05 December 2018 By My Digital Agency

Is SEO Poisoning Killing Your Business Slowly?

Search Engine Optimization is something we call SEO in regular business terms. SEO has become the key element in running a successful business in today’s times. SEO helps with maintaining your website at the top of Google search results. 91% of the Google traffic is concentrated on the first page of the search engine. Less than 10% of the people proceed to page 2. A well researched SEO strategy helps in maintaining a top rank for your business. As far as SEO has come, there still are a number of different threats that pose in front of the webmasters or the owner of the sites; those threats combine are given the term of ‘SEO Poisoning’.


What is SEO poisoning?

SEO poisoning is when hackers infect any site with malicious code and aggressive tactics to redirect the visitors that initially came to your site, to their own site to increase their revenue and also to infect the visitors with malware and viruses. Various tricks that they use are called the black hat techniques and those include:

  • Keyword stuffing: There are repeated keywords inserted in the input type= “hidden” meta tag or simply in the keyword tag. This ensures that the keywords are hidden from the visitors, but still gets scanned by the search engines.
  • Doorway page: It is a page designed to contain keywords that are picked up by the search engine’s bots, which in turn will improve the website ranking. This means the page will be placed higher on the search engine’s ranking.
  • Invisible text: A method where the keywords are hidden away in the body of the web page by changing the colour of the font that matches with the background of the same page. The more words the page is infected with, the higher its ranking is on the search engines.


Signs of SEO poisoning attacks:

The most common warning sign of an SEO poisoning attack will be the drop in your search ranking, particularly for keywords that initially used to perform well. The next warning sign can be when you visit your site and see nothing out of the ordinary, yet Google informs you that your site may have been compromised.

The black hat hackers compromise your site and rather than stealing the data and leaving, they inject malicious codes to the site. This code makes up a different version of your page for the users than how the search engines might see. This makes the search engines suspicious, which in turn makes your ranks drop, and for the users it begins to redirect them through a series of scareware portals and exploit downloads punching holes through their internet security and attempting to infect them with virus.

Test your page by using Google’s “fetch as Googlebot” feature, which loads your site as though you’re a Googlebot user agent. It should show you a different version of your site designed to present to Google. If the site looks or behaves differently, congratulations you’re a victim to SEO poisoning.


How are the toxic backlinks created?

Toxic backlinks are unnatural links that temper the search rankings of a website. Google’s penguin update works in penalizing the website that has a bad backlink profile. The companies gather spam links to give their site a rank boost, which can be harmful in the long run. These backlinks can cause severe damage to your website’s health. The backlinks that can be toxic to your website are:

Spam sites and the sites that are only created for link building.
Sites that are not indexed by Google.
Sites with malware or virus.
Other link network.


SEO Poisoning Process by the Web Crawlers

SEO Poisoning Process Infographic


How SEO poisoning affects your rankings:

SEO poisoning can make your rankings drop in a fortnight. All the hard work and the reputation that the webmasters of a particular page had earned can blow up in seconds. Your SEO traffic will collapse due to the three gates put up by Google that prevent users from getting to your site.

People will stop visiting your site, after experiencing too many redirects and malware from your page and other suspicious occurrences that may take place as soon as they visit your page. Even if the users choose to ignore the notification by Google that claims the site is compromised, they will receive browser warnings from Google safe browsing database that your website is unsafe and has been compromised.

Not only will the visitors get wary of your site, but the search engines too will keep you under close observations. You may notice that the keywords that used to perform well and were able to attract a decent amount of traffic are no longer working and also your SERP ranking (search engine result page) dropping.

The owners of that page would get a warning from Google, informing them that their site has been compromised. The codes that the hackers infected your page with will show the visitors a different version of your site than the version it shows the search engines. This makes the search engines suspicious, for which you will be penalized by low Google ranking or worse getting your site banned altogether.


How are SEO poisoning attacks carried out?

– Not updating your site from time to time: Updating your site removes bugs and vulnerabilities that keep web crawlers at bay.

– Installing free or pirated themes and plug-ins: Hackers infect the free and pirated versions of themes and plugins with malicious code and wait for the webmasters to download the same and get infected. Avoid installing the free versions of any such softwares.

– Brute force attacks: If you have a password that can be easily guessed, or if you are using default password then the hackers can brute force it to gain access.


Recovering website SEO after a hack

  1. Back up your site before taking any action of cleaning up.
  2. Taking your site offline while performing a clean-up will be beneficial, as it doesn’t gives the hackers a new opportunity to hack in to it again.
  3. You will need to clean your site of all the malicious codes that the black hat SEO hacker left behind. Close all the security holes, or loop holes that the attacker might have used to gain access to your site and then recover any damage done to your SEO rankings and reputation.
  4. Remove all the signs of infection and get the site back online.
  5. Now you will get a clear picture of how much damage was done to your SEO.
  6. Impact of malware and hacking on your SEO
  7. Your site will experience huge drop in the SEO rankings.
  8. Search engine users will receive warnings that your site has been compromised and to stay clear of it.


Our take on it?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a boon to digital marketing. If used the right waySEO marketing has all the potential to take every industry by storm and create profit wherever used. SEO poisoning on the other hand, is something that everyone needs to be aware of, and special precautions are to be taken, giving no way or loop holes to the black hat hackers to infect the SEO rankings in general.

Want to keep your website secure from all the SEO poisoning? Reach out to us at info@mydigitalagency.co