- Tim Dineen

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SEO Professional Observations by Tim Dineen


Microsoft is lying and intentionally screwing up your log files (FORM=LVSP|LIVSOP)

I'd been noticing some weird referrals for several months now. It's relatively easy for me spot bogus or odd referrals or changes in traffic patterns since I get pretty minimal traffic (this site is for fun, not profit or even self-promo.)

Then WebmasterWorld and Search Engine Roundtable started reporting on the issue.

So others were noticing the same strange referrals and were starting to discuss them. The discussion was started by WMW member confuscius. Several WMW members had tracked the user IP addresses to be within Microsoft's Redmond WA offices.

In fact, the strange referrals contained a few unique characteristics:
* All used Search.Live.Com as the referrer
* All came from within Microsoft (IPs: 65.55.165.* and 131.107.0.*)
* All had super-general query terms (like "airline" and "nokia" and "cash") as the referring query term
* All had the url parameter of FORM=LVSP or, now, FORM=LIVSOP

Here are a few sample referring URL I've seen here at this website:

Obviously, nothing on this site would or should rank for such terms.

I had originally assumed that these were spoofed IPs or HTTP_Referer attributes were faked. Someone must be doing some scraping and blaming it on MS?

But now, after 11 years of trusting that my logs files were telling me the truth and providing the most accurate data about my visitors possible, Microsoft has taken it upon themselves to ruin that truth and to lie to me.

And they admit it via WMW's msndude:

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.

Log file data is something that I consider sacred and not to be messed with. I've been managing websites since 1996 and I often even read raw log files for fun! (LOL - I know.)

This is absolutely the wrong way for MS/Live to gain supporters! We as marketing consultants will not be the only to notice this issue. Clients of web marketing consultants and employers will notice the same thing via their analytics tools and they'll ask us "what's up? Am I really ranking well for payday and cash?" Or worse, they could ask "should I go after that term via SEO or PPC?"

We'll have to tell them NO... sorry, Microsoft is lying to you!

Update: This issue has been occuring for months now. Microsoft has made no further efforts to alert the webmaster community as to what they are up to nor have they tried to use another (non-lying) method to interact with websites that they desire to spider. As such, I still consider their methods to be completely disrespectful and given that they are one of the "big 3" of advertisers I'm shocked that they can't figure our some means to review sites without using trickery and the worst of cloaking methods.

by Tim Dineen

Posted 09/10/2007 - 11:45 PM

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