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Google's response to 302 Hijacking

Two conflicting responses from Google for reported Hijacking

     
7:19 pm on Mar 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I reported two separate hijacking issues to Google that have caused my two top sites to sink into the supplemental results in the Google index.

I used the email address as provided by GoogleGuy and included ‘canonicalpage’ in the subject line. Also included in each email were the specifics and details of the URL’s redirecting to my sites as GoogleGuy suggested.

Here are the Reply’s from Google:

Reply 1:
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We understand your concern about the inclusion and ranking of your site. Please note that there is almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.”

Reply 2:
“If you are concerned about another site linking to your site, we suggest contacting the webmaster for the site in question.”

The two separate replies contradict themselves. The first reply is an outright denial that your site can be damaged by a competitor. However you could argue that “almost nothing” is a disclaimer.

The second reply from Google suggests that you can be harmed by a competitor and that the onus is on you to get the redirects taken down by the hijackers.

Unfortunately in my case, the Romanian and Russian sites intentionally using 302 redirects, using my title and description in their URL’s, and a cached version of my page, don’t answer their email, neither do their hosting companies.

5:14 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Here are responses directly from GoogleGuy,

[threadwatch.org...]
[slashdot.org...]

5:29 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The second reply from Google suggests that you can be harmed by a competitor and that the onus is on you to get the redirects taken down by the hijackers.

No, the second reply says that if you don't like people linking to your site then ask them not to.

It says nothing about Google. Perhaps they're sick of you pestering them with the same question?

What they said is absolutely right. It's almost impossible to damage another site's ranking.

In most cases where people think their site has been hijacked with a 302, it hasn't actually been hijacked at all.

5:41 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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mrMister,

When other site's URLs appear in Google SERPs via a 302 redirect and contain my copyrighted information in their cache, have I been hijacked? When Google indexs a porn site an includes my domain name in the snippet, should I be the least little bit concerned?

There are those who say that "Google doesn't owe me anything." I believe that they owe me the courtesy of not telling people I run a gay pornography site, when in fact I offer educational resources linked to by many schools and universities.

Sounds like I have a problem. Looks like the problem is not on my sites. Seems like the problems are right there in Google's index...and nowhere else.

5:47 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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GoogleGuy,
if you reading this: there's an easy way to end these rumors, if that's what they are.

will an identical page ("hijacker") hurt another one ("innocent page"), when the "hijacker" is a supplemental page and the innocent page is not?

Thinking like we do is not far fetched or tin foil hat area. We see exact dupes of our index pages, and we know that dupe penalties exist. Why shouldn't we think that we got penalized because of it?

[edited by: walkman at 5:53 pm (utc) on Mar. 23, 2005]

5:49 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Google has a problem with 302 a 100%, all this went worse after they added all those extra fake sites to there index and why do we out of nowhere see other urls in in a site:mydomain.com thats not normal, so they have a problem and now its played down.

Also why is it that when you type a full url www.adomain.com another url shows up with a redirecting to you, thats also not normal, then I dont care if it is 1 site or millions, its a bug.

OK now we know they want scraper sites

5:57 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Sorry, mrMister, you're wrong. It is NOT almost impossible for another site to damage your rankings. What's happening with 302 redirects is very, very different from the normal ups and downs of algo shifts.

The problem is real, it's getting worse, and Google ought to care a lot more than it seems to.

There's a JUSTICE issue here, not just an economic issue!

When it happened to me I wrote about it in the private forum ... back in October 2003.
[webmasterworld.com...]

When I wrote to Google about it they didn't even give me the courtesy of a boilerplate form letter. Does that mean they're making progress?

That episode cost me several thousand visitors a day, for weeks. It was only fixed because a friend far more technically skilled than I wrote some code for my .htaccess file that would feed Googlebot a 404 if it followed the link from the redirecting site. Rankings and traffic returned to normal after Google picked that up.

Over the years I have seen many instances on numerous message boards of merchants with affiliate programs complaining that Google had picked up some affiliate's referral link and was ranking that instead of the merchant's real URL (at considerable direct cost to the merchant, BTW). I didn't used to be sympathetic to such complaints, but I am now.

6:34 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It was only fixed because a friend far more technically skilled than I wrote some code for my .htaccess file that would feed Googlebot a 404 if it followed the link from the redirecting site.

Sounds promising Buckworks. Would you care to share that code with the rest of us? Please!?!

