Hello. Thank you for the question. Google crawls and ranks pages constantly. The page rank is determined mostly by the quality and number of links to that page. It sounds like the page hosting your content has gained popularity by having other sites link to it. And perhaps other sites have also started linking to that particular piece of content, which is why the page rank returns a higher result now.
The source of the content is a newspaper---does this mean that they themselves would have done some kind of seo work-----creating links themselves? Or-----if it were other sites linking to the newspaper---wouldn't that mean their must have been an awful lot of sites -requesting back links & that they would have to be high authority sites?
Am I understanding the premise -concept of what you are saying?
As for other sites linking to this article----it is a very old & obscure article-I have to wonder who would want to link to it.
Yes, your understanding is spot on. There are a lot of sites that crawl newspaper archives and build their own databases of content references. Media web sites are also very competitive and constantly competing in SEO to get higher page ranks than competitors. I am sure no effort was made to have your particular page ranked higher, but rather all content related to that site in general.
Is it possible that this could be the work of just one individual who wanted to hurt me?
It's always possible, but unlikely. Does the article appear on other sites? If not it doesn't sound like it.
Lastly----what can be done about it----
Your best bet is contacting the newspaper to see if they're willing to take it down. Google will not, as their policy is quite strict on what content they will move from search results but you can review that page here. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks again!
I am not looking for a long conversation about this----they won't take it down-I just have this last question-
w/o telling me the details -----what are the things I can do?
Those are the two options I posted above. Contact the publisher (the paper) or google, but their removal policy does not cover removing content like this.
hmm---being the 'techie' I would have thought you could have made a comment or 2 about maybe some type of seo or link counter strategy.