Is Your Website Hacked? Check With Google Notifications

Google has introduced a new functionality to their search engine results that will tell visitors if a site has been hacked. Starting now, any search result from a website that Google detects as hacked will display a message that reads, “This site may be compromised“. Clicking on the link will take the visitor to a Help Center article.

So how does Google know if a website has been hacked? According to their blog posting, the search engine makes use of a number of automated tools to check for the common signs of a hacked site. Once this is done, the engine shall automatically add the notification to the search results apart from informing the website owner about it on the Webmaster Tools.

Website hacked

Of course, since this is automated, there are bound to be occasions when Google might get it wrong that could impact the traffic to any website adversely. Google has noted that affected users could request a review from their website that will ensure speedy rectification of any issue.

Google Wins Patent To Display Thumbnails Beside Results

Google has been awarded a patent for search engines to display “visual cues” alongside results that the engine deems relevant. In the patent application, filed way back in 2003, the company has noted that their search engine algorithm may determine the relevancy of particular results based on their click-through rates besides several other parameters and may choose to display a visual cue – a thumbnail – beside the result in order to make it easier for the user to find the particular result.

Google has elaborated on the application using an example search for “Stanford“. The result page, shown below, displays a thumbnail of the Stanford.edu website beside the link and notes this as a visual cue. The patent is however not specific to website screenshots and could hence possibly include other forms of visual cues like images, logos,etc.

Google thumbnail patent

Depending on how this is interpreted, Bing could be at risk here. Like Google, Bing too makes use of images alongside results for certain results. Here is an example screenshot of search results for “PGA Tour” on Bing as well as Google.

Google thumbnail patentGoogle Thumbnail patent

Of course, one may argue that the logo in this case is displayed alongside the realtime results and not against the PGA website. But then, this is a grey area that can still be debated. What do you think? Has Google got one more patent to potentially sue Microsoft?

Google Streaming Search – Dynamically Generating Search Results

After Google ridiculously teasing its visitors with a bouncing balls logo and a gradually coloring grey doodle today, here is where we have finally come to – the new Google streaming search. Moving forward, the line of difference between Google home page and SERPS – the Search Engine Results Pages are blurred. As several users have already started noticing, typing a query on the Google homepage dynamically takes them to a results page where the results keep changing as you type or modify your query. According to Eric Schmidt, the company’s search engine is “already Fast..Fast Is About To Get Faster

So, the agenda of Google’s September 8 media event is already out. It will be interesting to see how the latest layout change will affect the traffic of the various websites. More importantly, it will be interesting to see how this will affect Google’s own infrastructure as searchers will seek a lot more query searches per entry compared to earlier times.

Check out the video below on how the new search engine function will work. Do you like it?

Update : The media event is scheduled to begin at 9.30 AM Pacific Time. You can catch the event live on Google’s YouTube channel here.

Microsoft’s Local Search Algorithm A Privacy Nightmare?

Local search is big and everyone is jumping into this segment. And for a fact, we all tend to realize that the local results from major search engines is nothing to brag about; except if you are in a high internet density area like New York or San Francisco.

While companies have been devising different ways to go local, Microsoft’s new technology seems to offer you very relevant local search results; except that it can be a privacy nightmare.

In a patent filed recently with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Microsoft has described a new way to rank local search results. The inventors cite the following issues with current search results

  • Search engines make use of link authority to rank results. While they are good for most cases, they are not exactly relevant when a person is searching for say ‘Italian restaurants near MG Road, Bangalore’. This is because restaurants around MG Road in Bangalore might not necessarily have good PR value
  • Some search engines make use of  ‘click popularity’ where sites which have been clicked a higher number of times tend to be ranked higher. These sites create a positive feedback loop which does not help in showing the relevant results

To overcome these, Microsoft has proposed the usage of the users’ access log in order to study the pages visited in a specific time period and build an implicit pagerank for pages from the user log which will be used as a factor while  displaying search results. So in the earlier example, if the user has visited BangaloreRestaurants.com, results from this website could fetch higher weightage than results from a site like Yelp.

Microsoft says this technology will be particularly useful while ranking pages from intranet websites. While the algorithm sounds interesting, making use of a user’s access log sounds scary. Users are not always comfortable giving third party websites access to the sites they visit. Something does not sound right in Microsoft’s plan to record this log, processing them for implicit pageranking and delivering results back to the user.

What do you think? Are the fears justified or are they unfounded?