Vulnerabilities / Threats
1/21/2011
02:58 PM
Connect Directly
LinkedIn
Twitter
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Acknowledges Web Spam Complaints

Low-quality content has some Internet users worried about the relevance of Google search results.

Google on Friday tried to quell grumblings about the quality of its search results.

In recent months, prominent bloggers and tech news sites have noted many instances in which Google searches returned poor results. Programmer Jeff Atwood, who runs the popular Coding Horror blog, characterized the volume of complaints as "deafening" lately.

The issue is Web spam. Google principle engineer Matt Cutts, who runs Google's Web spam team, defines Web spam as "the junk you see in search results when Web sites try to cheat their way into higher positions in search results or otherwise violate search engine quality guidelines."

Web spam is a critical issue for Google, perhaps to the point that it imperils Google's search business. If low-quality content continues to find prominent placement in Google's search results and generates enough revenue -- through Google ads, third-party ads, or direct sales -- to fund further Web spam creation, users will slowly but surely turn to other means of content discovery. Social search is often mentioned as a contender in this scenario, which explains why the rise of Facebook has Google worried.

What makes Web spam particularly pernicious is that it's not as easy to identify as malware. Web spam runs the gamut, from blatant attempts to trick Google with unlawfully copied content and repeated search keywords to low-quality writing produced by so-called "content farms."

Cutts's response to the growing chorus of criticism is simultaneously to deny the accuracy of the complaints and to offer assurance that further steps to stamp out Web spam are being taken. Google's search quality is "better than it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness and comprehensiveness," he insists, even as he acknowledges there has been "a slight uptick of spam in recent months," which Google's engineers are addressing.

Cutts cites a number of steps Google has taken to beat back Web spam, to identify hacked sites, and to alter its search algorithm to deemphasize low-quality Web sites. And he stresses the fact that being a Google advertising client doesn't buy a better search rank.

Cutts concedes that Google can and should do better, even as he suggests that users' perception of the prevalence of Web spam may be the result of "skyrocketing expectations."

The trouble is that Web spammers are trying to do better too.

If Google is to prevail, it may have to look beyond the security arms race, where stalemates rather than victories seem to be the norm, and forgo some ad revenue in order to starve the content farms that feed from Google's trough.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7407
Published: 2014-10-22
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in the MRBS module for Drupal allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of unspecified victims via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-3675
Published: 2014-10-22
Shim allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (out-of-bounds read) via a crafted DHCPv6 packet.

CVE-2014-3676
Published: 2014-10-22
Heap-based buffer overflow in Shim allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted IPv6 address, related to the "tftp:// DHCPv6 boot option."

CVE-2014-3677
Published: 2014-10-22
Unspecified vulnerability in Shim might allow attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted MOK list, which triggers memory corruption.

CVE-2014-3828
Published: 2014-10-22
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Centreon 2.5.1 and Centreon Enterprise Server 2.2 allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via (1) the index_id parameter to views/graphs/common/makeXML_ListMetrics.php, (2) the sid parameter to views/graphs/GetXmlTree.php, (3) the session_id...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.