Google gets stricter. Sort of.

Trump, malware, virus and other nasties

Tempting as it is to mention Donald Trump post US election, I’ll instead limit myself to covering another distasteful topic. Websites that deliberately infect users with malware, virus and other nasties.

Google Safe Browsing is a service from Google that protects users by showing warnings about dangerous sites. If you use the Google Chrome web browser, then you may occasionally have seen a warning like the one below pop up.

Google Safe Browsing warning

Google also highlights in their search results websites that use deceptive installation practices to fool users into installing unwanted software or other violations of Google’s Malware, Unwanted Software, Phishing, and Social Engineering Policies 

Offending sites get notified by Google through Google Search Console.  Until they fix the problem, the public warnings stay in place until Google is satisfied the sites are safe for users.

These public warnings stop most users in their tracks and consequently the traffic offending websites receive from Google can dry up overnight. Clearly, this can have a devastating impact and so is a very strong incentive for sites to quickly clean up their act.

Some offending sites are simply innocent sites that have been hacked. This is why it’s important to have a Google Search Console account so you get notified should this happen.

Of course, not all offending sites are innocents caught in the crossfire. There are evil sites designed specifically for nefarious purposes. According to Google, some websites cease harming users just long enough to have the warnings removed and then immediately revert to harmful activity. In response, Google is now coming down harder on such Repeat Offenders.

From now, when Google has determined that a site is a Repeat Offender, the webmaster will be unable to request additional reviews via the Search Console for 30 days. During this time public warnings will continue to show to users. Hopefully, this will act as a bigger deterrent to offending sites.

Google states that hacked websites will not be classified as Repeat Offenders. Only sites that purposefully post harmful content will be targeted under this policy.

Given that, it begs the question why Google doesn’t just totally excommunicate recidivist sites for good?

Why should you care?

This is another reason we recommend you register your site with Google Search Console (GSC). Should your site is found to be using deceptive practices you’ll be notified in your GSC account and provided with helpful tips to resolve such issues.  If your site offers legitimate downloads be sure you check out Google’s policies on Unwanted Software to ensure you’re not inadvertently breaking the rules.

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About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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