Malware Effects: How You Can Save Your Site AND Your SEO

June 28, 2013 Amanda DiSilvestro

One unfortunate trend that many websites are seeing is an increase in malware. This has led many Webmasters to lose Google rankings and spend more time cleaning up these problems than actually putting out great content for users, and the problem is only getting bigger and bigger. In the past, malware was typically just a few spammy links that pointed back to someone looking to get some attention or annoy people for the fun of it; however, hackers are now starting to break into websites in order to gain confidential information and/or take the site down to the ground entirely.

Sites affected by malware are typically WordPress sites because they have an open source content management system, which means that there is a lot of information a hacker could obtain if they had access to certain sites. As you know, WordPress powers a good deal of blogs, so it’s important to ask yourself: If my site becomes infected, how will it affect my SEO and what can I do to get it back?

How Malware Will Affect Your Current SEO

It might seem obvious, but it’s a good idea to remind yourself of some of the SEO effects that malware will have so that you know what to prepare (and what to try and prevent) if your site is ever compromised. A few of the ways your SEO will suffer include:

  • Poor Content. It’s pretty clear that your status will be on the line if you’re infected with malware. There will surely be spammy links on your site and poor content in your comments, so readers will not be too excited to keep clicking through to read more.
  • Reputation. This overlaps the last point. Your reputation is going to be compromised if readers are seeing all of this poor content and spammy links, but this will also hurt you because Google will likely pick up on the fact that your site has been compromised. This means that emails coming from your site (or even searches to your site) will have warnings for readers attached. A typical warning would be something like, “This site may be harmful to your computer.”
  • Drop in Rankings. This is where SEO comes into play. Google is going to realize that there are spammy links on your website, and whether it’s your fault or not, that type of site doesn’t belong on the top of a Google SERP.
  • Loss in Access to Your Site. Malware can sometimes take over your site completely and gain access to confidential information, which isn’t going to make your readers happy. From an SEO standpoint, this is the point when very poor SEO practices—spam links, hidden text, doorway pages, etc.—begin to show up.

How to Get Your SEO Efforts Back in Full Swing After a Malware Infection

When it comes to getting your website back in the good graces of Google (and thus helping bring back your SEO), there are really only three steps you need to follow.

1. Use software to get the virus out of your site. 

There are several different software options you can choose that will help rid your website of a virus. It’s also a good idea to check and make sure that your computer itself isn’t infected (if so, take it to your nearest tech support). A few software I recommend are Sucuri malware scanner, Bitdefender, and AVG Antivirus.

2. Change all of your passwords in case they are compromised. 

This is a no brainer. Many times, viruses get into your website because your passwords have been compromised. Change all of them and make sure they are strong passwords by including numbers, symbols, and capital letters.

3. Submit a reconsideration request to Google. 

This is how you’re going to alert Google that you have cleaned up your site and need all penalties removed. In a reconsideration request you typically have to explain to Google what you did to fix the problem and why it won’t happen again. You can learn about the best way to submit a reconsideration request here.

So how can you prevent malware altogether? The first and easiest thing to do is to get your content management system/WordPress and any plugins you might use up-to-date and change all of your passwords. You also want the computer you are using to be free of any potential viruses, and consider installing WordPress plugins for added website security, which you can learn more about here.

Do you have a malware story regarding your website? What did you do to fix it, and how to did you ensure that your SEO wasn’t completely lost? Let us know your story and give us your thoughts in the comments below.

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