Googlejacking? What’s “Googlejacking”?
One of the both exciting and frustrating things about this industry is the
rate at which new terminology appears. “Googlejacking” just showed up recently
and refers to a technique to use someone else’s content to appear as it if was
on your site. The apparent intent is to achieve higher overall Google ranking
for your own site and content, or to otherwise get more traffic.
Unfortunately, Googlejacking is also a side effect of a very valid technique
many sites use to manage external links and to track visitors leaving their
Sites like Ask Leo!
Yes, I am an inadvertent googlejacker.
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First we need to define something called “redirection”. Redirection is a
technique where a web server can respond to a request for one URL by saying, in
effect, “oh, you really want that URL over there”. It’s a technique used by the
URL shortening services like http://clicktrustats.com or http://tinyurl.com.
Using these services you can define a that a short URL, say:
actually take you to a different URL, like:
The short version being more convenient for email and less prone to
This kind of service operates by redirecting the shorter URL to the
will redirect to:
I do this for several reasons:
The redirection is logged. That means when someone clicks on http://ask-leo.com/d-ms, it shows up in my web server logs.
This allows me to measure what external links people are clicking on when they
visit my site.
The redirection can be changed. While it’s unlikely in this example, if I
ever wanted http://ask-leo.com/d-ms to go
to some other location, it’s a single, simple change for me, and everywhere
I’ve used that link will now go to the new location without my having had to
change them all.
It’s shorter. When writing a web page that’s not as much of an issue, but
like the tinyurl example above, it’s still more convenient to write a shorter
OK, so redirection is handy for a few reasons. Where does Googlejacking come
A few months ago, if you looked for “LSASS” on Google, you would get the
following hit on the first page of results:
Security Bulletin MS04-011: Security Update for …
… Vulnerability Details. LSASS Vulnerability – CAN-2003-0533: A … system.
Mitigating Factors for LSASS Vulnerability – CAN-2003-0533: …
http://ask-leo.com/d-40508a – 101k – Feb 10, 2005
Examine that carefully.
The link, http://ask-leo.com/d-40508a, is a link I use in the article
What are “LSASS”, “LSASS.EXE” and “Sasser” and how do I know if I’m infected?
What do I do if I am? to link people to a Microsoft Security Bulletin which
resides on the Microsoft site. If you click on that link, that’s where you end
up: Microsoft Security Bulletin MS04-011, on the Microsoft web site.
Google had decided that my redirection link (http://ask-leo.com/d-40508a) was the way to get to
Microsoft’s web page (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS04-011.mspx).
That’s Googlejacking. Getting your link to someone else’s content
to rank higher than the content’s own URL.
My case is accidental, based on legitimate scenarios. But Googlejacking can
also be used for nefarious reasons as well. For example a company could seek to
Googlejack their competition’s web pages in the hopes of reducing the
competitions Google rankings and as a result, scoring higher themselves.
As a website owner or programmer who’s using redirections, it’s theorized
that you can avoid inadvertent Googlejacking by using a 301 (Moved Permanently)
instead of a 302 (Moved Temporarily) redirect. 302 seems to be the default in
many cases, so if you’ve done nothing then you could be an inadvertent
As a website owner who’s being Googlejacked, you actually have very little
recourse. You can try to contact the offending site or Google itself, but it’s
unclear what success you may have. The good news is that Google’s continually
improving their algorithms. For example, my example above no longer works –
Microsoft’s own page ranks highly, and my redirection link is nowhere to be