How would you feel if your WordPress website that sells cooking tutorials is being displayed as an illegal drug-selling website on Google search? This is what happens when your WordPress site is infected with an SEO spam hack.
WordPress is a very commonly used Content Management System that hosts about 40% of the websites worldwide. Due to its popularity in the market, it is also the most common target for hackers and cybercriminals.
Search engines like Google consider several factors before ranking a website in their search results for a specific Google search query.
To rank higher in these search results, companies use the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. SEO provides your website with effective, organic and free traffic if you follow its standard policies.
One of the best SEO optimization techniques is to include high-quality backlinks. A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one website to another one.
The higher the number of backlinks your website has, the higher your search engine ranking will be. So what is the problem?
Spamdexing, Pharma hack or WordPress SEO Spam is a black hat SEO technique that hackers use to infect your website to be able to rank higher for their illegal content (which is not your site’s original content).
The search engine results will list your website in the search results for illegal pharma products like Viagra or Cialis.
Introduction to WordPress SEO Spam
WordPress SEO Spam is a technique used by hackers to generate website traffic or revenue by taking advantage of your website. This technique spams and ruins your website and its reputation.
Google considers the techniques used by the hackers for this SEO spam as a black hat that can even ban your WordPress site from being displayed on the search engine.
The hackers break into your website and tend to use black hat techniques to get a higher ranking for their products and make money using your well-ranked website. This benefits the hackers, but your years of SEO efforts burn down to ashes.
The hackers access your system via outdated WordPress versions, vulnerable plugins and themes, or weak credentials configured for your site. The hackers exploit such security vulnerabilities present on your website to inject malware.
The purpose behind WordPress SEO Spam is to generate revenue by defrauding the visitors on your website and divert your traffic to their website. They put no effort to rank higher in search results and rely on your highly ranked website.
Impact of SEO Spam
The consequences of WordPress SEO spam are beyond imagination and can shatter your business to nothing. Your website gets ranked for the wrong products like Viagra or those injected by the hacker in the codes.
This implies that there are no buyers for your products and no traffic on your site. This results in a substantial financial loss for your organization.
The efforts made to build a highly optimized SEO website are busted as your website is listed for irrelevant keywords. Visitors get redirected to scam pages and websites and pay for products that they will never get.
These visitors start to doubt your credibility, and the long-built trust and reputation fade away within a few days.
As the search engines and the hosting provider suspect malicious activity on your WordPress site, Google blacklists your website, whereas the service provider suspends your hosting account.
WordPress SEO spam also leaks the customer data and other sensitive information associated with your website to the hacker.
Finding WordPress SEO Spam
Hackers and other cybercriminals target WordPress websites of both large and small scale, especially those that do not pay much heed to security protocols.
They insert keywords related to their products like ‘Viagra and Cialis’ into the top-ranking websites under their control illegally.
These hacked websites display the regular website when directly searched by typing their domain name. However, as you search for a hacked website or website affected by WordPress SEO spam on Google, it shows the spam pages promoting the products of the hacker.
The most common ways to identify WordPress SEO spam for your site are as follows:
- Google Search Console (GSC): The GSC helps you to monitor the overall SEO health of your website and discover the black hat techniques in use for your website, check the traffic, keywords your site ranks for, etc. It indicates the issues with red flags in Security and Manual Actions.
- Website Examination: Go through your admin dashboard of the WordPress site. Scan through the plugins, themes, core files, databases, etc., and check if you see suspicious files that you never added. This can give a hint if your site is attacked by WordPress SEO spam.
- Malware Scanners: Malware scanners are tools that help you scan your website and identify the presence of malware on your website. This is an efficient approach to quickly identify WordPress SEO spam and other vulnerabilities on your website.
- Google Search warnings: Google displays warnings while you approach such infected websites. Some pop-ups say ‘Deceptive Site Ahead’ or ‘This site may be hacked’ to warn the visitors trying to access the infected website.
Types of SEO Spam
The hackers accomplish their malicious goals via WordPress SEO spam using various tactics individually or in combination to stay unnoticed and promote their products at a large scale.
The most common approaches used for WordPress SEO spam are:
- Spam Keyword Injection: The hackers insert keywords for the products they want to promote on the web. These can be ‘cheap Gucci bags’ or ‘buy Viagra’ into the existing files of your website. This compels the search engines to consider these replaced words as keywords and ranks your site for them.
- Spam Link Injection: Hackers add redirecting links to your website to take your customers to their web page, where they will be fooled with fake products.
- Spam Advertisements: WordPress SEO spam might also include ads or pop-ups associated with illegal drugs or adult websites. Since ads are the most attractive and convincing to gain more visitors, hackers use this technique often. The visitors click on them and land on the fraud pages, which annoys them, and they lose trust in you.
- Create new pages: As hackers break into your website, they have the power to create new posts and pages with high SEO ranking due to your website. They are stuffed with malicious keywords and links to redirect visitors to these pages.
WordPress SEO spam can have a devastating and long-lasting effect on your website once the hacker breaks into it, but taking preventive measures and complying with the mandatory security policies can save you from landing in such troubles.
Like every other problem, WordPress SEO spam also has a solution that would help you restore your original website and rank well on the search engine for the original content.
There are various guides available to fix the security issues and other hacks present on your WordPress site.
There are always two approaches to fix a security issue, either manually by following a fixed set of instructions or by taking help from cyber experts for doing website security testing.