Data Shows: Removing 'Rogue Sites' From Search Won't Make Much Of A Difference

from the stop-blaming-google dept

The legacy entertainment industry absolutely loves to blame Google for its problems. As I’ve noted in the past, it’s mostly a correlation-not-causation error. That is, they see their own difficulty in adapting and sinking revenues (mainly at the record labels) and they see Google making a ton of money — and they conclude that the two things are related, and that Google must be to blame. That’s why they keep demanding that Google “take action” against the so-called “rogue sites.” It seemed like a reasonable question, then, to see just how much traffic Google actually sends to these sites. Thankfully Compete tracks a lot of this kind of data… and the MPAA recently handed us a list of “rogue sites” to look at.

Pulling up the data on traffic sources for every site listed there shows that taking the big search engines out of the equation would barely matter. Across all 19 sites listed, 85% DOES NOT come from search (Google, Yahoo and Bing). Specifically, across all of those sites, the big three search engines deliver a whopping 15.2% of the traffic to those sites. Google sends about 11.5% of the traffic. Remove search links… and those sites will see a slight dip — at best.

Of course, not all of these sites are equal, so we decided to look more closely at the favorite bogeyman of the legacy entertainment industry: The Pirate Bay. To hear the industry tell the story, if Google just blocked The Pirate Bay from its results, traffic would dry up. The evidence there suggests that the entertainment industry doesn’t have the facts on their side (do they ever?). Google search drives slightly less than 22% of The Pirate Bay’s traffic. Considering how many sites rely on Google for traffic, this is well below average. Add in Yahoo Search and Bing, and we’re still talking about less than 28% of TPB’s traffic actually coming from search.

And of that search traffic, what are people searching for? Well, most are searching for some variation on “the pirate bay.” We looked at all of the search traffic to TPB for the past three months. The top 16 search terms that send traffic to TPB are some variation on the site’s name. These are the top eight search terms, for example:

  1. pirate bay
  2. the pirate bay
  3. piratebay
  4. thepiratebay
  5. tpb
  7. pirates bay

In other words, people getting to TPB from Google already know exactly what they’re looking for. It’s actually pretty rare for people to just randomly search on an artist’s name, and have Google send them off to The Pirate Bay. In fact, going through the top 100 search terms that take people to The Pirate Bay, less than 30% appear to be direct searches for infringing material — and only two of those don’t involve the material in question and a word that shows the person is clearly looking for infringing material (mostly “torrent”, but sometimes “serial number” or something like that). Meaning that only 2 of the top 100 searches that drive people to The Pirate Bay actually involve people just searching for content without making it clear that they’re looking for either TPB or a torrent file specifically. Those two searches? “Drake take care download” and “r kelly sex tape.”

Take Care, of course, is Drake’s high profile new album — the same one that Drake made clear he didn’t mind if people listened to the leaked versions online — effectively sanctioning people to search for the downloads. It’s also been a highly successful album on the sales front, anyway — selling over 600,000 copies in its debut week. Doesn’t sound like Drake is really suffering because of this search. As for the R. Kelly tape… well… let’s just not go there.

Still, the point is pretty clear: Google and the other search engines don’t really drive that much traffic to TPB (or other so-called “rogue sites”), and an awful lot of the traffic they do drive… is people searching for TPB itself (meaning they’re just using Google as a shortcut, rather than to “discover” infringing works). And, when Google does drive people to specific content, it’s usually because the person is already looking for what’s almost certain to be an unauthorized version. Thus, the picture the industry paints of people doing innocent searches for authorized content, and somehow being waylaid by Google pointing them to TPB just isn’t seen in the data. At all.

Force Google, Yahoo and Bing to “block” links to TPB and it will have almost no impact on traffic to TPB. It may annoy some people who use Google for navigation (rather than discovery), but it won’t stop them from going to TPB, since that’s clearly what they want. The drive to force Google to either block or “warn” people about these links seems entirely pointless based on the data. So, once again, the data suggests that the industry is in hysterics based on reasons not supported by the data. The effort to make search engines block links would be a total and complete waste of time.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: google, microsoft, the pirate bay, yahoo

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Data Shows: Removing 'Rogue Sites' From Search Won't Make Much Of A Difference”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

TPB isn’t listed on the first page results. Know what the top spot is for? A paid ad link to… Netflix, a 100% legal, paid service.

