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Google Results Polluted By Cybercrooks

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UPDATE: Since this post was first published, Google has said an algorithm change is pending to address the problem. Read more about that here.

My original intent was to relay a heartwarming/heartbreaking story if you hadn’t heard it already. It’s a narrative you hear periodically in different forms with different details: A man found his long lost daughter via Google. However, in trying to find content referenced but not linked in the news articles about the subject I found nothing but malware traps right at the top of the results.

Very quickly the story, because it’s a good one. Twenty seven or so years ago, Dirk Pratt’s two-year-old daughter was taken off to Ecuador by her mother and he never saw her again. His ex-wife told him Francesca had died after being bitten by a mosquito. Dirk heard someone had been reunited with a family member with the help of a Google vanity search for their own name. So Dirk searched his name and found a message on a message board from his daughter. She was also told her father was dead, but was suspicious. Now they’re reunited.

My daughter is six months old and naturally when I read that story I was very touched and saddened and all that; I couldn’t imagine what that must feel like. So I went off in search of the message board. I wanted to see what the father saw. Eventually, I found a result for a Zabasearch message search result, but I can’t be sure this is same place he found it. The Zabasearch result was the sixth listing on Google. The top, where sponsored results often are, was a Google News result. The first through fifth results: all malware links.

Looking For Dirk Pratt

I only clicked on the first few links, which led to scareware. Upon closer look at the others it was obvious. They had strange URLs, irrelevant texts. One appeared to be a BBC link but the URL didn’t resolve to bbc.com. All of them, were indexed fairly recently.

Dirk Pratt Malware

Earlier I wrote about link velocity and Google’s apparent new favoritism of freshness is allowing cybercrooks and SEO blackhatters to manipulate and dominate Google’s search results. Google needs to fix this or users will lose trust quickly. If every time you tried to do research on popular subjects and all you were met with were attack sites, wouldn’t you?

I’ve contacted Google several times over the past couple of months since instances like this became more and more frequent. I have yet to hear back from them about what they intend to do about it.
 

Google Results Polluted By Cybercrooks
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  • Vi

    I’ve had this problem too. It’s actually because of a virus.

  • Kate

    I’m a librarian and when I use Google, I actually view the first two pages or so of links (and instruct patrons to do so as well) just because of that very problem. It’s extremely annoying.

    • Searching In Vain

      Even the first 2 pages of results are often spammy. I don’t know if these sites just do keyword stuffing to game the SERPs or dynamically create pages to respond to searches. Don’t spend enough time analyzing this junk to find out.

      I spend a lot of time doing medical research on Google (though I’m moving back to Yahoo a lot). I find it especially cruel that even serious illnesses are high value keywords for these sites and needless to say. Nothing is off limits to these spammers.

      As prevalent as the malware sites are the MFA sites. No, Google still has not gotten rid of them. When you come upon a site that has several pages of “information” about a disease, but each page has only a couple of paragraphs of content interspersed with Adsense blocks, you should simply click elsewhere.

      Often, they have copied material from legitimate medical sources, changing a few words here and there to avoid duplicate content detection. Example:

      “Ovarian Cancer is sometimes malignant”

      The height of cruelty, giving false hope to those most in need of accurate information.

      Google has become such a behemoth, automating so much of their “quality controls” that I don’t see a solution forthcoming in the immediate future.

      Disgusted and often:

      Searching in vain.

  • http://texxsmith.com texxs

    Google has always been this way. They were only any good back in their very beginning before everyone figured out their system.

    This is why I use Yahoo, unless I’m specifically trying to see who is #1 on Google for work.

    The masses are so stupid. Look at Craigs List. How is that site so popular. It looks ugly and doesn’t work well. Well it’s so popular because it’s so popular. Just like Google.

  • http://blog.hichamaged.net/ Hicham Maged

    I’ve a question: do you think that the new ‘search url structure’ may help in stopping such problem or it has no relation?

    Anway, this is a serious problem indeed and if the folks @ Google didn’t solve it, users (we) shall loose trust quickly especially that other search engines are being used now. Just take a look on the finalists of Search Engines for the Webware 100 Award of 2009 and you’ll see many other competitors!

  • http://www.trackrmo.com Tracker Mo

    If anyone should be able to scan for malware, it’s search engines. All of them need to update their info more often (2-3 times per day is not excessive) to protect their visitors from this type of thing.

    I also encounter entirely too many Adsense sites — that is, sites that have little or no content, just tons of adsense links. This was supposed to have been stopped years ago… is it coming back?

    I know the salespages for this type of thing are still active.

    Mo

  • http://stmangbasilicafuessen.bravehost.com Guest

    We use yahoo it doesnot seem to have so much as a problem as google.Have not used google for over a year.

  • http://dmsoft-wy.com Guest

    About half of the searches I get in Google are totally irrelevant. I have been going to Yahoo and MSN search a lot because of it. I get tons and tons of link farms when I search on virtually any keyword. True, the rest get some of the same, but not nearly as bad. Link farms are not supposed to count against SEO, but then…why are link farms among the first 100 items listed when you search on a key word such as “clipart”?

