‘Untitled’ search results sending users to spam sites, Google ‘working on it’

There are multiple reports about 'Untitled' title tags appearing in Google's search results that redirect users to spam sites.

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Google search results have been showing an “Untitled” title tag for some sites over the past 3 days. People who click on those sites are being sent to spam sites, according to postings from users on Hacker News and Reddit.

‘Untitled’ Google results. Here’s what a Hacker News user posted:

“Over the last few days I’ve noticed several distinct Google results that are simply ‘Untitled’, that redirect to other sites that are definitely spam and possibly malware (I didn’t stay long enough to investigate). I’ve seen other examples of titles such as ‘Oh’ redirecting to the same spam sites. From the result preview below the title, the results otherwise seem somewhat relevant to the query, but most often end up loading a fake captcha page.“

nsilvestri on Hacker News

There is speculation in that thread that some of the reports of ‘Untitled’ results are due to compromised WordPress sites.

That thread reference another Hacker News thread, which included additional evidence of the issue in a discussion about Google rewriting page titles: 

“Something has to be fishy with this because I get tons of “Untitled” results now which directly lead to spam. This sucks big time because I usually got really good results since I search a lot coding related things and now I cannot use this account anymore for searching.”

5Qn8mNbc2FNCiVV on Hacker News

On Reddit, there is additional discussion of this issue. One user shared what the “Untitled” titles look like:

Untitled Search Result Google

According to the Hacker News and Reddit threads, the ‘Untitled’ issue could be seen on queries including: [name of a file that exists], [GitLab release], [GitLab Community Edition], [check gitlab version], [laser singapore camera], [UCLA laser singapore], [wordpress transparent images], [LJ corpus], and [present for doctors surgery reddit].

Google’s response. When alerted about the issue and thread via Twitter, Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan tweeted: “We’re working on it.”

Sullivan posted on Hacker News that the Google spam team was “already on it. … I think things are already improving and they’ll keep debugging it.”

On Reddit, Sullivan added some additional context: “It’s not malware. It’s spam, something our systems normally would typically catch, so we’re checking on it to improve.”

He also added: “I can’t reproduce that myself, but it still helps understanding you’re seeing it happen on desktop and your phone. We’re looking into it.“

Why we care. Many have questioned the quality of Google’s search results in recent months (to be fair: some SEO professionals have been questioning the quality of Google’s search results for even longer than that!). But spam or malware sites in search results is bad for users, which is bad for Google. While this issue won’t cause most users to abandon Google (where are they going to go?), it’s stuff like this that gives SEO and search a bad name.

About the author

Danny Goodwin
Danny Goodwin has been Managing Editor of Search Engine Land & Search Marketing Expo - SMX since 2022. He joined Search Engine Land in 2022 as Senior Editor. In addition to reporting on the latest search marketing news, he manages Search Engine Land’s SME (Subject Matter Expert) program. He also helps program U.S. SMX events.

Goodwin has been editing and writing about the latest developments and trends in search and digital marketing since 2007. He previously was Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal (from 2017 to 2022), managing editor of Momentology (from 2014-2016) and editor of Search Engine Watch (from 2007 to 2014). He has spoken at many major search conferences and virtual events, and has been sourced for his expertise by a wide range of publications and podcasts.

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