The worst thing that can happen to any web site owner is to have their web site hacked. This can be done in any number of ways and sometimes it is not obvious to anyone. Google’s Webmaster Central Blog has some timely advice on web site hacking. It is certainly worth reading and I think one point should be made quite strongly.
Prevention is a single step in the process. It is not easy and sometimes that single step involves a lot of work. However, it far better than the alternative which could be a three step process – identification, repair, and if necessary, reconsideration.
Let’s take the last first as for any web site owner, it is one of the most important. If your web site is identified as a hacked site, Google will not hesitate to remove all of your pages from its index. This means your pages will never appear in any search results. You will know this has occurred if your traffic drops from several hundred to zero overnight. Google will not reinstate you until you have cleaned up the hacked mess.
This brings us back to identification. Losing traffic is a result of the problem. If it happens, first check Google for any messages about why you have been removed from the index. The check your links to ensure you are not sending people to bad sites. While you are at it, have a general look around your site. Most web site owners who are hands on know when something is wrong. Google suggest the following on a regular basis:
open google.com and run a site: search query on your website, looking for commercial keywords that hackers commonly use for spammy purposes (such as viagra, porn, mp3, gambling, etc.):
If any pages occur for these keywords then take a closer look and delete any of the offending links or data. You are now into the third phase, repair. Clean up any of the offending material and then submit your site for reconsideration. If you have removed everything then your pages will be restored to the index, normally with no loss of placement.
Hacked sites can be a nightmare to web site owners. Follow some of the suggestions by Google and may be able to rest easier. One thing you should consider before brushing this all aside – there are tens of thousands of web sites hacked every day. Never fall into the trap of thinking it ‘will never happen to me’ – chances are that is exactly when it will happen. The prevention is far less painful than the cure and should be a part of your regular SEO housekeeping.