Technology giant Google has now rolled out an algorithm update specifically targeted at combating spam, and filtering it out in the results it provides when users employ its popular search engine.

Google’s Public Liaison for Search, American journalist Danny Sullivan, confirmed the rollout, which took place on June 23, along with a second spam-centric update. While precise details of the upgrade were not disclosed, as a rule Google typically deploys spam updates in order to maintain the best quality possible in its search results.

Spam – irritation or threat?

Many enterprises and organisation view spam mail and sites as merely an annoyance, but they can have a significant impact depending on their originator. Even in its most harmless form, spam that has been crafted to evade security filters can bog down inboxes and waste hours of employee time each year through marking, reporting and deleting it. It also provides useless and inaccurate results in searches.

However, spam can be far more dangerous when used as part of a wider phishing or cybercriminal campaign. Messages and fake websites involved can be cleverly created to steal information or deploy malware, and are a favoured attack vector of ransomware operators.

The new spam updates from Google are aimed at cybercriminal activity, so legitimate websites will have little cause for concern and no trouble following the tech firm’s webmaster guidelines.

Google is well-known for having an exceptionally strict definition of what content is considered spam. Primarily, this includes low-quality websites that attempt to trick those online into disclosing personal information or are designed to install malicious software.

Dedicated spam updates also focus on the malicious phishing scams mentioned previously, along with other cybercriminal operators working the web that attempt to achieve high rankings in search engine results by masquerading as relevant and respected pages.

The ongoing war on spam

Despite these regular updates that attempt to filter out spam-related activity, even established websites that are following Google’s guidelines can be vulnerable when it comes to hacked spam. Should a company’s website not be secured sufficiently, it could even be serving up spam to its users without even being aware of its complicity.

Annual reports issued by Google regarding its continuing fight against spam clearly show that hacked spam is both virulent and rampant. Enterprises that keep tabs on their search engine optimisation and site performance, and who notice that their website inexplicably drops down in Google search rankings following the latest spam updates, should investigate. A comprehensive analysis of site security is advised, with a focus on seeking indications of an attack.

The usual results of a site penalised by a Google spam update involve being removed entirely from Google’s index, or at the very least having its company content demoted in given search results, leading to far less traffic.

Last year, Google’s automated systems successfully blocked over 25 billion spam pages, but many companies wisely take further precautions, including adopting secure workspaces and developing whitelists and blacklists of sites staff are able to visit.