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SEO Web Design, LLC / SEO  / Hacked Government Web Pages With Adult Content In Google Search

Hacked Government Web Pages With Adult Content In Google Search

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison was on the defensive yesterday when there were a number of complaints that Google was showing adult content from governmental web sites. The issue is, it is not a Google bug, instead, it is the governmental web sites were hacked to show this content.

Oh, and this happens all the time. Hackers will serve users normal content but when GoogleBot accesses this content, it will use the power of the domain name to try to rank adult content or other types of content. This has been going on for ages, it is very common to see with outdated WordPress sites that were hacked as well.

Here is an example given by Fred Wilson on Twitter[1] of the MTA (public mass transit) and their site appearing to be hacked and displaying adult content in Google search.

To be clear, the MTA page is NOT hacked. It is the anchor text Google used for the title based probably on links pointing to the page. That MTA page is something Google is disallowed to crawl and thus uses other means (links to the page?) to figure out what the page is about.

I cannot replicate this now, so maybe Google caught it on their end? Often, Google will spot this and remove the page from its index until it is resolved. But it can take time.

@MTA @MetroNorth any idea what’s going on here? LOL[2][3][4]

— Fred Wilson (@fwilson212) July 26, 2020[5]

This looks really bad for the MTA.

Here is another from @thezedwards[6]:

click for full size

Again, this is very common and this is how Danny Sullivan responded:

There’s no malicious code or anything like that. What’s happening is that if a page isn’t blocked from appearing in Google Search, we’ll form a title based on what we can determine from other sources about the page. Normally, we wouldn’t include racy terms; looking into that….

— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) July 27, 2020[7]

The page title is not do hacking, as I explained. What you’re talking about is, unfortunately, a long-standing spam practice where we do provide resources, as I covered here:[8]

— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) July 27, 2020[9]

The issue in this case involves a page title that we formed, not one caused by site hacking. It involves no redirection. You can see that in the video that was posted, which loads the proper page.

— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) July 27, 2020[10]

It’s not what’s happening here. That said, we are well aware that people hack sites, cloak content and serve up redirections. This type of tactic has gone on with search engines over over 20 years. Our guidelines cover it:[11]

— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) July 27, 2020[12]

If you see security issues with particular web sites, I suspect it’s best to report directly to those web sites. If you think they’re applicable to search, see here:[13]

— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) July 27, 2020[14]

Sad to see this but Google does send out notices, when it can and when it notices it, of hacks to the site owner. Google Search Console has a ton of tools for this and on top of that Google does email.

Forum discussion at Twitter[15].


  1. ^ Twitter (
  2. ^ @MTA (
  3. ^ @MetroNorth (
  4. ^ (
  5. ^ July 26, 2020 (
  6. ^ @thezedwards (
  7. ^ July 27, 2020 (
  8. ^ (
  9. ^ July 27, 2020 (
  10. ^ July 27, 2020 (
  11. ^ (
  12. ^ July 27, 2020 (
  13. ^ (
  14. ^ July 27, 2020 (
  15. ^ Twitter (

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Search Engine Roundtable is a well-rounded view on search engines and search engine marketing from five segments of the Web population represented by senior members of the major SEO/SEM forums on the Internet.

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