How SEO Spam Costs Your Business & How to Stop It

Nick FitzgeraldOptimization, SEO, Spam, Tips & Tricks

How SEO Spam Costs Your Business & How to Stop It

The SEO industry is rapidly growing. On the whole, the community is an inclusive one, usually ready and willing to share tips with one another. Perhaps this ideology is a response to the often highly secret inner workings of search engine algorithms. Perhaps it’s a result of people passionately engaged in a topic they’re excited about. Either way, it’s enough to give a person the warm and fuzzies.

However, as with any growing industry, there’s bound to be some bad actors. In the SEO world, this often comes in the form of SEO spamming. What this means is that hackers or Black Hat SEO-ers will invade a site, often through weaknesses of the site’s security. Once in, they’ll deposit false keywords that cause a site to malfunction in search results. This not only compromises the integrity of your site, it can also lead to falling out of ranking with the leading search engines. What’s worse, it’s a problem you might not be aware of at all.

Why SEO spamming occurs

For some hackers, the simple reward of merely hijacking a page to prove they can do it is all they need to motivate their mission. For others, SEO spam is a concentrated effort to increase visibility of their own pages to generate income. This is because their sites, or the sites they’re contracted with, get paid per impression. The more people that visit their site, the more money in their coffers, regardless of whether the user on the site makes a purchase.

SEO spam can show up in a variety of forms. Often, and in SEO spam’s most clandestine form, it involves stuffing inauthentic keywords into your site that are connected with backlinks to the site the hacker is promoting. It’s clandestine because it can be hidden in code, and not front and center on the page. Obvious link building is another form this can take, though of course, this route is much easier to spot.

How SEO spamming hurts your page

One of the hallmarks of good SEO strategy is building a trustworthy site. Smart SEO involves thoughtful creation of content and keyword placement that walks the fine line between appealing to search engine web crawlers to rank higher and providing legitimately engaging and useful content to users. It’s a delicate balance and time-consuming work. SEO spam wipes out that balance in an instant. If a hacker stuffs your site with duplicitous keywords, the web crawlers will immediately flag your page as fraudulent, causing your ranking in search results to drop.

Remember that those web crawlers see beyond the actual page, and they can pick up changes in code more frequently that a site’s owner is checking for misdeeds. All that hard SEO work can be dashed in a matter of moments.

How can you tell you’ve been attacked?

There are obvious instances of SEO spamming you’ve probably encountered. Anyone who manages a page where commenting is an option has probably seen untrustworthy pages using an open forum to drop their keywords and links in as a blog post or comment. They’re usually quite easy to spot. Important flags to look for are sites and links with no clear connection to your industry. The grammar might also be unusual, most likely the result of a translation program or a bulk-generated comment sent out to thousands of sites at one time using a software program.

The more insidious instances of SEO spam don’t show up on your site at all — unless you look behind the scenes. Some hackers bury their keyword stuffing and linking into code. You can stay on top of this by routinely checking your keyword results, something you’re probably doing regularly anyways as a part of your strong SEO strategy. Be on alert if your site sells vintage and rare baseball cards and “cheap designer purses” begins to show up in your keyword results. Should strange or unrelated keywords begin to appear, you know you’ve been targeted.

How to avoid SEO spam

Make sure that your site has adequate security. Keep current with updates, which often guard against this type of attack. Make it a practice to hold up your end of the security bargain with long and complicated passwords and even two-factor authentication.

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