Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Search engine manipulations by "black hat SEOs

I saw on a listserv info about two very interesting articles on how criminal elements manipulate search engines, especially Google. Yet one more reason to use more than one search engine! The abstracts follow:

Groups magnify their chances in fight for hits

"What they're doing isn't wrong," says Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University law school. "The fault is Google's, which hasn't come up with an algorithm that screens out all this junk content."
[Google]'s Mr [Amit Singhal] calls this the problem of "brand recognition": where companies whose standing is based on their success in one area use this to "venture out into another class of information which they may not be as rich at". Google uses human raters to assess the quality of individual sites in order to counter this effect, he adds.
"There's good SEO, allowing people to get to more relevant content," says Google's Mr Singhal. "And then sometimes people do shitty things and sometimes our algorithms are fooled/
Source: Richard Waters. Financial Times. London (UK): Jul 13, 2010. pg. 16 /
Criminals take advantage of search algorithms

Professional criminals are increasingly likely to outflank legitimate companies in competing for Google's algorithmic attention, security professionals say. Criminal gangs use a more sinister form of search engine optimisation, duping Google and its rivals into serving as unwitting vehicles for delivering web surfers to malicious pages. Known as "black hat SEO", the art includes conventional tricks such as stuffing articles with keywords and amassing links from affiliate sites. But it goes much further: The bad guys steal content from legitimate pages and spin the content with new wording, which practitioners say makes them hard to distinguish from the real thing. They hack into trustworthy sites directly and link to their own pages from there, piggybacking on good reputations to get better rankings. They also use [Google]'s own disclosures against it, leaping on Google Trends, which indicates newly popular subjects for searches, to throw together bogus pages faster than real news-oriented pages appear. The number of bad links is tripling every year, with the majority on legitimate websites that have been hacked, according to Bradley Anstis, M86 vicepresident. He said Google could help by digging deeper into the websites it ranks, looking at individual pages within them. What Google sees, though, is different from what the end users see. The con artists can tell when a search engine is visiting the site and they show content laden with keywords. When a potential victim arrives via Google, the criminals pull a switch, redirecting the visitor to another page with bad code.

Source: Joseph Menn. Financial Times. London (UK): Jul 13, 2010. pg. 16 /

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