Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Spam is a technique that hackers use to manipulate search engine rankings. They lure the traffic to a scam that they’ve designed. When you hear the word Spamdexing, it refers to the same thing. They do this by accessing a legitimate website and injecting their keywords and links. Once you click on these links, you land on their website, where you can get ripped off pretty bad.
So, why don’t these bad players design and optimize their website? The answer to this is because the high-tech search engine algorithms can sniff out and ignore scam websites. Therefore, they ride on a healthy website’s credibility and ranking efforts through SEO Spam.
SEO Spam Symptoms
SEO Spammers have gained a lot of notoriety over the years. Therefore, you should check whether you have fallen victim to them or not. Here are a few common symptoms to check out the same:
In the search results, you might notice that your domain name has meaningless word junctions attached to it. The malware links divert traffic to their spam pages.
The appearance of new files
For example, in WordPress websites, the hackers can create a directory in wp-content/plugins/api-key with these files:
In most cases, such files have malicious software.
WordPress root directory can contain the following files that come with malicious codes:
ms-menu.php is another example of a malicious file. Hackers can create it in /wp-admin directory. If you notice anything like this, then your wordpress website is hacked.
Google AdWords being disabled
The increase in ad usage has seen hackers joyriding on them to lure users to malicious websites. Therefore, Google AdWords and other advertising networks have implemented stringent measures to curb malware widespread through infected websites.
Regularly, they scan websites and suspend those unhealthy, spam-infected ones. If your website gets the hit, Google will send warnings on your AdWords. They usually state reasons such as unwanted software or unsafe domain detected.
Primitive malware identification
SEO spam depends entirely on the proper functioning of the host website. The malicious code will not run if the website crashes or breaks. Therefore, the attacker may remotely rectify or update the host site to ensure their mission is successful. They can also identify and remove primitive malware on the site to avoid getting caught. A code snippet example of such malware can be seen here.
How Does SEO Spam Hurt your Google Ranking?
There are two ways in which your google ranking can be affected:
- If your customers continuously find themselves on a scam website, they will slowly start avoiding your website as its credibility is now questionable. Consequently, your traffic will begin to take a nosedive. Google will notice this and conclude that you have lost credibility. Consequently, it will start ranking you lower in the search results.
- Additionally, if the SEO Spam issue continues for a prolonged time, your website will end up on Google’s list of blacklisted online resources. As we know, search engines detest unhealthy websites because they care for the users’ welfare. This means that you will not appear in search results. Out of sight, out of mind.
Types of SEO Spam
This menace comes in various forms and the most common ones being:
Japanese SEO Spam
In a Japanese keyword Spam, you will notice auto-generated Japanese text in some or all of your pages’ titles and descriptions. They are common in outdated Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, OpenCart, and Magento. The infected pages have affiliate links that direct visitors to sites displaying fake brand products.
Korean SEO Spam
Hackers can target CMS files like functions.php and index.php with codes hidden in the base64 format. Upon decoding these codes from that format, the malware will again have another obfuscation layer. One example is provided below:
The image reveals that the spammers used the comment, “Signature For Report” to misguide any person attempting to analyze the code. However, if a security analyst decodes it further, they will notice the Operandi of the whole campaign. Some of these include:
- Fetching the campaign’s keywords
- Catching them
- Cloaking to target different visitors with different content.
Pharma SEO Spam
Hackers can use shady pharmaceutical terms such as Cialis and Viagra in their spam campaigns. They can store the malware in your site’s core, theme files, and plugins. Their scam advertisements attempt to redirect users to their websites that are displaying these products. In most cases, users end up getting conned.
Remove SEO Spam Now!
Scan your files for spam links
Search the footers, theme headers, and theme function files to identify spam links visible usually as hypertext links. In rare cases, they are in obfuscated form. Since some hackers are advanced, you may require the assistance of a professional to identify and get rid of the stubborn spam links insertion.
Scan the database
Hackers can also insert malicious links in your database on web pages and posts. However, the task of reviewing all your pages can be a hard one. In such a case:
- Use PHPMyAdmin to access your database
- Review multiple pages at once
- Got a culprit? Download the posts or pages locally and wipe them clean
- Finally, upload the resources back using an SQL management tool. You might need professional help here
Check your Google Webmasters’ account
Google Webmasters is a versatile tool that can help you detect SEO spam. Apart from revealing to you the search statistics, incoming and internal links, and the relevance of your target keywords, it also alerts you about any malware on your website.
Use malware scanner
You can employ advanced software like Astra’s malware scanner to identify and alert you about any SEO Spam and other threats. The good thing about automated malware is that it can operate in real-time to give instant results.
SEO spam is a common threat that causes havoc in the eCommerce industry. Examples of these campaigns include Japanese, Korean, and Pharma SEO spams. Through them, hackers can steal away your hard-earned traffic and scam your customers. Consequently, your search rankings will plummet. Your website may even be blacklisted! Therefore, you need to smoke out any SEO Spam link that might be lurking on your website immediately before it causes further damages.