Hackers have become mainstream in the Internet world as they become involved in a number of crimes consisting of loss of personal information and temporary down time of businesses online due to hacked websites. If you are one of the victims of this crime, it would relief to know that even the most experienced and knowledgeable webmasters may suffer the same. But more than the loss of personal information, what concern webmasters the most is how hacking affects their site’s search engine optimization (SEO) standing in various search engines.
Yes, It Does Affect SEO
In a recent SEO site review session with Googler Matt Cutts, he pointed out that because computers of today have become increasingly intelligent in deterring hacking activities and preventing hackers to get into our machines and steal our personal information, they’ve began to direct their efforts to possible alternatives – web servers.
Now, it would be downright honest and rightful to say that a hacked site is more likely to get its SEO status affected if the site displays a variable URL, a site where these hackers would like your visitors to be directed to instead of your site. Moreover, because your sites meta data has changed, chances are you will be ranked for different keywords and affects how search engines see your site.
What Can I do to Bring it Back?
The first thing you should do is to stop the search engines from crawling your site. You can do this by returning a 503 HTTP status code so that search engines are prevented from “reading” or crawling your site or if you feel there is no other alternative then take the site down.
Google Webmaster Tool is a free service that gives webmasters the ability to check if the site was possibly hacked. If the site is added to the tool, it will show weird keywords that are not normally what you want to rank high for. The data stored in Webmaster Tools can be quite dated so if you are finding strange keyword showing up here you need to act quickly as a lot of time has already been wasting while Google was gathering this data.
Aside from returning 503 status code and finding out the hacked status of your site in Google’s Webmaster Tool, you may also want to protect your site’s SEO status by ordering the removal of the bad URL on the tool itself. An article in Google Webmaster Central gives you an idea about how to remove URL redirect from appearing as connected to your site.
Assess Hacker’s Damage to Your Site
Check to see what files in your web server were added, removed, or modified. And if there were any attempt to circumvent the security of your site can be noted in the server logs as they contain information about failed login attempts or any user accounts that were created apart from the ones you already have before.
For people who have shared hosting, some of the work can be done by your provider themselves and have your site be fixed remotely. This means that your site will be restored to its original form and any aesthetic changes will be lost. Your hosting provider can usually give you a clear indication of the extent of the damage and what will need to be rectified before your site can return to normal.
In the end, after your site is cleaned and is up and running, ask Google to reindex or start crawling your site again.
Hacked sites can sometimes be inevitable but the damage it can bring can be mitigated. Arm yourself with the right tools and knowledge to make the attack less severe and immediately contact your web hosting provider to begin a resolution. Temporarily disabling your site or returning 503 code will help you site stop getting indexed by search engines and therefore not affect your overall SEO standing.
Neil, you have really addressed a nice and important point in the article. Sometimes, webmasters neglect security aspects which can really become a pain. I hope this article will make all fellow bloggers aware of such online dangers. Great work.
this is scary but thanks for the great tips if it happens.
I am not a techie guy but i give my best efforts to protect my personal information and i use best internet security software. Thanks for tips
thanks for providing us this info. really helpful as many sites are being hacked now days.
I guess there is a need of permanent solution to eliminate those hackers.
in your article i’ve confusion, is there a possibility that hacker has hacked our site and still its running normal, but effecting seo, is that what you means?
Never got hacked before, and hope I never will. But it really would suck to have all your rankings thrown in the trash.
I had a hacking experience for one of my sites previously. Really spent 3-4 days figuring out the problem, losing valuable traffic from Google. Google had tagged my site as “this website can harm your computer”. Btw, Nice article.