We were doing some research into the aggressive tactics of the lead gen world recently and found a site ranking on page one with cloaked keyword stuffed content. It’s working so well for them that they rank at #3 for “pay day loan”. Unfortunately for the City of Marietta Ohio, it’s their site that is ranking. It appears that their installation of Joomla was hacked and about 400 of their pages have had payday-related words injected and their content cloaked. Visiting the site directly or by clicking the link in Google doesn’t reveal the payday-specific text because the site is cloaking that content to Google only. You have to look at Google’s cache of the page to see the injected text. If you think about it, it’s a worthless effort because none of the traffic brought by the payday listing is converting because the links to the lead gen site are all in the cloaked content, therefore not seen by the users that the cloaking is attracting in the first place.
This is such an egregious instance of cloaking and keyword stuffing that I’m amazed Google is listing it. If this tactic works, even for a short time, it will be profitable for people like this payday lead gen person. Google, in all their sophistication, still can’t stop these old-school black hat tactics.
Google search showing the hacked site
The city’s page as you see it by visiting directly, or by clicking the link in Google
Google’s cache of the city’s page showing the cloaked, keyword stuffed content.
Last night I attended the Kansas City Search Engine Marketing Association (KCSEM) to hear Brett Tabke speak. Brett is the founder of Pubcon and he was gracious enough to stop by KCSEM to speak about the state of SEO and what he thinks is coming in the next 12 months. I’ve heard Brett speak before and it’s always great information. As the founder of Pubcon, Brett has his finger on the pulse of the industry. Time and again I’ve heard Brett and others say how important authorship markup is and that it might be the next “big thing” for a quality signal to Google – maybe even more important that links! This time I finally decided that I really should make a bit of an effort and I decided to link my blog up with my Google+ profile for authorship data. I think this might have slightly more impact on ranking instead of plain ol’ markup because I have a few followers on Google+. Currently 748 people have me in circles on Google+. I didn’t realize that because I hardly ever use it. That’s probably not a very big number, but it’s a good start for never really posting anything there. Maybe it’s time I start to put some good info on Google+… If you want to add me to your circle, you can so by visiting my profile on Google+.
I’ve been trying to get enhanced link attribution to work on my website but it simply won’t. The code is all correct according to Google’s implementation guide but it’s just not working. It’s very frustrating. When I find the cause I’ll let you I’ll post an update. While investigating that issue today, I noticed a different problem with Analytics. I noticed that Google Analytics is telling me that there are clicks on a link to “index.asp” from my homepage. My site is php. There isn’t a single mention in my code of anything with “asp”. I have no idea where the heck Google is getting that. If I find out, I’ll let you all know.
Overlay showing Google thinks there are clicks going to “index.asp.”
There is no mention of anything with “asp” in the source code of the page.
We received a call from Google Maps this morning. It was a person trying to verify our location and asking a bunch of questions about our business. He was verifying all the “regular” stuff like hours, phone number, and address. Then he started asking about our actual location trying to figure out where it was. He wanted me to tell him the nearby roads and businesses. How odd. I put my mark exactly where our office is. He was having a really hard time with our location because our office address isn’t listed on our website. The reason for this: I don’t want mail delivered here! We have a tiny slot in the window through which our mail lady pushes our mail when we aren’t open. I do not want magazines, large envelopes, etc. pushed through the small slot, nor do I want packages left outside my door over the weekend. (Our office is a walk-up, so anything left sits outside all weekend – it’s happened before.) If you list an address on a website, you WILL get your address scraped and start to receive mail. My clients will forget the address and look it up on the website, or their accountants will. Before you know it, mail will be shoved through the small slot, or left out in the rain. That’s just how it goes. It seems our friend from Google couldn’t quite grasp that concept. I doubt that I will get a Google Maps listing for my office because he couldn’t understand why I haven’t placed my office address on my website.
I thought maybe I’d check to see how closely Google follows their own rules. I went to maps.google.com and put in “google”. A Google Data Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa was my closest result. (I’m surprised it wasn’t the KC Google Fiber location, but that’s a different story.) The Google Maps listing for their Council Bluffs Data Center currently has 17 customer reviews saying how helpful the staff is. They must get walk-in traffic at that location. Since they accept customers at that location, and they have a Google Maps listing, they must list their address on the website. Nope. I checked the location’s URL as well as the generic site. Not a single mention of “Veterans” which is the road on which the Data Center is located.
Google, please follow your own rules for your Data Centers, or give me my office location on your map! I’m not a spammer! We actually have an office where I say we do! Stop by and visit sometime! (But let me know first so I can hide the names of my clients.)
Google doesn’t list this location’s address on the actual location website, but they have a Google Maps listing AND accept customers at this location.
Google doesn’t list this location’s address on their main data centers website either.
They obviously get customers at this location. I wonder how they have a Google Maps listing without their address listed on the site??
Today when making the final touches on a proposal for a potential client, I pulled up their site in Chrome, and before it completely loaded I received a malware warning. A malware warning in Chrome means that Google has detected that the website attempts to load malicious software. This kind of thing not only destroys your traffic but can also completely tank your search engine rankings. Google will have a bit of patience and give you a chance to clean up the problem, but if you don’t get to it quickly they will wipe your site from their index because they don’t want to send users to a website that will harm their computers.
Google’s malware warning should be taken very seriously. It will tank your ranking.
Usually when this happens, your website is pulling compromised external data, or worse, has been hacked. The compromised external data could come from an embedded newsfeed or other embedded element that has some malicious code injected, or if you have a WordPress site, it could be a compromised plugin.
To solve the problem start removing external data sources and plugins until the offending website is not called when your page loads. The easiest way to monitor your progress is to use a Chrome extension called Speed Tracer which allows you to see all the connections your site makes when a page loads. Google tells you the offending URL in their malware warning so start cutting external data sources until that URL isn’t called in speed tracer. You can then add components or plugins back until you see the offending source mentioned again and you’ll know what has been compromised on your site so you can remove it until it’s cleaned up.
If your site has been hacked, you should see weird code when you view the source. Immediately change all of your login passwords and restore the site from a CLEAN backup. If you can’t get it resolved immediately, get a pro involved. Lost time is lost traffic and greater potential for a Google penalty.