Google Pirate Update: Everything You Need To Know

The aptly-named Pirate algorithm was released back in August 2012. By using data from the Digital Millennial Copyright Act (DMCA), Pirate worked to penalise plagiarism sites that had been identified as frequently breaking copyright law.

Why is it different to other updates?

Google releases between five hundred and six hundred updates a year. But they’re not all packaged as your cuddly Panda, Penguins and Pigeons. Aside from the p-prefix, these updates all have one thing in common – they’re intended to give the user a better online experience.

Pirate works slightly differently. It aims to tackle piracy and identify sites that are working unethically. The true benefactors of Pirate will be people who have works that can be copyrighted, such as musicians and artists.

This new update is more accurate and uses a slightly different algorithm to catch sites that may have dodged the original Pirate release. The original Pirate was criticised for mistakenly identifying plagiarism sites, effectively creating ‘false positives’. This new update will release these sites.

Search terms

As well as seeking out websites which as listed as frequent DMCA rule-breakers, Pirate 2 hunts down sites with copyright-contentious phrases such as ‘download free movies’ or ‘where can I watch (film name) for free online?’

Also, any Google search box autocomplete suggestions, that feature a banned site, will now no longer appear.

Finally, a new ad layout means that instead of a torrent sites being listed at the top of a search listing, the film source will be listed instead.

Google Pirate Update Everything You Need To Know


The Pirate update is already having an impact on popular torrent sites such as, Isohunt and .These sites, which have been slapped with takedown requests from DMCA, have been reported as ranking much lower than their previous ranking before this version of Pirate was released.

Now, searching for a downloadable song or film won’t bring up a list of torrent sites, but either the film source or databases such as IMDB, Wikipedia, Amazon or YouTube (for music)

Bookmarked Sites

So we know Pirate will down rank any websites that have been identified as violators of the DMCA, but anyone who downloads films and music will know their favourite download site and could well have it bookmarked.

In other words, they won’t be using search engines to find torrent sites, as they already know them!

So what can Google do about that?

In short, not much. Google can only manage the rankings for websites – it can’t control people that visit the site directly.

Less mainstream Torrent Sites

The Pirate update only looks at sites which have had requests from DMCA to take down unsolicited material. So there is a good chance that smaller, less popular torrent sites might rise to the top (as they haven’t been listed as a frequent offender by DMCA). However, as more and more people use these sites, they too will be issued with takedown notices and eventually be penalised by Pirate 2.

Google really is fighting hard to prevent piracy on the internet. And it seems they are winning the battle.

The Future

Google are always looking to improve the user experience. We can expect to see even more efforts made to demote sites that are violating copyright laws as Google looks to build partnerships with companies, such as Disney. Clearly, not making a concerted effort to crackdown on torrent sites could well knock them out of favour with their new business partners.

Should you worry? Well, as long as you are creating useful, relevant content for your website readers and aren’t plagiarising anyone else’s work or bending SEO rules, you should be fine. Carry on as normal!

Georgina Wilks-Wiffen is the Senior Campaign Co-ordinator for one of the South East’s leading SEO agencies – Freelance SEO Essex. Georgina and the rest of the team like to keep up-to-date with all of Google’s algorithm changes and general news.