It was not a pretty sight. I watched the look on his face as he was shown a page from his domain that should not have been there. Precisely how it got there, no one knows, but it was clearly placed on his site by search spammers, out to get an advantage for some of their Web sites. It was a lovely little page about prescription drugs chock full of links to other places. How could that page have gotten there? And what was it there for? Welcome to the seedy little world of black hat SEO. If you don't know if your site is vulnerable, you need to find out, so that you can make sure your own site is properly protected.
Image via Wikipedia
So let's first examine why anyone would put such a page on a website. That one is simple. The links from that site were highly valuable to spammers. In this case, not only was it a well-known site, but it was a .org site, whose links are even more valuable than .com sites, because they are more likely to be genuine expressions of quality. Except in this case.
How is it that the site owner didn't know the page was there? That one's easy, too. The spammer did not link to the page from anywhere on the real site, so the only way you'd discover it would be if you knew the URL. Or you were checking the server for stray pages.
How can you protect yourself? That question is a bit tougher, but your Webmaster needs to answer it:
Understand, I used to manage the Webmasters at ibm.com, but I am not a real Webmaster. Real ones know that this was the Bert and Ernie explanation of web security. If you are using a shared hosting plan, then your web hosting company probably does this stuff for you, but if you are using dedicated or partial server or cloud server hosting, you might be expected to do it yourself. If you host your own servers, you definitely need someone to protect your site.
But don't overlook one last possibility of how that spammy page got on that poor .org site: the inside job. It's possible that their SEO company did it, but even more likely that their employee did it, perhaps even their Webmaster. Anyone could try to boost up another site, either for personal gain or in exchange for some cash from the spammer.
If you haven't been policing your servers, don't be surprised if someone is squatting on a few pages that you don't even know are there.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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