I have been tracking a WebmasterWorld thread that has reports of weird Microsoft Live Search referral strings that come from Microsoft-owned IP blocks but show irrelevant keywords in the adult and pharmaceutical space.
Today I reported that these findings are indeed valid and are official Microsoft tests. A Microsoft representative explained that these referral strings are a “quality check we run on selected pages.”
What are people seeing in their logs exactly?
Here is an example line from a log file posted at WebmasterWorld:
22.214.171.124 – - [28/Aug/2007:22:56:14 +0200] “GET /aut.php?id=3244&bib=1 HTTP/1.0″ 200 6152 “http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=tetsuya&mrt=en-us&FORM=LIVSOP” “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.2; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)”
All of the referral strings end with &FORM=LIVSOP or &FORM=LVSP, and most contain adult, pharmaceutical or spam-like keyword phrases in the query string portion.
As you would imagine, some SEOs and webmasters are upset with these tests. They skew their analytics and waste bandwidth. Some webmasters want to block this undesired automated traffic from Microsoft, but Microsoft warns that doing so “could prevent your site from being included in the Live Search index.”
Microsoft did say they are working on addressing the concerns of webmasters and are requesting feedback in the thread.