7:00 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It looks to me Panacea that you just got form letter replies, probably sent by a Google staffer without giving it much thought.
7:49 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The Q is now what do we do, gogle dossent care about this 302 redirecting issue, they told us now.
7:53 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It only protects one page against one redirect, so it's not really a solution to the basic problem:

###
# Deny Bad Referer
###

SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^http://redirect\.evilsite\.com/*" bad_url
#
<Files my-page.html>
Order Allow,Deny
Allow from all
Deny from env=bad_url
</Files>

### End Deny Bad referer

7:59 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Google doesn't send 'Referer'.
8:38 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Yp,
it just gets the url, adds to it's database and visits it later.

"Google doesn't send 'Referer'."

9:36 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I agree w/ buckworks: it is as much a justice issue as it is a technical one. And one that might not be classed as theft outright, it is more in the direction of copyright infringement. The main issue here is someone doing something to damage the reputation of a website's (as a legal entity) reputation.

So, while on the surface it looks like they are stealing PR, traffic, etc. they are essentially doing damage to a site's reputation, which in many cases has taken years of hard work to build.

The burden here with a legal argument I would imagine would be the challenging issue of establishing intent, balanced with what degree of complicity that the serps have, in allowing what is essentially a (well-known) bug in their handling of 302s in the first place.

I am getting so sick of all these russian/romanian sites doing this to me, that I am going to consider going to the extreme of blocking IP access/redirects by geo-location. I dont get a lot of traffic from them anyways, so I could care less.

as an aside, I wonder if one could use this htaccess 301 trick to create a blacklist/wordlist, which contains the most common spam words (p.oker, h.oldem, etc) and generate 404's or redirects?

9:41 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What they said is absolutely right. It's almost impossible to damage another site's ranking.

In most cases where people think their site has been hijacked with a 302, it hasn't actually been hijacked at all.

Please offer proof when making blanket statements like this, especially in light of the huge amount of evidence to the contrary.

11:00 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What they said is absolutely right. It's almost impossible to damage another site's ranking.
In most cases where people think their site has been hijacked with a 302, it hasn't actually been hijacked at all.

If you are going to issue blanket statements, please provide some evidence. You are simply quoting from the Google Terms and Conditions which means absolutely nothing...especially since they hedge by saying "...ALMOST nothing a competetor can do..."

Chris

11:21 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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GoogleGuy really makes an important statement here: that sites who experience page-jacking are experiencing a "declining reputation" in Google SERPs, that makes them a target for page-jacking.

What do you think a "declining reputation" means?

Does it mean?

a) The slow death penalty is real and something Google applies algorithmically? I saw it on a site last year after reading about it for a long time and thinking it was hallucinatory. I would say the removal of a sites pages in a periodic fashion (in this case monthly) would be the sort of punishment google could hand out algorithmically due to a "declining reputation"

b) Buying text links causes a "declining reputation"? As I recall, we had Matt Cutts saying that there was a structure where your 1st offense got you 90 days, the second got you 120 and so on...as I recall Cutts llater refined this to mean that there was a penalty that got worse with repeat offenses, but there was no set time structure for the offenses. The point being though that here is another example of a penalty that could be construed as resulting from a 'declining reputation.'

Here's the kicker though. Does anyone out there dispute the fact that page-jacking only affects spammers? I don't have enough evidence to do so, and the specific examples brought to the GoogleGuy on /. were knocked down by him as not actually suffering a page-jacking, just minterpreting the SERPs.

This is the most interesting SEO day I've seen in quite a while.

11:25 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Does anyone out there dispute the fact that page-jacking only affects spammers?

I would dispute it.

Spammers might be quicker to notice than other webmasters, but it could happen to anyone.

11:44 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A search for site:myurl.com yields several pages that are not from my site. The links no longer function but Google's cache shows an old version of my page. The strange thing is that the links appear to be redirects of PPC links from a PPC site that I did join.

Have I been highjacked by my own PPC listings or am I reading the search results wrong?

11:56 pm on Mar 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The way to make sense of the declining reputation comment is to consider that hijacked sites often are the subject of innumerable scraper sites that link to them. Thus this declining reputation could merely be a comment on Google's current poor handling of authority, and may be evidence in another way that junk sites linking to you can hurt you.

On the other hand, it appears many people here only have themselves to blame for Google not understanding they have a horrible problem (the root is the stupid idea that urls are "pages") because more examples were not sent in. If only 30 examples were submitted, then why should they really believe the problem is widespread?

12:00 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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My example is not current, but my own page that was displaced in the SERPs by a 302 redirect URL back in 2003 was a full-length article, unique on the web, and of sufficient quality to pull both some one-way links and more than one off-line mention in print media.

