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Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...





We always want to make sure that when you use Google Search to find information, you get the highest quality results. But, we are aware of many bad actors who are trying to manipulate search ranking and profit from it, which is at odds with our core mission: to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Over the years, we've devoted a huge effort toward combating abuse and spam on Search. Here's a look at how we fought abuse in 2017.


We call these various types of abuse that violate the webmaster guidelines “spam.” Our evaluation indicated that for many years, less than 1 percent of search results users visited are spammy. In the last couple of years, we’ve managed to further reduce this by half.



Google webspam trends and how we fought webspam in 2017



As we continued to improve, spammers also evolved. One of the trends in 2017 was an increase in website hacking—both for spamming search ranking and for spreading malware. Hacked websites are serious threats to users because hackers can take complete control of a site, deface homepages, erase relevant content, or insert malware and harmful code. They may also record keystrokes, stealing login credentials for online banking or financial transactions. In 2017 we focused on reducing this threat, and were able to detect and remove from search results more than 80 percent of these sites. But hacking is not just a spam problem for search users—it affects the owners of websites as well. To help website owners keep their websites safe, we created a hands-on resource to help webmasters strengthen their websites’ security and revamped our help resources to help webmasters recover from a hacked website. The guides are available in 19 languages.

We’re also recognizing the importance of robust content management systems (CMSs). A large percentage of websites are run on one of several popular CMSs, and subsequently spammers exploited them by finding ways to abuse their provisions for user-generated content, such as posting spam content in comment sections or forums. We’re working closely with many of the providers of popular content management systems like WordPress and Joomla to help them also fight spammers that abuse their forums, comment sections and websites.


Another abuse vector is the manipulation of links, which is one of the foundation ranking signals for Search. In 2017 we doubled down our effort in removing unnatural links via ranking improvements and scalable manual actions. We have observed a year-over-year reduction of spam links by almost half.


Working with users and webmasters for a better web



We’re here to listen: Our automated systems are constantly working to detect and block spam. Still, we always welcome hearing from you when something seems … phishy. Last year, we were able to take action on nearly 90,000 user reports of search spam.


Reporting spam, malware and other issues you find helps us protect the site owner and other searchers from this abuse. You can file a spam report, a phishing report or a malware report. We very much appreciate these reports—a big THANK YOU to all of you who submitted them.


We also actively work with webmasters to maintain the health of the web ecosystem. Last year, we sent 45 million messages to registered website owners via Search Console letting them know about issues we identified with their websites. More than 6 million of these messages are related to manual actions, providing transparency to webmasters so they understand why their sites got manual actions and how to resolve the issue.

Last year, we released a beta version of a new Search Console to a limited number of users and afterwards, to all users of Search Console. We listened to what matters most to the users, and started with popular functionalities such as Search performance, Index Coverage and others. These can help webmasters optimize their websites' Google Search presence more easily.

Through enhanced Safe Browsing protections, we continue to protect more users from bad actors online. In the last year, we have made significant improvements to our safe browsing protection, such as broadening our protection of macOS devices, enabling predictive phishing protection in Chrome, cracked down on mobile unwanted software, and launched significant improvements to our ability to protect users from deceptive Chrome extension installation.


We have a multitude of channels to engage directly with webmasters. We have dedicated team members who meet with webmasters regularly both online and in-person. We conducted more than 250 online office hours, online events and offline events around the world in more than 60 cities to audiences totaling over 220,000 website owners, webmasters and digital marketers. In addition, our official support forum has answered a high volume of questions in many languages. Last year, the forum had 63,000 threads generating over 280,000 contributing posts by 100+ Top Contributors globally. For more details, see this post. Apart from the forums, blogs and the SEO starter guide, the Google Webmaster YouTube channel is another channel to find more tips and insights. We launched a new SEO snippets video series to help with short and to-the-point answers to specific questions. Be sure to subscribe to the channel!


Despite all these improvements, we know we’re not yet done. We’re relentless in our pursue of an abuse-free user experience, and will keep improving our collaboration with the ecosystem to make it happen.



Posted by Cody Kwok, Principal Engineer

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