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What Is SEO Spam And Cloaking?

Today, most business uses search engine optimization to drive traffic to their sites. Unfortunately, a group of spammers also uses it for malicious activities. They try to break SEO rules by driving organic traffic to their sites through manipulative tactics. Since most of these spammers deal with illegal goods and services, it would be easy to take down their sites, and they, therefore, highjack reputable pages to spread their links to as many users as possible. 

As a result, your page will begin to rank for the wrong products or services, and you will experience a loss in revenue. It also wastes your search engine optimization efforts. Again, the links may redirect your site visitors to scam sites and lure them into paying for goods they might never receive. As a result, it damages your brand reputation. It would be best to understand such malpractices in-depth to ensure that you never become a victim. Read on to gain more insights. 

What Is SEO Spam?

Spamdexing involves manipulating search engine rankings by using legit sites to rank content that wouldn’t take otherwise rank. The main aim is to lure traffic into a malicious webpage. The hackers achieve this by injecting keywords or links into another web property to defraud people. Most hackers gain access to webpages with an outdated plugin or weak credentials. They even use bots on your login page to try and crack in your passwords. Once they gain access, they introduce malware to your posts and pages. As a result, they begin to rank their products or services higher using your site. They make lots of money while at the same time destroys your site. 

What Is Cloaking?

It’s the methods of presenting users with different content or URLs from what search engine crawlers see to boost a site’s ranking. The main aim is to mislead search engine robots into thinking that the content availed is different. It’s against Google Webmasters guidelines, and most time, hackers use this technique since it’s hard for the site owner to detect. If Google recognizes, it can penalize the website permanently by removing it from the search engine index. Your site will no longer appear in Google search results. 

Different Methods of Cloaking

The User-agent Method

It involves using a software agent that operates on behalf of a user. When a searcher keys in a question on the browser, it acts as the user agent which fetches information concerning the operating system in use. The webserver will receive a code that distinguishes the user agent. If it identifies the user as a crawler, it sends distinguished content from what a human browser would access. 

IP Based Method

The main aim is to direct users to the spammers’ website through a highly SERP ranking page. Hackers achieve this by modifying the htaccess file to deliver content based on the user’s IP addresses. If the modules detect that the IP address belongs to a search engine, they offer a different version of the content packed with targeted keywords to boost ranking. If the IP doesn’t belong to a crawler, then the webmaster delivers specific webpage content, and the human visitors won’t receive quality information despite the high page ranking. 

Javascript Method

It operates by sending JavaScript enabled browsers with one version of the content while the JavaScript disabled browsers like search engines’ receive entirely different content from the same webpage. 

HTTP Referrer

It involves using the searcher’s HTTP referrer header to determine whether one is seeking a cloaked or an uncloaked webpage version. 

HHTP Accept-language Header Technique

The method involves matching the HHTP accept-language header with results to determine the webpage version presented. If it’s from a search engine, the webserver can display optimized content different from what a human visitor will receive. 

Why Does Google Not Like Cloaking?

Google considers it as a violation of its rules and regulations since it provides users with different content from what they expect. They also think that any site that tries to use such software intends to spam the index, but if you want Google to index your site, you have no choice but to follow the rules. 

Most times, hackers use this strategy to promote their illegal businesses. It provides a high level of deception and compromises the user experience. Also, some spammers use this technique as a method of transferring malicious codes to unsuspecting users. 

By going against search engine term of service, it can lead to lower search results ranking. Webpages engaging in such tactics can even get banned from appearing on search engine result pages. It’s also worth noting that such strategies only create short term results. 

Most major search engines today regularly update their IP addresses to minimize such malicious acts. If you fail to update your database, it will often become obsolete, rendering such malicious techniques useless overtime. Therefore any results earned through such tactics disappear once the search engine fixes the loopholes. If you want to build visibility across search engines, it would be best to stick to sustainable practices.

How To Check if Your Site Has SEO Spam?

Various signs indicate the presence of malware on your web page. You might receive a Google console warning or deceptive site, hacked notifications from search result pages. Sometimes, you may also notice a sudden drop in traffic to your site, new posts, page ads, or some unusual anchor texts. If you see any of the above signs, it would be best to dig deeper to detect any hidden malware on your site. 

To check if the hackers have compromised your site, go to Google search and type in your site URL. It should appear in the order; site: yoursite name.comintext.’ Leave no space, and the intext should outline the exact things your brands deal with. Research your country domain name code together with the intext and keenly check to see if there is anything from your site content that you don’t recognize.  

For WordPress, you can use the Google Search Console tool to detect such malware. It marks such spammy activities with red flags in Manual and Security Actions. Google Transparency Report, a malware scanner, can also help. Enter the URL of a particular page on the tool, and it will show you whether the site is safe to visit or whether there is any harmful content.

You can also conduct a simple website examination by carefully evaluating your dashboard for anything unusual. It can include admin users you aren’t aware of, anonymous posts and pages, or plugins you didn’t install. It may be a hint that your WordPress has malware.

There are various plugins on WordPress that you can use to detect and deter search engine optimization scams. They include Succuri Site Check and Unmask Parasites, to name a few.  

There are various ways in which you can protect your webpage from such attacks. First, install a firewall between your webpage and the traffic accessing your site. The firewall investigates whether the searchers have involvement with any malicious activities in the past before allowing access. 

You can also protect your login pages by using strong passwords and usernames. Again, limit the number of failed attempts to block users to make it hard for hackers to access your site. Update the plugins, themes, and any other elements to bring in new security patches. 

Conclusion

Your webpage is one of the most crucial investments, and you need to protect it from any search engine malicious attack. Remember that such activities can take away your hard-earned traffic, money and ruin your brand reputation. Hopefully, the above piece will guide you through.

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