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Listings Hijacked At MSN, With A Little Help From Google

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Google 302 and MSN from Dave Naylor is chock full of badness on the parts of both Google and MSN, showing how Google redirections are causing it to hijack listings in MSN's search results. Dave gives you the short rundown. Here's the spelled out version, and thanks for his help in assembling it.

  • Look at this search result at MSN UK for batman animated bean bag.
     
  • See how the first result is for this page at Kids UK?
     
  • Now look at the URL MSN UK lists for that page:

    http://groups.google.co.uk/froogle_url?q=
    http://www.kidsuk.co.uk/shop/catalog/
    Batman-Bedding-p-1-c-1288.html
    %3Fsource%3Dfroogle&fr=AJrr2tQq23-_SJjef
    Mma5wwNUyhA6FBUGEdlEBymj9jJAAAAAAAAAAA

     
  • See the bold part? That shows that MSN believes this page is hosted at groups.google.co.uk.
     
  • What's happening is over at Froogle UK, all links you click on there are redirected out of Google and to the destination sites, but...
     
  • Google is using 302 temporary redirection, which is causing MSN to let it "hijack" these listings.
     
  • To be clear, MSN is NOT listing a Google page, even though the page has a Google URL. Look at the cached copy of that page, and you can see that it is the same page as at Kids UK. But Google has control over the URL in MSN's results.
     
  • In other words, should Google lose its mind, it could at any point send MSN a cloaked version of the Kids UK page and likely maintain the ranking while showing human visitors something else entirely. Kids UK is not in control of that listing on MSN, even though it currently leads to the Kids UK site. It's been hijacked by Google! If Google were using a 301 redirection, however, this shouldn't be happening.
     
  • Side point. If this is a Froogle UK thing, why does that URL say GROUPS.google.co.uk? Google UK has some domain madness going on. Visit the home page. Click the Froogle link to get this page. Now click the Groups link to reach this page. Notice now how even though you are in Google Groups, the the froogle.co.uk domain is what shows in your address bar. That shouldn't be happening. Other mix-ups like this are leading to the confusion.
     
  • Hey! What's MSN doing crawling Froogle anyway? The robots.txt file there should be keeping it out, right? Sure. But if some site has made copies of Froogle results, scraped the content as fodder for a fake blog or something else to attract traffic, MSN might crawl that and thus see the Froogle redirections.

Overall, a nice demonstration of why MSN needs to consider how it handles redirection. My Revisiting Hijacking & Redirects: Moving To A Solution story gives you more background on the hijacking situation as it especially has impacted Google.

I also wrote that story as a lead in for our Indexing Summit 2 session as SES San Jose that was held last month, to see if we could get a standard solution to handing redirection and eliminate these type of problems. I was planning to finally write up what happened at that session next week, and I still will, promise. But here's the summary:

  • Yahoo: We have a solution (as described in my article) that seems to work.
     
  • Google: Matt Cutts wants to use the Yahoo solution but the engineer overseeing how redirections are handled says they've solved it another way. Matt said if you still see it happening, report it to Google, and then he's got some ammunition to say "I told you so" and get the Yahoo solution going. It's been reported at least once already. Bacon polenta on Matt's blog explains that and more important, gives updated instructions on how to report a hijacking in Google's listings.
     
  • Ask Jeeves: Thinks it has a handle on the situation and doesn't need to follow the Yahoo solution.
     
  • MSN: Didn't take part in the summit.

Want to discuss or comment? Visit our forum thread, Google Hijacks Batman Room Decor Listing At MSN!

Postscript: I was incorrect on the robots.txt banning. The robots.txt file for Google Groups wouldn't have prevented MSN from crawling Froogle results that can be accessed under that domain. More in the forum thread above.

Postscript: I was incorrect on the robots.txt banning. The robots.txt file for Google Groups wouldn't have prevented MSN from crawling Froogle results that can be accessed under that domain. More in the forum thread above.


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