The SEO Implications of Google Unwanted Software Policy

A few days ago, I used Firefox to search on Google, to get more information on CyberKlock, a café timer someone told me that would enable me to share my Internet connectivity with some people and allow me to control their bandwidth usage. As I expected, cyberklock.com was the first listing on search results.

Cyberklock Google Search
But I wasn’t prepared to understand what would happen next. Enter the Google Unwanted Software Policy, when I clicked on cyberklock.com link! Instead of the browser taking me to the desired website, an alert with red background was displayed:

“Reported Unwanted Software Page!
This web page at www.solutionscolony.com has been reported to contain unwanted software and has been blocked based on your security preferences.
Unwanted software pages try to install software that can be deceptive and affect your system in unexpected ways.”

Unwanted Software Page
As you can see from the image above, www.solutioncolony.com and not www.cyberklock.com was reported as the attack site. I found out later that that was because Solutioncolony.com now makes available the installation, since the original developer, cybeklock.com stopped releasing updates. Curious, I clicked on the “Why was this page blocked?” button. That took me to https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/how-does-phishing-and-malware-protection-work?as=u&utm_source=inproduct.

Firefox Built-in Protection
On the “Unwanted Software” sub-heading, I learnt that websites designated as Unwanted Software sites trick visitors into installing programs that would harm their browsing experience. For example, one’s browser homepage can be changed and/or extra ads can be displayed on websites one visits.

Firefox Unwanted Software tab
I clicked on the Google Unwanted Software Policy link (https://www.google.com/about/company/unwanted-software-policy.html), to learn more about the policy and its SEO implications.
Google clearly states on its Unwanted Software Policy page its principles regarding software that is potentially harmful to the user experience and how it strives to protect users from such programs. See the basic characteristics of most unwanted software, according to Google:

  • It is deceptive, promising a value proposition that it does not meet.
  • It tries to trick users into installing it or it piggybacks on the installation of another program.
  • It doesn’t tell the user about all of its principal and significant functions.
  • It affects the user’s system in unexpected ways.
  • It is difficult to remove.
  • It collects or transmits private information without the user’s knowledge.
  • It is bundled with other software and its presence is not disclosed.

I also tried to use Google Chrome to visit cyberklock.com, just to know if a similar alert would be displayed. Sure enough, the red alert was shown.

If you offer software program on your site and engage in one or more of the practices stated above, be mindful that you’re driving prospective customers away from your business.
To steer clear of trouble, the following principles must be met:

  • The installation process of your software must be transparent and any bundled software must be clearly disclosed.
  • Your software must be easy to remove.
  • Once installed, the software must have very clear behaviour as expected before installation.
  • No snooping – If your software collects users’ personal information and transmits it, you must be transparent about it.

As you have clearly learnt from this blog post, it is counter-productive, with regards to search engine optimization, to use misleading methods via your software to generate traffic to your website, attempt to make more money through unscrupulous displaying of ads and snooping on the users of your software. If you’re in that bandwagon, once web browsers and Google filter your site out, say bye to search traffic.