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When it comes to keeping sites and users safe from hackers and web spam, Google never sleeps. The search giant says it sent web development teams over 9 million messages last year concerning webspam issues. Recently, Google published its 2016 Webspam Report. Here are the highlights you and your business’s web team needs to know.
Hacked Sites on the Rise
Google says website security continues to be an important area of concern. Hacked sites were unfortunately at their highest point. Ever. Google says 2016 hacks rose 32% over 2015 numbers.
However, on the bright side, the rate of hacked URLs appears to be diminishing. From 2014 to 2015 the increase was an eye-popping 180% increase. So relatively, a 32% increase is progress. Google has resources for webmasters who fall prey to a hack.
A Communications Firehose with Developers
The search giant reports that not all known spam was caught by the algorithm. Some was handled “manually,” resulting in Google sending out more than 9 million messages to webmasters to notify them of issues with their sites. There was also a ramp up of security notifications via Google Analytics.
Structured Data Quality Checks
Structured data is one of the newer formats available on the web, responsible for the organized and creative display modes available for some content through search, like recipes, videos, FAQs, etc. Being new, some spammers have targeted the format to inject low-quality, misleading, or downright illegal content.
Google reports it performed automated quality checks to make sure structured data content met standards. More than 10,000 sites received manual follow-up attention for not meeting the Google guidelines.
Refining Spam Reporting
Google appears to have made progress on refining its spam reporting process, from both the web-user and the in-house side of the issue. In 2015, more than 400,000 spam reports were submitted. Google prioritized those and acted on 65% (260,000) of them. Only 80% of that batch (208,000) were found to be spam.
For 2016, Google only had to contend with 180,000 submitted reports—suggesting that web users are doing a better job of knowing when something is actually spam and cutting down on false alarms. Only 52% of these (93,600) were found to be spam, suggesting that Google’s automated processes may be working to reduce and perhaps disincentivize obvious spammers.
Streamlining Support Efforts
Google also seems to have made improvements streamlining its workflows to help web development teams with their web spam questions and concerns. In 2015, the firm reported it held more than 200 “office hours” and live events globally to help webmasters in 17 languages. Tens of thousands of forum questions were answered, including 35,000 that were answered by a volunteer cohort of “top contributor” experts.
Things looked a bit more focused in the latest report. Google cut down on its office hours and events commitments, dropping back to 170, and working in “only” 15 languages. But reach was high—150,000 website owners, webmasters, and digital marketers were reached. And 67,000 forum questions were addressed, mostly by an expert team of community contributors and Google users.
Overall, this report should have business feeling reassurance that Google is on the job—doing its best to keep your business and your users safe online. On the other hand, businesses should remain vigilant—there are some truly jaw-dropping numbers in this report, showing that hackers are still out there and looking for exploitable opportunities.