How To Fix Harmful Content Warning in Google Search Console

Deceptive site ahead warning (1)Deceptive site ahead warning (1)

A few months back, I got a notification about a security issue on my website on Google Search Console. When I go to the full report, the following issue is shown:

1 issue detected
Google has detected harmful content on some of your site’s pages. We recommend that you remove it as soon as possible. Until then, browsers such as Google Chrome will display a warning when users visit or download certain files from your site.

Google Search Console error

Under detected issues, I get Harmful downloads but there are no sample URLs listed which can help me identify the issue.

1 issue detected harmful downloads
1 issue detected harmful downloads

I have requested a review multiple times. Although the review has been successful every time, the issue comes back again after a few days.

What if I leave this issue as is and not do anything?

This error results in Google Chrome users getting a big red message saying “The site ahead contains malware” or “The site ahead contains harmful programs”. This can be a huge problem if you have the majority of your visitors coming from Google Chrome.

Google is very serious about protecting its users from harmful actors including safe browsing, emails etc. Google uses safe browsing systems that continuously monitor websites and web pages for potential threats and blocks those that are malicious. In 2023 alone, Google detected a 115% increase in malware detection by its safe browsing systems. So the webmasters should also be serious about the safety of their websites.

I have finally fixed the issue where Google doesn’t show you any samples for harmful downloads. Here are the steps I followed to fix the issue permanently:

  1. Since we don’t know the root cause of this error and Google hasn’t provided us with any helpful hints, we’ll need to dig down the site ourselves. First, I added all the different variations and main folders in the Search Console as separate properties. This helped me find the exact issue on the site. I have added the following variations to the Google Search Console:

    • Root domain (itechtics.com)
    • http://itechtics.com
    • https://itechtics.com
    • https://www.itechtics.com
    • https://www.itechtics.com/category/
    • https://www.itechtics.com/tag/
    • https://www.itechtics.com/tools/
    • https://www.itechtics.com/page/

    Once the domains and directories are added successfully, it will take a couple of days for Google Search Console to populate data on each profile.

  2. Once the data is populated, you can see the indexed URLs in each directory separately.

  3. Now go to Google Safe Browsing Site Status and enter each directory that is listed above in the safe browsing status report. The status report should be green for all URLs/domains/sub-domains/directories.

  4. The directory that has the issue will be flagged as orange.

    Safe browsing status
    Safe browsing status
  5. Once the sub-domain or directory has been identified, go to the indexed URLs in Google Search Console and make sure all the indexed URLs are clean.

    Indexed pages in Google Search Console
    Indexed pages in Google Search Console

    You can use Sucuri SiteCheck tool to scan for malware in your website.

  6. Once properly scanned, you can file a review. It should take a couple of days before you get a successfully reviewed email.

    In the review, you can write that you have gone through the complete site and fixed the issues that were being detected by Google Safe Browsing system.

If you get this warning again even after cleaning up the affected pages, make sure the affected pages are de-indexed (in case you deleted them) or re-indexed (in case you cleaned them) in Google Search Console and then file a review again.

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Usman Khurshid is a seasoned IT Pro with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry. He has experience in everything from IT support, helpdesk, sysadmin, network admin, and cloud computing. He is also certified in Microsoft Technologies (MCTS and MCSA) and also Cisco Certified Professional in Routing and Switching.

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