Webmasters Concerned About Lost Traffic Due to Google Notifications
On Friday, Google aded a new notification to search results for letting people know when a site may have been hacked. As hacking is running rampant these days, it’s probably not a bad idea. However, not all webmasters are thrilled about it.
In the past, Google has let site owners know about this through messages at Webmaster Central, but Google was not receiving the response from sites that they’d like, with it often taking days, weeks, or even months for site owners to notice. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable points to a WebmasterWorld thread in which Google’s Matt Cutts addressed this.
"The fact is, not everyone logs into Webmaster Tools obsessively to see if they have any messages," says Cutts. "So we needed to find a way to surface this potential risk so that site owners would find out more quickly if they’ve been hacked."
"We now have two different responses for sites with malware vs. sites that we think may be hacked. When we detect malware, we try harder to let users know that they may be stepping into a dangerous part of the web (e.g. an interstitial so that users really need to be sure they want to visit that page)," adds Cutts. "In contrast, a hacked site might not be immediately dangerous to users. But we still want to alert site owners, because if a site is hacked right now, in practice it’s not too much harder for a bad actor to add malware to the hacked page."
If a user clicks on the link in the search results that says, "This site may be compromised," they will be taken to an article at Google’s Help Center, which explains more. Users can still access the sites that are accompanied by these links at their own risk.
"We use a variety of automated tools to detect common signs of a hacked site as quickly as possible," said associate product manager Gideon Wald. "When we detect something suspicious, we’ll add the notification to our search results. We’ll also do our best to contact the site’s webmaster via their Webmaster Tools account and any contact email addresses we can find on the webpage. We hope webmasters will also appreciate these notices, because it will help you more quickly discover when someone may be abusing your site so you can correct the problem."
Wald also acknowledged concern from webmasters about lost traffic, and made a point to say that once the problem has been fixed, the warning label will be automatically removed from the search results.