The site whose redirect caused the problem was on a .cz domain. The hijacking site indeed seemed to be of the mass doorway/marketroid type, but my page which was displaced absolutely was not.

[added] I DID submit my situation to Google when it occurred. They ignored me.

[edited by: buckworks at 12:01 am (utc) on Mar. 24, 2005]

12:01 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Or is everything being snarfled, of the mass doorway/anonymous-dropship/affiliate-lead-gatherer promotional/advertising/marketroid form?

Those sites and others are doing the snarfling of all kinds of sites.

In fact some sites are selfdestructing themselves.

This is more of a poisoning than true hijacking but it can be used to lower the target sites position in the serps for a particular search and depending on several other things cause real problems.

But what do I know?

hutcheson: you have mail

[edited by: theBear at 12:04 am (utc) on Mar. 24, 2005]

12:02 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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houseofsecrets & hutcheson,

Of course I can find legitimate sites effected by this problem. I own them.

If I am a spammer, I must be the stupidest one of all time. Imagine a spammer who spends hours every day creating unique content, who accurately reflects that content in the page titles (gasp!) and who never bought a link in his life.

I am desperately waiting for G to zap the 302s, scraper sites full of my content and yes, that pesky porno site with my domain name in the snippet.

Think of it this way -- if only spammers got hijacked, why would they post 700 desperate pleas to G to stop spammer tactics like 302s backed up with metarefresh=0 tags and the horrid tangle of scaper sites? It just doesn't make any sense at all...

12:07 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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They must see the troubles in the serps, I just cant believe they cant see whats happening here, all kind of sites has been hit, I got alot of emails where I should check there status in the serps, not 1 I would call a spam site.

Lets forget the hijacker issue for a minut, but how would they explain the Changes the last 6-12 month, like where also the hijacking realy took off:

Other domains in a site:mydomain.com search(whats that? we have never seen that before, explain that.)

Alot of supplemental results pages(whats that?)

ofcause there is alot of other troubles they have, which all has started last yere, but thats a another topic.

I must say Im a little pist now that google call our sites spam and just reply as nothing is wrong.

If they have asked all the forums for a frontpage placement where webmaster could report googlejacking they would get 1000 of emails and not all webmaster read forums.

12:18 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Another thing - if another site cant hurt you WHY can I remove other sites via the removal tool and its not a 404, WELL thats because the googlejacking 302 spam. So there statment is 100% fake.
12:19 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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BTW, has anyone seen Japanese lately or was he 302 hijacked? He comes in out of the blue, a new user, starts a couple of heated 302 threads then left the building faster than Elvis on the hunt for fried chicken.

Wazzup with that?

12:22 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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He got fed up with the mods deleteing specifics.
12:24 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>> Does anyone out there dispute the fact that page-jacking only affects spammers?

Someone in the Slashdot thread pointed to "Drudge Report" - i have observed it myself with "BBC News", "TIME Europe Magazine" - those kind of sites (pretty hard to discover with "site:" command on mega-sites, you have to dig on an article level). Don't know if they're spammers, haven't got email from any of them, ever ;)

Added: I even found a WebmasterWorld thread that had been hijacked once.

[edited by: claus at 12:34 am (utc) on Mar. 24, 2005]

12:28 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Funny about that Claus.

I haven't had any spam from them either.

1:22 am on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hmm. Having read the threads, seen the SERPs, and thought about it some more....

If there are two pages URLa and URLb, Google would cache, index, and rank both of them. If one provided a normal link to the other then it would "pass" some PR too. Both could appear in SERPs.

If URLa provided a 301 redirect to URLb then I would assume that just the URL for URLa would be stored internally in Google, and marked as being a redirect. I also assume that URLa would be dropped from the SERPs for the period that it returned that status, and that URLa would be respidered occasionally to see what its status was. The content residing at URLb would be spidered and indexed and would appear in the SERPs with the URL for URLb against it. If at any time URLa went 404 then it would be dropped from the index, likewise URLb.

If URLa did a 302 redirect to URLb, then this is a temporary redirect. URLa is saying that the content temporarily resides at URLb. There is no reason to include URLa in the search results though. Google could quite easily include URLb in the results with its associated content being cached and indexed. However, Google could also keep an internal note that it had been redirected from URLa, and if the status of URLb ever changed from 200 to 404 then Google would know to go back to URLa and ask it for the new location of the information. That is, Google "remembers" URLa as being the starting point for the 302 redirect but does NOT show URLa in the SERPs as there never was any content AT that location.

Does this make sense? What flaws would there be in that?

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