The SEO Implications of Getting “Hacked” [MONTHLY SUMMARY OF SEARCH]

Websites are increasingly being hacked on autopilot. Intruders are using scripts to crawl the web and infect sites using outdated or insecure software. Including plugins, add-ons, and themes. Security is necessary for web marketing to be successful, and SEO is particularly vulnerable.


1. Spammy Content
Intruders typically want to use a website’s existing authority in Google to push the most spammy content. Usually with affiliate links to casinos, adult content, pharmacies, etc. New pages, outside of the view of your normal website, are often created. Once Google finds this kind of spammy content on your site, your rankings can suffer. And your site might even be classified as “Adult in Nature.” That can mean a complete loss of search viability for prospects with “Safe Search” turned on in their search engine of choice! Google has said that even comments are taken into account when considering overall page content, so having entire sections of pages vulnerable can be particularly dangerous.

2. Thin and Duplicate Content Penalties
The pages that intruders create are usually low quality content. To build pages of unique content on hijacked websites, shortcuts are followed. These shortcuts can mean a Google Panda penalty for your site as well! Thin pages and duplicate content matching other hacked sites are enough to set off Google’s alarms.

3. Ads and Affiliate links
With Google’s new updates centered around quality, it’s easy to also set off alarms when your site is suddenly hosting ads and affiliate links for all sorts of things. Google’s quality guidelines take into account various factors such as ads above the fold, links to known affiliate networks, etc. If these are in your intruder’s monetization strategy, your rankings in Google are very likely to suffer!

4. Over Optimized Content
Outdated and aggressive SEO techniques are still often used by intruders, and that can mean over optimization penalties as well. Repeating a keyword several times in a title tag, or endlessly in page content, is an aggressive SEO technique that used to actually work. But not with modern Google! With spammy automated content created by an intruder, hacked websites are again vulnerable to Google penalties.

5. Growth and Loss of Indexed Pages
For years, Google has been wary of sites that grow their page count by a thousand percent overnight. And when the intrusion is fixed, it can look like a massive cull to Google, as 90% of the site’s content is suddenly uncrawlable. This instability is bad both ways in the world of search engine crawlers, and can take a while to undo.

6. Spammy Inbound Links
To get the intruder’s pages to rank on search engines, an automated link campaign is often created. The words “automated link campaign” carry the connotation of low quality, and that’s especially true here. Links can be from other compromised websites, adult sites, and just the absolute worst of the web! There are various ways to research what links have been created, but it’s difficult to catch them all! Many will have been de-indexed by Google, but still counted. Link cleanup & disavowal could potentially go on for years.

7. Getting Onto a Blacklist
There are sites, including Google, that may be warning off potential visitors to your site. Google will warn potential visitors right from their search results! But Antivirus software programs from Norton, McAfee, and many others are also scanning websites. Once you are on one of their blacklists, they can potentially block visitors. You won’t even see those attempted visits show up and bounce in analytics. They don’t even get to view your site and trigger analytics code before being blocked. And it can be hard to get off of these blacklists, too. Most companies don’t even think to check blacklists after cleaning up an intrusion.

So what can you do about this? Well prevention is key!
When it comes to website intrusions, prevention is crucial. Even large companies do not pay enough attention to security until an intrusion happens. Software updates are just the beginning for prevention. Consider monitoring admin logins, file system changes, and more. Catching an intrusion early on will be vital as well. If warnings are in webmaster tools, it could be a long road back for website visibility.

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Google’s “Quality Update” Rewards Positive Behavior [MONTHLY SUMMARY OF SEARCH]

Google’s updates have been focused around penalizing bad behavior: low quality links, duplicate or thin content, ad heavy pages, doorway pages, and more. But at the beginning of May, a mysterious Google update was released that looks to be more focused on boosting the right sites. Google officially claimed there was no update, then later admitted to a “quality update” – and to the core algorithm!

1. Good Design 

  • Structure of your site:  Websites structured around their main audiences tend to be structured (with “silos”) around their main keywords. This site structure makes it easy for both prospects and Googlebot to understand your site. With breadcrumb navigation, it’s very easy to communicate site structure. And with schema support, it’s an even better idea.
  • Variety of content: Are you mixing in photos, videos, infographics, slides and the many other kinds of content? Consider this a quiz (which is another piece of content). Which of the types of content are on your site?


2. Good Content

  • Original content/not syndicated: Syndication is more confusing than ever, despite the existence of the canonical tag. Sharing on your site first is vital. For authority sites such as, and others, the best results come with rewriting a unique shortened version of your content.
  • Links to related content on your site:  When a site visitor is reading about one topic, it’s a great idea to showcase related articles. This too can have an effect, as you are linking to other articles about your main keyword or concept. Hummingbird can understand concepts, but it’s always been valuable to talk around your main keywords. Having good content all around a certain topic makes a site the authority on that topic.
  • Not too many ads, no deceptive ads:  SEO Glen Gabe noticed sites with ads hidden in the content sunk in this Quality Update. Some sites were hiding ads in with their content, making ad links look very similar to links to content on the site. Gabe points this out in his excellent analysis of sites hit by the Quality Update stating, “I also saw deceiving ads that blended way too much with the content”.
  • Not thin: Thin content such as tag pages or short articles won’t make the cut. It’s ironic that tweets are now at the top of many Google search engine result pages, but that Google also abhors thin content. Don’t be fooled by Google’s new-found love for those 160 characters: Good articles tend to be fully thought out pieces of 1000 WORDS or more! You might get by with 450 words, but really try to make your content deeper articles of 650 words plus. Numbers are nearly as important as the quality of the piece though.
  • No low quality user generated content:  User generated content sounds like a dream come true for many site owners, but policing the quality of comments, uploads, and topics can become quite a task. Sites such as and were hit in the Quality Update, and, have begun cleanup as well.

Want to learn more about the update? Visit Glenn Gabe’s analysis or this great article at SEMPost.

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April 2015 Did you survive Google’s Mobile-pocalypse? [MONTHLY SUMMARY OF SEARCH]

google-485611__180.jpgOne of Google’s largest updates in years happened last month. Did your mobile rankings survive what many were hailing as the end times for mobile traffic? It may not be as bad as expected for your site – but certainly beaware of the risks and rewards to make an informed decision. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1. Are you indeed mobile friendly? If you see a “Mobile friendly” label next to your site in Google’s mobile search results, you are definitely mobile friendly. If not, Google’s tools may tell you what to fix. First, try Google’s “Mobile Friendly Tool”:

But there are caveats: If resources such as CSS or JS are blocked, the tool could give a false positive. And if you aren’t seeing those labels next to your site in Google’s mobile search results, there must be a reason. So to be sure, run this tool on your site as well:

For people that pass the mobile friendly test – and even those that have the label – this tool will give the next items you should be working on. Because staying ahead of Google’s algorithm is a good investment of time and energy.

2. What percentage of organic traffic is on a “mobile device?” Everyone should know the percentage of their traffic on mobile. Many assume that tablets are included in the “mobile device” designation, but that isn’t true. Google count tablets more like desktop users, and expects the desktop version of your design towork for many of them. To find the your site’s mobile traffic percentage, click on Audience > Mobile > Overview in the left sidebar of Google Analytics. While you are in there, compare the percentage to last year: Your mobile traffic has likely grown greatly!

3. How soon can you fix the problem? If you missed the deadline, no worries: The update is ongoing. You can fix anytime, and google will notice shortly after. Unlike Penguin, no waiting a year on this update. Use Google Webmaster Tools to request a recrawl of fixed pages quickly.

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