For the last couple of weeks my log files showed some funny referrals from what turned out to be a Microsoft IP address. Each time a single search term would lead to my site, apparently from the Microsoft search.live.com site. Search terms included: money, crete, about, greece, uncategorized, harddisk, stress etc… My site doesn’t even rank for some of those terms. The full referral URL takes the form of http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=greece&form=QBHP (substitute “greece” for any other single word search term).
This is obviously some kind of automated bot. The problem with those visits is that they seriously skew my visitor statistics. I don’t like that. Today I had enough of it and decided to investigate some further. My first Google result was an entry on Penguin Pete’s blog from July 18th this year, which led me to believe that this was a fairly recent phenomenon. I tried to leave a comment there but was unable to get past the CAPTCHA sentinel. One of the commenters there referenced another site though, which offered a way to ban those visits by editing the .htaccess file. You can read there how to do that if you are affected and so inclined.
That site offered yet another reference which described more or less my case on blogboing.com, dated October 10th 2007. That long had this been going on already? What the article described however was not exactly the same thing as I noticed on my blog, but it came close enough. Notably all the suspicious entries in my log files ended with &FORM=QBHP, while the article on blogboing talked about &FORM=LVSP and &FORM=LIVSOP. I have no idea what these parameters stand for, but the two cases looked identical enough. Later I found another article on blogboing which describes my exact same case.
Furthermore, blogboing had yet another reference, this time from webmasterworld.com, dated August 28th 2007. Wow, this gets older and older by the minute! But consider this: halfway down the comments there is a guy called msndude, which I take to be a representative of Microsoft, who offers an explanation: “it’s all part of Microsofts’s quality control system”! Well, you gotta have the nerve! Moreover mister msndude adds insult to injury by saying this at the end: “blocking these IP addresses could prevent your site from being included in the Live Search index”. Hoppa! Threatening web owners is definitely going to help in this case, yessirree!
Now, with most of my search engine referrals coming from Google anyway, ask me if I care about not being listed in the Microsoft Live Search Index. Go on, ask me. No, I don’t. I went into my cPanel, found the IP Deny Manager, and made this entry: 22.214.171.124/14. This will block all visits originating from IP addresses 126.96.36.199 to 188.8.131.52. Problem taken care of. Bye bye, Microsoft, come back when you have learned how to behave in a civil way.
This solution with the IP Deny Manager is a bit easier if you’re daunted by the prospect of manually editing your .htaccess file and if your host has cPanel. It might be applicable to other web hosting control panels, but I have no experience with those.