How to deal with mt-search.cgi causing high load on your server?

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As soon as a Movable Type powered site becomes somewhat popular, there is often a steep increase in server load. This despite Movable Type's static publishing model.  How can this be?  Serving static HTML pages isn't that much work, is it?  Some investigation often reveals that it is the search script (mt-search.cgi) which is causing all the load.  Now what?
Activity log

The first thing to do is to check the activity log of your installation.  Are you seeing real search traffic?  I.e. a random assortment of terms being searched for, from lots of different IP addresses?  Or is there a pattern to it?  Look for the same terms being searched for again and again, or for searches coming from identical or similar IP addresses.

If you don't see a pattern, then you are indeed dealing with real search traffic, and you have to increase server capacity or look for different solutions for handling search on your site.  But if you are seeing a pattern, you are probably dealing with search engine spiders crawling all over your site.

What is happening?


Most likely you are publishing blog entries that have lots of different tags associated with them.  Each tag will be visible below the published entry as a link.  A few hundred entries can easily mean a few thousand tag links on your site.  Each one of these links points to the search results page for that tag...

Now imagine Google or Bing crawling your site: thousands of juicy links waiting to be visited...  And each one of these links puts load on your server when it is followed... ouch!  And the worst part is, the search results pages that are being indexed probably will have changed by the time the first search engine traffic starts arriving on them, so visitors will be frustrated because they are not even finding what they were looking for.  Double ouch!

So now what?

Ideally you want search engines indexing your article pages and maybe your archives.  They really have no business indexing search results pages.  You can try setting a robots.txt file, warning the search engine spiders to stay away from the mt-search.cgi script or even the entire cgi-bin/mt folder.

If that doesn't help, simply look up the IP addresses that make the most requests in your activity log, then add lines like these to your apache configuration:

<Directory /usr/lib/cgi-bin/>
Deny from 1.2.3.4
...
</Directory>
This will just block the search engine spiders from your entire cgi-bin folder, leading to an immediate drop in server load.

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258 Comments

hey, thanks for addressing this. we had major problems with mt-search.cgi load -- in fact, it's still not working, as we had to remove it for crashing our (shared) server. I'll see if I can work around the robots.txt and give it a try.

and thanks for the blog! rare place covering the MT world :)

An improvement on using the IP addresses, which may change, or end up being a very long difficult to manage list, is to use the referrer information in requests. You could do this (see below) in the appropriate config file. It's proved extremely effective in my case.

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "bot"		bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Crawler"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Slurp"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Teoma"       bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Baiduspider"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Bing"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "fast"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Iscraper"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "snarfer"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "spider" 	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "sphider"	bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "voyager"     bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Tarantula"   bad_bot
SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Panscient"	bad_bot

<location /cgi-bin/mt/>
order allow,deny
deny from env=bad_bot
allow from all
</location>

We recently upgraded to MT 5.2.2 and ever since are experiencing random ip deny problems for readers who have been accessing the site with no problem for years. The problem seems temporary and resolves on its own. It'll catch a host of ip's for a few minutes, then it's over.

....though one day awoke to find the index.html page had vanished.

Any insight?

Placing ads in offline publications like niche magazines. More advanced methods are required
to draw people to your website and these include things such as blogging, Facebook,
Linked-in and other progressive marketing strategies that use the latest advances.
Engagement can be asking questions, hosting contests, commenting on
posts, posting tips, sharing valuable information.

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