TPB barely makes it into the 2nd page at #20. Know what comes up well before it at #13? – which, guess what? – has public domain movies.

Most of the other links in the first 2 pages have variations on free/movie/downloads in their addresses. I’m sure many are fine, but I avoid clicking on these type links out of habit since you rarely know in advance which might be sites trying to turn my system into a zombie.

You have any other stupid questions?

out_of_the_blue says:

"Google search drives slightly less than 22% of The Pirate Bay's traffic."

So? Nearly all of that promotes /illegal/ downloads. Let’s just put the blocks in, be the only empirical test that matters, BUT EVEN IF that doesn’t work, it’s still the right thing to do. Technology can be used for anti-pirating just as easily.

Oh, and KEEP BLAMING GOOGLE because they are now embedded in nearly all the file-sharing sites. It’s not just the search that Google profits from; now more than ever, whenever infringing files are downloaded, Google gets your info. (By the way, just consider how big a danger Google is to downloaders IF it turned to the “dark side” and was in cahoots with Big Media, say: knows EXACTLY what you’ve got, MUCH better than if torrenting…)

Edward Teach says:

Re: "Google search drives slightly less than 22% of The Pirate Bay's traffic."

Arr, mate, let out your eyepatch strap a few notches: dost restrain blood circulating to thine head!

Also, thou shouldst read for comprehension, not propaganda value! Your 22 per-centum amounts to an actual 11 per-centum from the lads at Google, which I reckon as half of what thou dost say! What ye be blatherin about, mate? Didn’t thine schoolmarm teach thee some Arithmetic? If so, why ye be defilin her memory with your deliberate mistakes?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Google search drives slightly less than 22% of The Pirate Bay's traffic."

Don’t use Google then is not like they force you to use them, you can use Bing, Baidu,Yahoo, or one of the distributed search engines that are out there like YaCy.

YaCy the distributed search engine that is impossible to censor LoL

Censoring the intent is not the right thing to do, is the dumbest ever thing to do since it will evolve into something you cannot control and cannot see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: "Google search drives slightly less than 22% of The Pirate Bay's traffic."

no according to blue it doesn’t matter, Google is in so tight with the pirate sites that they get to log everything you do. google is preparing to blackmail the entire world and their by become a global political super power like the UN always wanted to be.

/tinfoil too tight

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: "Google search drives slightly less than 22% of The Pirate Bay's traffic."

Let me get this straight in my poor little mind here. Showing a search result for a site that has movies that are in the public domain and, therefore, free to download somehow encourages people to download illegal copies of the latest spiderman does dallas movie?

And so what if Google has some hint from one of it’s aps tha runs on a site that I’ve visited. So what? If you think they can tell from from the HTTP protocol how much I downloaded (if anything) using the Bittorrent protocol you seriously need to learn how the Internet works. Oh yeah, I did know you’re a bit challenged in that regard I just forgot for a moment. (Or even the FTP protocol should that come into it.)

As you speak of empirical evidence that Google somehow profits from searches and the presence of Google Analytics, say, on a site somehow proves that then you are about as knowledgeable about statistics as you are about the structure of the Internet.

On the other side of the coin if the emphirical evidence you are looking for is a sudden spike in sales for RIAA members and a sudden increase in movie attendance for MPAA members I strongly suggest that you’re not gonna see that. The real reason sales are down, in both cases, is that the vast majority of the product is crap. Same thing that happens in any other market.

Of course that cannot be, so it has to be pirates according to the two above named industry organizations/apologists/lobbyists and, as much as you claim ti dislike them, it seems to you as well.

Will it result in an increase in respect for copyright?

