Roughly 4 percent of all search results display links to potentially dangerous websites, according to a report published by McAfee’s SiteAdvisor, on Monday. The report notes that Yahoo results are the riskiest with AOL leading the pack as having the safest results.

Over the past year, both organic and sponsored links have seen an increase in safety, however, the biggest change is seen within sponsored listings. On average the number of risky links declined from 8.5% in May 2006, to 6.9% in May of this year. Organic results saw a drop from 3.1% down to 2.9%.

The most dangerous offenders tend to be searches resulting in a return of sites in the music and technology field, the adult industry as well as ring tone, work at home, and sites selling free software. These sites are dangerous because they pose security risks including spyware, adware, spam, and other scams.

How can you protect your self? Use your common sense. Never download any software on the web unless you are certain it is from a safe and reputable source. It is possible to download what appears to be a proper version of a piece of software, but once installed it may infect your machine with adware or spyware.

The report from McAfee uses a site which sells free software as an example. The site noted, advertises through PPC for free software such as the Fire Fox browser. When the user goes to download the software, they are presented with a payment option box – why would you need to pay for something that is Free?

Overall the safety of links found within search results continues to become safer, but the risks are still there and should be known. Even though the big engines such as Google are starting to clean up results, sponsored links still have a greater tendency to pose risks over organic listings.

So which engines provide the best results? AOL is the safest with 2.9% risky sites followed by Google at 3.4%, ASK at 3.5%, MSN at 4.2%, and Yahoo way behind at 5.4%. Yahoo is the only search engine which has seen an increase in the number of risky sites since May 2006.