 13th, 2020, and another one on May 4th, 2020.

Google recently rolled out a core algorithm update in December 2020, though it’s too early to tell what effect it may have had on pirate sites.

While the January update was mildly effective at thwarting traffic to pirate sites, the core update in May did the most damage with a 20% drop in search traffic during that month alone.

Data reported by TorrentFreak and MUSO is similar to data from one of the largest torrent sites on the web, the report states:

“To confirm our findings we spoke to the operator of one of the largest torrent sites, who prefers to remain anonymous. Without sharing our findings, he reported a 35% decline in Google traffic over the past year, which is in line with MUSO’s data.”

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Google’s core algorithm updates are designed to have a widespread impact on global search results, though certain categories of sites will invariably be hit harder than others.

As it relates to the core updates of 2020, it appears torrent sites felt the brunt of the impact. Though it’s worth noting overall traffic to pirate sites dropped in 2020.

Between December 2019 and November 2020, excluding traffic from search engines, visits to pirate sites saw a gradual decline of roughly 10%.

With that in mind, the reduction in search traffic to pirate sites could be the result of algorithm updates combined with decreased interest from users.

There’s another factor to consider, which that 2020 offered less content for users to pirate.

Compared to previous years, there were nowhere near as many major blockbuster movies to download. The music industry saw many projects getting delayed, and much of the year’s top trending TV programs aired on streaming sites.

That’s a stark contrast from 2019 which had several multi-million dollar films from Marvel Studios, Game of Thrones on HBO, music leaks from popular artists, and so on.

It’s easy to point the finger at Google, and it makes perfect sense that Google would downrank pirate sites, but it’s always important to consider external factors that could contribute to a loss in traffic.

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