I’d suggest it will have the polar opposite effect. I’d suggest that it’s already having that effect, in fact.

Of course all the likes of SOPA have done is to drive the illogic of IP maximalists out into the open where everyone gets to see the empty arguments for what they are — a welfare program for RIAA and MPAA members.

As for the artists, well, the above two collectives move heaven and earth NOT to pay artists so I’m not at all sure if they’d be better or worse off.

Oh…I almost forgot.

You need a better busines model, o_o_t_b.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Google search drives slightly less than 22% of The Pirate Bay's traffic."

Your rants against pirates, including your alleged link between piracy and Google, are absolutely pointless. Even assuming your Google conspiracy is correct, downloading non-infringing files from file-sharing sites would give Google info (unless you’re saying that non-infringing files would magically not trigger this). Legitimacy of files means nothing; Google would (by your accusations) track everything and get all related information. Therefore piracy isn’t part of the problem because all content, pirated or otherwise, would be tracked by Google.

Really, ootb; you’ve got enough shit to fill twenty sewage plants and still have enough left to fertilise the popcorn industry.

out_of_the_blue says:

Google search drives over 21% of The Pirate Bay's traffic!

By your own “data”. All a matter of perspective: you favor Google, is all, for your pirate-y motives — that Google pays you to put out, at least indirectly.

And by your own exposition, that’s essentially all those who are too lazy to type in “” or bookmark it, and then use TPB’s search function. So I’d say you make a good argument for forcing blocks from Google, Bing, and… one I never have and never will use. Anyway, if makes no difference, then let’s do it!

rubberpants says:

Re: Google search drives over 21% of The Pirate Bay's traffic!

Anyway, if makes no difference, then let’s do it!

Yes, because it makes perfect sense to expend resources, time, and energy to accomplish nothing. You have a special mind – don’t hide it from the world when there are so many unsolved problems out there in the world. Quickly, we ride!

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Google search drives over 21% of The Pirate Bay's traffic!

representing the global association of mental patients and mouth breathers I object strenuously to the notion that we should be contracted to post for o_o_t_b.

Please note that the vast majority of us can tie our own shoes, work a toothbrush and successfully turn on a computer without assistance or constant reminders of how to do it.

We can even dress ourselves and select matching socks.

Having studied o_o-t_b’s posts we are of the informed opinion that he is not capable of any of the above nor is it likely he can feed himself properly which may account for his delusions and continued belief that De Nial is a river in Africa.

We refer you to the members of the Global Association for the Advancement of Amoeba & Related Creatures who have indicated they will be more than happy to post in his name following in his pattern and logic. This will save him wasted time on this site and is offered at the low price of $250US a post for a short time only, payable by credit card or paypal on a daily basis based on the number of posts.

Amoeba do have business models something which o_o_t_b seems to lack.

Thank you.

deadzone (profile) says:

Let's be honest

If someone is using a major search engine to search for sites that will give them free stuff using generic terms such as “Free Movies” or “Piracy Sites” they are neither savvy nor serious about it and will most likely obtain some nice free viruses, Trojans and spy ware for their trouble rather than free movies or music.

I don’t think that these entities and persons pushing for these new laws even understand how futile, stupid and counterproductive their techniques are. I also think that they vastly underestimate the abilities, skills and intelligence of those that they are fighting against – not to mention their true intentions and motivations for what they do.

The attitude that this behavior can somehow be curtailed in some significant fashion or even stamped out entirely is a ludicrous and impossible pipe dream. They have turned it into a zero sum game of all or nothing and everyone is worse off because of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think it is time for everybody to start targeting the industry assets.

It is time to start going to the places where those people distribute that crap and start ripping it there, so when the watermarks show where it came from they get scared and close it down.

Where does Disney shows their crap? God knows I love to rip those Blurays and DVDs to give to the sons and daughters of my friends, Viacom what are their assets that have a public facing front?

Maybe even start to set up local distribution centers to increase the financial impact, like having ten people share the same account or even an entire neighborhood, they want war lets give it to them.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...