    I too ran into a number of links that lead to malware and malicious script. I use a antivirus program that seems to be catching most of it or my PC would be infected daily, just searching on Google. You really have to be careful in the search engines what you click on. None of the links I have seen in Google appear to be checked for malware or viruses.

    I seen number of links where the anchor text was totally irrelevant to the actual link, and a number of links where it is obvious that if you click on it, certain script would be called up that redirects you somewhere.

  • toto

    Funny, the first time I Google some news (the fired cheerleader coach) in hope to find some pictures and hell broke loose when I clicked on the first link. Spent all night trying to clean the puter. Installed AVG search plugin and damn that chik is HOT!!

  • http://www.seosean.com Affordable SEO Services

    That’s just too bad it’s getting so polluted. I’ve also noticed that there is a lot of crap out there but luckly Firefox and my anti-spam software seems to be able to shoot back at it.

  • http://inchoo.net Toni Anicic

    I believe there is a nice way for Google to solve this problem. We do need a system to search for new stuff (the freshness) however, the system should return only trusted websites that delivered news for some time now without complaints about scamm, spamm or viruses.

  • http://www.diamondonnet.com Diamonds

    Its a never ending battle against spam, I’m sure Google will eventually find a way to solve this, it might not be pretty but they will find a way.

  • http://www.8net.org/blog Guest

    Forget Google. They don’t OWN the internet and they NEVER will.

    There are SO many other way to get traffic besides the big G, including natural type in traffic, so G will never ever own it all.

    XXX

  • http://www.discoworx.com Discoworx

    I think what we are all missing is the prevalence of “freelancers” getting paid to create mockups/clones etc, at a price that your normal “business man” would find crazy.

    Of course there are many many legitimate vendors out there, but as reality bites, your average joe, can spend 300-500$ and get the services of an extremely well established Software house.

    couple that with “Generation ” We get all our movies,films, music for FREE!!!” weed smoking, PS3 Guru………..you get a BAD combination!.

    ………….aah, bin it! This is a rant Im gonna stop now, but when does corporate America, along with the rest of the modern developed world (It live in East Europe)………. of the Pandoras Box, that is the net.

    SPoof/Scare/Spam/Viruses/Trojans/Adware/malware, are all keywords of a modern 30-40 yrs concept of a Business model.drop a few ccoins and yu get anything created webwise.

    Just look at the reason of WHY we have the problem of spoof sites, adwords,link clicking, etc are a model for someone to make money.

    we will always get problems like these when all it needs is a few hundred bucks and you get yourself a “Business” legal or otherwise.

    • krakow

      Please spend 5 mins of your time and just check out whats happening in Europe RIGHT NOW!!!

      http://www.blackouteurope.eu/

      This is the how the corporate option is going to reach america, and affect what we think this is what the Internet, freedom of speech, and our daily lives will turn out .

      never mind Google, spam or spoof sites , Look out this is coming to us all.

      http://www.blackouteurope.eu/

      and you heard it here on WPN FIRST!!! by me!

  • http://www.allinoneweddings.om Guest

    Just as it has with other spam Google will figure out a way to combat it. If not they will go down like Alta Vista.

  • Guest

    thank you for attempting to make google a better place. keep up the good news and work!!

  • http://www.onlinepackagingshop.co.uk Packaging

    Jason you have a point. Google must put a stop to this or they are doomed!

  • http://dietdon.com DON

    The shame of it all is just like with most things, because of the actions of a few many will suffer. Hopefully this new way of selecting sites will somehow help the little people.

    It takes money to make money and the same goes for people with big money using big tricks to get in front of the legitimate sites.

    Hopefully this will cut down on the big benefits that the big cheaters rake in.

  • http://www.fresasychocolate.com Lenceria Mujer

    Thank you Jason,
    It seems that this time big G has heard your inquiries…Trust is something that is in top 5 things that Google is preserving most.
    I heard that a big Google’s budget was to to combat this kind of scam and people doing tricky things with AdSense.

    Congratulations again we all get better information anyways.

  • http://www.properseo.net proper Seo service

    So guys, do u think link building is gonna have next to nothing impact on PR then or what? I’m quaking in my boots. Arrrrggggggghhhhh.

  • Apollo

    I have been reading fan-fictions online and the first thing I went to was google!!! Man! Am I mad at them! They got 3 viruses on one computer and 2 viruses on another!! And they are all from the same site!!Q!! So I don’t know where to go to anymore!!!

    If anyone knows a good site please message me!!!

    • http://bkr.spooff.nl Lenen met BKR

      Try AVG-free. It probably help you remove the virusses.

  • http://www.symphonyoflove.net/blog BK

    I am glad that you brought forward this information especially since most people are using Google nowadays to look for information online. Personally, I rely quite a lot on Google to help me find information but so far I have not had such problems yet; probably because the information I was looking for was not very popular and worthwhile enough for the blackhat to do something about it.

    But now that I read this post of yours, I do recall a few incidences where I was Googling for some information and I have some links appearing to have malwares. However, I have AVG installed in my system and they have this option to check link validity and safeness. Thus I was informed before I even clicked on the malware links that appeared at the top of the search results.

