With 2017 well underway, we wanted to take a moment and share some of the insights we gathered in 2016 in our fight against webspam. Over the past year, we continued to find new ways of keeping spam from creating a poor quality search experience, and worked with webmasters around the world to make the web better.
We do a lot behind the scenes to make sure that users can make full use of what today’s web has to offer, bringing relevant results to everyone around the globe, while fighting webspam that could potentially harm or simply annoy users.
Webspam trends in 2016
- Website security continues to be a major source of concern. Last year we saw more hacked sites than ever – a 32% increase compared to 2015. Because of this, we continued to invest in improving and creating more resources to help webmasters know what to do when their sites get hacked.
- We continued to see that sites are compromised not just to host webspam. We saw a lot of webmasters affected by social engineering, unwanted software, and unwanted ad injectors. We took a stronger stance in Safe Browsing to protect users from deceptive download buttons, made a strong effort to protect users from repeatedly dangerous sites, and we launched more detailed help text within the Search Console Security Issues Report.
- Since more people are searching on Google using a mobile device, we saw a significant increase in spam targeting mobile users. In particular, we saw a rise in spam that redirects users, without the webmaster’s knowledge, to other sites or pages, inserted into webmaster pages using widgets or via ad units from various advertising networks.
How we fought spam in 2016
- We continued to refine our algorithms to tackle webspam. We made multiple improvements to how we rank sites, including making Penguin (one of our core ranking algorithms) work in real-time.
- The spam that we didn’t identify algorithmically was handled manually. We sent over 9 million messages to webmasters to notify them of webspam issues on their sites. We also started providing more security notifications via Google Analytics.
- We performed algorithmic and manual quality checks to ensure that websites with structured data markup meet quality standards. We took manual action on more than 10,000 sites that did not meet the quality guidelines for inclusion in search features powered by structured data.
Working with users and webmasters for a better web
- In 2016 we received over 180,000 user-submitted spam reports from around the world. After carefully checking their validity, we considered 52% of those reported sites to be spam. Thanks to all who submitted reports and contributed towards a cleaner and safer web ecosystem!
- We conducted more than 170 online office hours and live events around the world to audiences totaling over 150,000 website owners, webmasters and digital marketers.
- We continued to provide support to website owners around the world through our Webmaster Help Forums in 15 languages. Through these forums we saw over 67,000 questions, with a majority of them being identified as having a Best Response by our community of Top contributors, Rising Stars and Googlers.
- We had 119 volunteer Webmaster Top Contributors and Rising Stars, whom we invited to join us at our local Top Contributor Meetups in 11 different locations across 4 continents (Asia, Europe, North America, South America).
We think everybody deserves high quality, spam-free search results. We hope that this report provides a glimpse of what we do to make that happen.
Posted by Michal Wicinski, Search Quality Strategist and Kiyotaka Tanaka, User Education & Outreach Specialist