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Spotting and squashing spam on Search

June 8th, 2018

When you search with Google, our goal is to provide you with results from relevant and authoritative sources. We work hard to ensure that search spam doesn’t get in the way of you finding the information you’re looking for.

You can get a sense of how search could be ruined by search spam by visiting the spam folder in your Gmail account. Just as Gmail fights email spam and keeps it out of your inbox, our search spam fighting systems work to keep your search results clean.

Okay, so what is spam?

Search spam comes in a variety of different forms. We refer to a page or site as “spammy” if it is trying to fool or manipulate our ranking systems. Some spam comes from site owners who are intentionally trying to secure higher search rankings using techniques that go against our guidelines. While search spam is designed to impact search ranking, some spammy pages may also be harmful to users, trying to trick you into providing your personal or financial information or subscribing to a service with unclear terms.

In more serious cases, spammy web pages are on websites that may unknowingly have been victims of hacking. Hacked websites can create serious threats to users: once controlled by the hacker, a site can become a channel for distributing malware or causing further damage, while also taking advantage of the legitimate website owner.

That doesn’t sound good. What are you doing about it?

We have systems in place to detect and prevent search spam, but we also work actively with site owners to maintain a healthy web. We provide guidelines for webmasters, encouraging them to produce high-quality content and services. In 2017, we conducted 250+ webmaster meetups and office hours around the world reaching more than 220,000 website owners. Through our support forum we answered thousands of questions each month, and through Search Console we sent over 45 million notifications to registered website owners alerting them to possible problems with their websites which could affect their appearance in search. While most spam detection is done automatically, when spam slips through, we take manual action. Last year, we sent 6 million manual action messages to webmasters about practices we identified that were against our guidelines, along with information on how to resolve the issue.

Last year, we focused a great deal of effort on reducing the impact on users from hacked websites and were able to detect and remove more than 80 percent of compromised sites from search results. We’re also working closely with many providers of popular content management systems like WordPress and Joomla to help them fight spammers that abuse forums and comment sections.

What can I do?

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 help us protect the site owner and other searchers from this abuse. You can file a spam report, a phishing report or a malware report. You can also alert us to any issue with Google search by clicking on the “Send feedback” link at the bottom of the search results page, which will trigger this reporting tool:

search feedback form

You can highlight whatever issue you may have spotted in search, add comments and forward that to our search team for review.

Your feedback is appreciated to help us create a spam-free search experience for everyone.