    Glad to hear that Google is doing something about this. In fact I feel that Google have a social responsibility to do something about this since so many people are using it to do searches.

  • http://www.web2wow.com/billyzeke BILLYZEKE

    Google stinks because you cannot contact them live !
    I have an adsense account and they never even respond to E mails with nothing but canned responses !

    IT’s hit and miss with every site or blog i create!

    NO warnings your going to get account disabled just BAM you get that E mail without any chance to fix the problem or even defend yourself!

    SO far i got hit with one virus downloading a software for viewer
    on a site it totally busted IE and i had to do the reinstall of windows
    vista !

    Glad i read this article now i will just be careful when seraching google !

  • http://www.mynewswire.co.in news wire

    yes, this is very bad for businesses as they are depend more n more Google for online business. Google has to take some serious action about it and cleanup the result. ASAP.

    Thanks
    MYNEWSWIRE

  • http://www.parvoindogs.com parvo

    I must agree with you. Everytime I’m trying to search something, there are so many irrelevant results. Definitely, google must do something about this matter in order for them to maintain the quality of their service.

  • derrick

    I am a simple soul with a small web site trying to attract business.I find that first I am overwhelmed by the professional payed adds.But more importantly by all the others who may well have paid significant amount of money to professionals just to get their site at the top of the “free” listings.
    Why don’t the search engines have a two tier structure where it is recognised that real amatures can get there pages listed without all the extremely complicated methods that have to be used to either “turn” on the Google alagorithm to their benefit or do it buy dint of size of their business with links and ads etc.

    • http://www.playingcardsandmore.com Tom

      Hang in there, it is possible to rank high in Google without all the expensive services of the professionals (although I must admit that hiring pros when speed things up substantially). I was able to scratch and crawl my way to the top 10 on Gooble, MSN, and Yahoo by focusing attention on simple SEO techniques. Keep the faith, you can get there if you are patient. Good luck

  • http://www.freeuniquearticles.com/ Steve Joseph

    This seems to be a very scary problem.
    If blackhat guys can easily manipulate the results then its definetly going to create chaos among searchers and will also deteroit the reputation and trusts people have in G.
    Earlier also there was google bombing issue..
    Seems like as long as google will rule, problems like this will occur again and again.

    • http://www.amazinggypsybazaar.id.au/ Guest

      Seems like as long as google rules? Doesn’t matter who rules, there always an enemy.. if yahoo would be first, I’m sure they would experience even worth problems.. google is cool..

    • http://www.memorials.com/cremation-urns.php Guest

      Google cannot do anything at large.
      However u should remember that just like if there are virus there is antivirus too.

  • http://www.melbourneonline.com.au/Search-Engine-Optimisation.asp Mark – Melbourne SEO

    I wonder who is doing this. Seems like a lot of trouble just to sell a crappy little product, anybody suspect industrial sabotage? Yahoo, for example, would have much to gain from Google’s downfall (Not suggesting Yahoo would stoop to that, they’re not the only ones to benefit from Google’s loss). I would be interested to see which search engines were NOT affected by the dodgy SEOers.

  • http://website-analyzer.net website analyzer

    Hope that Google will take inspired decision later and the new algorithm will not affect relevant pages.

    • http://www.tarotreadingsite.com tarotreadingsite

      I agree.. I hope Google figures out how to combat this problem quickly and maintain user trust. So many of us depend on Google giving prompt reliable information both for bringing people to our website through search, and when we are searching. It’s a shame that there are always those people that will try and take advantage of others through greed.

  • http://palma-seo.com website logo

    Spam has always been an arms race and always will be. email spam, web spam, etc. maybe micropayments will ease it somewhat, but not as much as some would wish.

  • http://rumahabi.com SEO Blog

    Thanks to God to let Google come to existence

  • http://www.onlinetv.us/ Randy Penn

    When we look for our keywords, even our domain name, most of the results are bogus. A recent search for a film video site brought up hundreds of innocent returns with the site name and info – all of them going to porn sites instead of the movie site. A real shame. Google has a real problem depending on machines and code against these people.

  • http://melayuboleh3.blogspot.com Melayu Boleh

    omg.. found back his daughter using google??.. i never though google are really that powerful because mostly the search result are seldom relevant.. the upper one is usually not what you looking for..

  • http://www.airsolutionz.co.nz Heat Pump

    Is this algorithm change under way? I have noticed some real changes on the SERPs and a lot of ‘spammy’ listings such as old auction listings and so forth have also started disappearing again. Got to hate looking for information and finding expired auctions =p

  • http://storecomp21.blogspot.com 90win09

    all of that depends on the accuracy of the data is sought, because the machine is man-made then, of course, still many are not clear, therefore, must be many changes that must be done again for the search engine. I think google has been working well and become number one in the world

  • http://www.jehzlau-concepts.com jehzlau

    this is pretty scary.. if google do nothing about it, the world wide web will be a wasteland. :(

  • http://www.prowebdirect.co.uk/ SEO company

    Google takes on all new comers easily.