Weekly SEO news: 16 August 2011

Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

A new type of spam cloaking is getting more popular: spammers hack into popular websites that have high rankings on Google and then insert keyword rich links and redirects to other websites. What can you do to make sure that your website is not abused by spammers?

Also in the news: Google's market share is about 66%, Yahoo/Bing users find websites more quickly, search and email remain top online activities.

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. How to check if spammers abuse your website

A new type of spam cloaking is getting more popular: spammers hack into popular websites that have high rankings on Google and then insert keyword rich links and redirects to other websites. What can you do to make sure that your website is not abused by spammers?

What is cloaking?

Cloaking is a spamming technique in which the content presented to the search engine spider is different from the content presented to regular users.

This is done by delivering content based on the user-agent HTTP header of the user requesting the page, the IP address of a user or the referring page:

  1. When a user is identified as a search engine spider, a server-side script delivers a different version of the web page.

    The search engine spider can be identified based on the IP address and on the user-agent HTTP header.

  2. When a user comes from a particular page (for example a Google search result page), the web server delivers a different version of the page than users get when they enter the URL of the page directly in the browser.

These methods can be combined. A web page can be cloaked based on the IP address, the user-agent, referring web page or any combination of these three factors.

How do spammers abuse your website?

Many websites have security holes. Spammers use them to hack into your server and to change the content of your web pages. They can do the following with your pages:

  1. They insert keyword rich links to spammer sites on your web pages. These links are only visible to Google's indexing spider. For Google, it looks as if your website is endorsing the spammer website with a link.

  2. They redirect your website visitors to their own pages. Google gets your regular page. People who visit your web pages after clicking on your website listing on Google's search results will be redirected to the spammer website.

How can you find out if spammers abuse your site?

There are several ways to find out if spammers change your web pages:

  1. Download the free IBP demo version and select "Tools > Search engine spider simulator". Enter the URL of one of your web pages and select "Googlebot". The spider simulator will show you how Google sees your web pages.

    This method enables you to check if someone returns different pages based on the user-agent.

  2. Search Google for "site:yourdomain.com" (replace yourdomain.com with your own domain). Browse through the search result pages and check the titles and descriptions that Google uses for your web pages.

    Click on a listing to make sure that visitors are directed to the correct page.

  3. Click on the "Cached" link on Google's search result pages for your domain to see the content that Google has indexed on your pages.

    Look for links, Javascript and other elements that don't belong on your page.

Use the tips above to find out if hackers have changed the content of your web pages. To make sure that hackers cannot abuse your website, use the latest version of your content management system and install the latest security updates.

 

2. Search engine news and articles of the week

How does Google treat +1 against robots.txt

"The +1 Button interacts with robots.txt and other crawler directives in an interesting way. Since +1's can only be applied to public pages, we may visit your page at the time the +1 Button is clicked to verify that it is indeed public. This check ignores crawler directives. This does not, however, impact the behavior of Google web search crawlers and how they interact with your robots.txt file."

Editor's note: details on how to add Google's +1 button to your website can be found here.



StatisticsGoogle share of searches at 66 percent in July 2011

"Google accounted for 66.05 percent of all U.S. searches conducted in the four weeks ending July 30, 2011. The combined Bing-powered search comprised 28.05 percent of searches for the month, with Yahoo! Search and Bing receiving 14.49 percent and 13.19 percent, respectively. [...]

Yahoo! Search and Bing achieved the highest success rates in July 2011. This means that for Yahoo! Search, more than 81.36 percent of searches executed resulted in a visit to a Website. Google achieved a success rate of 68 percent, an increase of 1 percent in July 2011."

Editor's note: according to the report, Yahoo/Bing users find what they're looking for more quickly. You can use IBP to optimize your web pages for high rankings on Google -and- Bing.



Search and email remain the top online activities

"92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web, including 59% who do so on a typical day. This places search at the top of the list of most popular online activities among U.S. adults. But it is not alone at the top. Among online adults, 92% use email, with 61% using it on an average day. [...]

Perhaps surprisingly for an online activity that has been around for a while, search is most popular among the youngest adult internet users (those age 18-29), 96% of whom use search engines to find information online. But even among the oldest internet users (age 65+), 87% are search engine users."



Google PlusGoogle +1 – can it ever be a major ranking signal? History says not really

"Anyone remember the original snap.com? Snap.com’s innovation was heavily based on # of clicks and time elapsed between returning back to the search engine.

There are a ton of reasons on how you can leverage your social media to help you with SEO, but in terms of social influencing rankings anytime soon I am not holding my breath."



Google allows bidding on competitor URLs on Google AdWords

"People who are not so web savvy often type the URL into the search field rather than the URL field to find a website. [...]

Contacted Google support about this, I would have thought this is a breach of T&C, but they claim they can only protect a trademark, not a domain name."



Search engine newslets

  • Test SEOprofiler's new backlink manager and the link opportunity finder.
  • Discussion: is there another Google algorithm update?
  • The AdWords billing tab is temporarily unavailable for some accounts.
  • Google Places bug loses major Hawaii Hotel.
  • Video: Is there a limit to how many 301 (Permanent) redirects I can do on a site? Answer: no.
  • Google tests a new Instant interface.

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