As Google’s reach expands, its grip tightens. The company’s stern rules governing what is and isn’t spam are already taken as gospel, and form the effective operating principles of hundreds of thousands of webmasters, all terrified of offending the Big G. Get a bad rep at Google, and watch your traffic dwindle or outright cease when they remove your site from their index.
Sudden negative attention from Sergey and Larry’s octopus is so serious that it turns out that nothing can save you from their wrath – it doesn’t even help if you happen to be Google. From today’s ComputerWorld:
Readers of Google Inc.‘s Custom Search Blog were handed a bit of a surprise Tuesday when the Web site was temporarily removed from the blogosphere and hijacked by someone unaffiliated with the company.
The problem? Google had mistakenly identified its own blog as a spammer’s site and handed it over to another person.
The change was first noticed by the Google Blogoscoped Web site, which noticed that posts on the Custom Search Blog had been deleted and replaced by a strange comment from someone identifying himself as Srikanth.
“Google Custom Search, is the wonderful product from Google which many webmasters have been looking and dream for,” Srikanth wrote. “Also Google Custom Search is integrated with Ad-sense, which means make money while keeping users on your site for longer time with custom search engine. … Good Luck for all the Custom Search customers(??).”
This blog typically offers tips and tricks for users of Google’s Custom Search Engine software, which can be used to build customized Web sites that search specific Web sites or pages.
Srikanth’s tone was out of character for an official Google blog, prompting Google Blogoscoped to speculate that the site may have been hacked.
The answer turned out to be less sinister, according to Sean Carlson, a Google spokesman.
“Blogger’s spam classifier misidentified the Custom Search Blog as spam,” he said via e-mail today. Typically, Google notifies blog owners when it has spotted content associated with spam on their Web sites to give them a chance to clear up any misunderstandings.
However, that didn’t work out in this case. “The Custom Search Blog bloggers overlooked their notification, and after a period of time passed, the blog was disabled,” the company said.
When blogs are disabled like this, their URL becomes available to the general public. That’s when Srikanth swooped in and wrote the joke post.
“It was a case of “URL squatting and not a security issue or any kind of hack,” Carlson said.
Google quickly realized its mistake, and the Custom Search Blog is now back in action.