Has your website been hacked?

The world of search engine optimisation has become so competitive (and lucrative) that for many years now, there have been many dodgy techniques employed to help push websites further up the rankings.

Generally, these techniques are far beyond Google’s terms of service and are commonly referred to as ‘Black Hat SEO’. Instead of writing good content or getting links legitimately, black hats hack and spam their way to the top of the rankings.  

Unfortunately, these techniques are often very effective because it takes time for Google to track down the spammed and hacked websites and remove them from their database.  Also, there’s no guarantee that they’ll penalise the website that is being promoted (otherwise everyone will be using black hat techniques against their competitors!) so it’s usually the unaware and unwilling that suffer the fall out.

Can you say with 100% certainty that your website hasn’t been hacked?  How would you know if a spammer had broken into your website and added a load of hidden text to every page linking to pornographic websites?

One way you can find out is to use Google to see what it knows about your website.  

Most people only use Google to search for simple terms but in fact, it has a lot of very powerful functionality that allows your carry out some advanced queries.

For example, the ‘site:’ operator pulls back results from a specific domain.  So if you were to type in site:massmediadesign.co.uk, it would bring back all indexed pages from this domain. 

You can then refine that query by adding words such as ‘site:massmediadesign.co.uk seo‘ to get all pages that have the word ‘SEO’ on them.

Most black hat techniques are used for really competitive searches such as ‘viagra’, ‘cialis’, ‘poker’ and ‘car insurance’. So, for example, to take a quick look to see if the Edinburgh University website has been caught out by hackers you could try the following:

site:ed.ac.uk buy cialis

And you can see that they have!

Try it with your domain and with a variety of words.  See what you can find and let me know in the comments.

Thanks to Blogstorm for the inspiration for this post