SEO Poisoning Threatening Cincinnati WordPress Sites

One of the most crucial aspects of building a successful business online is Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Your business needs to have high website rankings on Google’s search results. The first page of Google results receives up to 91.5 percent of all traffic. Surprisingly, only about 10% of internet users proceed to the second page. There’s no room for mistakes when you’re seeking to beat all of your rivals to the first page.

WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) used to create websites and personal blogs. Given the platform’s widespread use, it’s an excellent target for malicious attackers. There exists a severe vulnerability that could jeopardize your search engine ranking and sabotage all your hard work. The threat is known as SEO poisoning.

What is SEO Poisoning?

SEO poisoning involves hackers infecting your website with harmful code and employing aggressive SEO strategies to reroute your traffic to their sites to increase revenue while infecting your users’ devices with malware. Keyword stuffing, doorway pages, and concealed content are some of the black hat techniques hackers employ to scam their way to the top of the search engines.

How SEO Poisoning Works

If a new flaw in a major WordPress plugin is identified, the hacker searches for trendy phrases to see if the top-ranking webpages are using WordPress, thus allowing them to gain entry. The hackers obtain access to legitimate websites with high search engine rankings and insert a range of specific search phrases into them. Surfers who make their way onto the site are more inclined to assume that anything on the site is credible because it is respected and ranks highly on its own. By injecting poisoned content onto the site, the hackers take advantage of this trust. This poisonous content surfaces in search results as a PDF file that must be downloaded to be viewed.

A user’s fate is sealed when they click on a download link. They are redirected several times behind the scenes, eventually landing on a poisoned site controlled by the hackers. This leads to a malicious payload being dumped onto the visitor’s device.

When users click on a compromised site, automated scripts assess whether the visitor is a search crawler bot or a real person. Humans and search bots are directed in opposite directions. It may appear that the page is loading while users are being redirected. However, the site is searching for vulnerabilities to infect the user with a virus. The poisoned website may promote bogus antivirus software or other products such as pharmaceuticals.

  • Keyword Stuffing: Keyword Stuffing is done by entering recurring keywords into the web content. The keywords are then hidden from the user’s view while still allowing search engines to scan them.
  • Invisible text: Invisible text involves hiding keywords in the body of a web page by adjusting their color to match the page’s backdrop. The more a hacker crams keywords into an infected site, the higher the search engine results rank.
  • Doorway Page: A doorway page is a web page built to contain keywords that search engine bots would pick up on so that websites can rank higher in search results.

How SEO Poisoning Affects your Search Engine Rankings

SEO Poisoning can have a devastating blow to your business. After encountering redirects and other questionable incidents, visitors will be unwilling to return to your site. Not only will visitors be distrustful of your site, but so will search engines. Knowing the signs of SEO poisoning can help you detect an issue as soon as it appears, allowing you to safeguard your brand and reputation. For example, you may notice a drop in your search engine ranking, particularly for terms that generally perform well.

The only abnormal thing you will notice may be a search engine warning that your site has been hacked. Hackers will install malicious code on your site to show users a different version of your site than the version that search engines see. This makes search engines suspicious, and they will begin to sanction you by downgrading your ranks or, in the worst case, banning your site entirely.

How Do you Know your WordPress Site has Been Poisoned?

You can use Google’s Fetch as Google tool to find out if your site has been affected by SEO poisoning. This tool will display your website as a Googlebot user bot would view it. It activates any scripts that a hacker may have installed to present Google with a modified version of your site. You may be affected if your website appears to be altered.

Repairing your WordPress Site

You can use Google’s infection recovery guide or contract professional help to repair your compromised WordPress site. Pay particular attention to the header.php file when fixing your website. Hackers frequently alter this file to incorporate scripts that reroute search bots and visitors in separate directions. Check the footer and index files as well, as hackers frequently target these. If you are uncertain of your website repair abilities, it is always advisable to consult a professional rather than risk further harm to your site by attempting to restore it yourself.

Defending  your WordPress Site against SEO Poisoning Attacks

The following best practices should be implemented to protect your firm from all sorts of SEO poisoning attacks:

  • First and most importantly, teach your visitors not to browse unfamiliar websites and avoid clicking on unsecured URLs in search engine results.
  • Maintain firewalls and robust antivirus software and centrally filter out potentially harmful pages.
  • Maintain the security of your web-based applications by eliminating any web vulnerabilities. Use a web vulnerability scanner regularly for this function. This would work even better when done during the early stages of website construction.
  • If you find a rogue site attempting to degrade your SEO ranking, report it to the search engine immediately to erase the result.

SEO poisoning can be a major setback for your company’s reputation and business. You need to do everything you can to prevent this from happening so you can focus on what you do best: operating your business. In need of support in this and other IT solutions? Reach out to us at 4BIS.COM. 4BIS.COM IT provides superior managed IT services to small and medium-sized enterprises throughout Cincinnati.

Written by James Forbis
Posted on: November 24, 2021