Google Pain – How To Recover From a Malicious Attack On Your Website

February 8th, 2011 by Rich Christiansen

I have held the top position on the search term Pizza Coupons now for over 3 years.   This past week our servers were hacked and attached by MalWare.    :-(  There was pain and misery in our office Wednesday night! 

Those of you who depend on the web as a channel for your business can fully identify with the  emotion when I state  “I Got Some Google Love”  which means ranks went up or the flip side of the coin  “Google Pain” serious problems.  Indeed we had Google Pain this past week.

With super human efforts and an all nighter  my amazing engineers Shovan and Kashif were able to help me identify, remove, and secure from the hack on our server.   Our server was infected with this for 11 hours and 37 minutes.  What was the result?   Most of the ranks dropped in half despite the speedy recovery. We had been working on one high traffic word Coupons Printable.  It dropped from top 10 to 100.     :-(  I am convinced if this had taken a week or longer to resolve,  the ranks would have dropped off the charts.   I guess I can look at this as a glass half full or a glass half empty.

Despite my attempt to avoid the subject,  it seems like everywhere I go I am hit with a barrage of questions regarding SEO and how to optimize or fix a site or one thing or another.   After this experience, I wanted to dedicate this post to a few tactical tips to all of you with websites to help you protect, monitor, and resolve attack issues.
I warn everyone now who is not technical,  I am going to start waxing tech geek.   If you are not technical, the thing for you to do now is:

1. Stop reading so you don’t get board

2.  Forward this to your tech person or print it out so when you have an issue you can give it to the person trying to solve your problem

Here goes: 

Rich’s  Web Site Malicious Attach  Recovery Check List:

  • Make 100% sure you have Google Webmaster tools enabled on your website  -  Google Webmaster Tools
  • Monitor and fix all errors that Google Webmaster Tools reports
  • If your business is dependent on web traffic, run a weekly keyword rank report on your largest traffic words   We use  Rank Tracker
  • Install and monitor Google Analytics.  Monitor traffic patterns.    Google Analytics My motto is put juice to the words that are getting traction and link to words that have high web traffic volume
  • If you get attacked,  have your engineer look for the following   -  Malicious script  -  .htaccess redirects -  Hidden iframes   Stop BadWare
  • If you get attacked or a serious error occurs like it did to me.  DO NOT DELAY.  Fix immediately.  The longer you are down in the index the harder it will be to climb back up
  • Change your FTP passwords as well as Cpanel acces.  Double check the open source or 3rd party code on your site that may have embedded scripts
  • If Google has your site locked out and warnings on searches,  You must submit a manual review from them.   Make sure you have the problem fixed before submitting, but do it quickly
  • Once issues are resolved, resubmit your sitemap.xml file through Webmaster tools -  SiteMaps
  • Give a real thrust and get others to link to your impacted sites from relevant properties.  Incoming links always help jump start things.  This would be the time for you to kindly say,  “Rich, I would be happy to link to your pizza site”.  ;-)

I hope you don’t have to use this, but if you do,  this will provide you a good framework to attack the issues.

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