Just this past weekend in the space of 1 hour, Google managed to stop all sites being accessed via its search engine.
This occurred at about 6.30am PST on Saturday, so if you were one of the unfortunate ones to trying to search this early, then you will know what I am talking about.
During this period all search results in Google were being flagged as malware with a message stating “This site may harm your computer”. Including Google’s own websites as you can see below.
If you tried to click on the link it sent you to the following page:
How did this error occur?
Google explains that human error was the reason a malware update was applied to all sites:
We periodically receive updates to that list and received one such update to release on the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here’s the human error), the URL of ‘/’ was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and ‘/’ expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem quickly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and rolling fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and began disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.
How much would this error have cost Google?
Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land tells us his theory:
There’s no way to know. Google had 5.7 billion in revenue last quarter, which works out to about $2.6 million per hour, if I’m doing the math right. Since it was down for about an hour, that might serve as a top-level amount that could have been lost. But then you have to figure that Saturday morning Pacific time is much quieter than other times (yes, that’s still prime time for Europe and parts of the US, of course). The quarterly revenue also includes ALL Google revenue, not just search ads. And people might actually click MORE on ads due to the malware warnings on the unpaid results. Like I said, there’s really no way to know. I’m sure Google probably took some revenue hit, but I suspect it was far less than $2.6 million. Sites listed on Google also would have taken some minor dip in traffic. And Google’s competitors probably saw an uptake in traffic. There’s a good strategy for them – hope Google shoots itself in the foot more often.
What effect did this error have on your site’s traffic? Feel free to let us know by leaving a comment below.