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January 31, 2009

Are cookies eating Google results?

By Y.M. Ousley

I was doing a bit of keyword research when I found something strange. Every single result came with the warning that it might harm my computer. These warnings are normal for warez and certain torrent sites, but I was getting warnings on searches for things like "men's fashion," where the top results were from reputable sites like Overstock and Amazon. A friend reported having similar problems.

I tried the site while logged in and logged out of a Google account without change. Disabling a few Firefox plugins seemed to not have an affect either.

My next step was to delete cookies from all but a handful of websites. And voila! my search results were back to normal. I've seen malware and strange things come through ad networks before, so I suspect that the root cause may lie in something coming through an adserver that attempts to redirect.

To the SMG readers, have you experienced a similar problem with Google results recently? Does clearing your cookies make a difference?

Could this be Microsoft's newest attempt to gain a larger slice of the search market? (I kid)

Update: Marissa Mayer explains that a human error at Google is to blame. I suppose my cookie paranoia coincided with the correction of the problem


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Excellent information. I'll have to see if that's what my problem has been.

unfortunately for me, I was trying to show a client how well we had done at SEO'ing their site when google had that problem. Whoops. The client was a little upset to say the least that when you searched for them, it said the site was going harm your computer! A little time and a few phone calls later, I think they finally believe that it wansn't our fault!

Yeah, a friend told me the following weekend that Google had been hacked. Of course, that kind of news made me head on the internet to figure out what had happened. I guess a manual entry error had caused search results to appear that way. That's a very rare snafu for Google. Oh well, their stock isn't having that same issue. ;^)

My first guess would have been the browser. I finally switched from IE to Firefox. I like that IE is fast, but for some reason it started acting flaky.

The new Firefox is definitely and improvement, but every once in awhile it seems that it acts flaky too.

I clear my temporary files and cache periodically to keep those kinds of things from happening.

May I ask what browser you were using?

Nice to know that even Google makes mistakes sometimes. ;)

Jinger Jarrett

Some crude calculation- Google could have lost almost 6 million searches and something like $2.3 million in revenues in those 55 minutes when the search died?

Did I snatch these numbers from thin air?


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