Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of strange one-word referrers from MSN Live Search in my logs. Today I saw a post by BitWorm that reveals this as referrer spam-like behavior from Microsoft.
The hits come from IP addresses beginning with 65.55.165.* and the referrer strings have this format:
The keyword (highlighted above) is always one word, and usually appears on the Web site somewhere, with the exception of the porn related keywords.
MSNdude posted a comment on the Webmaster World thread about this issue:
Thanks for all the feedback on this thread.
First, we appreciate the concerns and issues that have been raised and apologize for any incovenience this might have caused.
Second, we want to explain what this is all about. The traffic you are seeing is part of a quality check we run on selected pages. While we work on
addressing your conerns, we would request that you do not actively block the IP addreses used by this quality check; blocking these IP addresses could prevent your site from being included in the Live Search index.
Please keep the feedback and thoughts coming as we will use this to help improve this process and make sure that it impacts your sites as little as possible.
- msndude (msd)
How can MSN call this a “quality check”? They are sometime using explicit porn keywords that do not appear anywhere on my sites.
I recommend reading through the entire Webmaster World thread about this MSN referrer issue.
I wonder if MSN is doing this for old-fashioned referrer spam reasons. The keywords that they use in the referrer string are related to the site’s content. So Microsoft sends keywords that they think the webmaster might be interested in so that the webmaster will click through to MSN Live Search.
The reason that I suspect that it might be traditional referrer spam is because MSN is trying very hard to get people to use MSN Live Search, even to the point of buying Google AdWords. Every time you click through your logs to MSN Live Search, it boosts Live.com’s traffic stats.
Also check out the post about it on andrewu.co.uk, Odd Referrer Spam-Like Behaviour From Microsoft.
If you notice this behavior from Microsoft’s bots on your sites blog about it and let people know about the problem.
I’m going to call this referrer spam until MSN speaks out about the issue and stops pinging my logs with porn keywords. They seem to have been silent except for that one odd comment on Webmaster World by “msndude”.