Why would anyone want to hack my website?

log on boxWith the news that 30m credit and debit card details from US customers and over 1m sets of card details belonging to visitors to the US, have been put up for sale on the Dark Web following a malware attack against US convenience retailer Wawa I thought I’d take time out to explain why small businesses are just as at-risk from hacking as large organisations.

But first, let’s take a look of some of the major security breaches that occurred last year. According to Risk Based Security’s Data Breach Report there were 5,183 breaches by the end of September 2019 alone. These exposed more than 7.9 billion records. This was a 33.3% increase on the same period in 2018.

Here are some of the worst breaches.

  • Orvibo Smart home products – 2 billion records discovered on an unprotected database. These comprised of private individuals, hotels and businesses who were using Orvibo’s smart home devices. The data included email addresses, passwords, user names, family names and addresses.
  • Dream Market Breach – 617m online account details stolen from 16 hacked websites, including MyFitnessPal (151m). Data stolen included user names, passwords and email addresses.
  • Canva – 139m records stolen, names, user names, passwords, email addresses and location.
  • Capital One – 106m records hacked with names, addresses, credit scores, email addresses, dates of birth and more stolen.
  • Words with Friends – 218m records stolen, including names, email addresses, passwords, phone numbers and, where linked, Facebook ID info

However, these are just some of the ones that hit the headlines. Thousands don’t,  particularly attacks on smaller businesses. Research indicates that nearly 70% of SME’s experience cyber attacks (Ponemon State of SMB Cyber Security 2018) but why SMEs?

I talk to many people who believe their businesses are too small to have anything of value to the hackers. However, the truth is that they are too small to have a dedicated cyber security officer/specialist and so are easy targets.

Let’s take websites – most businesses use WordPress – over 1/3rd of websites use it. There’s nothing wrong with WordPress but, as the world’s most popular web development tool, it is also the hackers main target. (A bit like the way Windows is targeted compared to Apple’s operating system – its all in the number of targets)

WordPress is pretty secure and there are Plugins to make it more so BUT you have to keep everything up to date. Keep WordPress up to date, keep your plugins updated too because if you don’t you might be leaving holes in your security for the bad guys to exploit. 

But why would they?

  • Small companies are frequently connected to larger organisations and they might be a way in
  • Hacked systems can store illegal material
  • Hacked systems can be used in attacks on other websites (DDoS)
  • Hacked systems can host Malware
  • Hacked systems could provide access to valuable Intellectual Property
  • Hacked systems could provide easy access to other valuable data

Malware

Safer Internet DayImagine you have a reasonably popular website. Hackers will look to gain access to your site and plant malware on it that will automatically download (and install) itself on the computers of everyone who visits your website. The malware could allow the hackers to record the keystrokes of infected machines, could enable the hackers to take remote control of infected machines or turn them in to storage depots for illegal material.

Imagine how your reputation will suffer when this comes to light. 

  1. Keystroke recorders
    A keystroke recorder does what it says on the tin, it records every single keystroke made on a keyboard and secretly transmits it to a malicious 3rd party. This could be bank/card details, online shopping details, log-in user names and passwords, and much more
  2. Remote Control – DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service Attack)
    With the ability to remotely control your PC, and hundreds or thousands of others, malicious 3rd parties can “take down” target websites simply by overwhelming them with more web traffic than the website can cope with. Remember what happens to the Glastonbury website when the tickets are released – although not malicious the number of people desperate to get their tickets tend to bring the website to its knees as soon as tickets are made available

    Imagine a bookmakers website going off line a week before a major betting event. They’d be contacted by the Cyber Criminals who will admit responsibility. The bookmakers will then be told to “pay up” or their website will be blocked again, much closer to “big day” and prevent bets being placed.
  3. Illegal data storage
    Imagine the scene. There you are working in your office and there’s a battering ram through the door followed by police storming in with a warrant to take ALL of your computing devices. Your business will grind to a halt but why have you been targeted? Simples, as the meerkats say – the police have identified one or more of your computers/servers as the source of illegal material. This could be pirated software, music, films or worse. In the worst case scenario this information hits the local (and possibly national media) and your reputation is trashed. And you may not even have been at fault!
  4. GDPR
    Under all of the above scenarios you’ll probably have to report the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) under GDPR. After investigation, If your security and procedures are found wanting then you might be liable for a fine. GDPR states that fines can be up to 4% of your turnover, and that’s no laughing matter

How do I prevent this happening to me

No security system is 100% watertight, there are just too many variables and access points. The closer you get to 100% the more expensive it becomes to close those last few security percentage points. However, like home security, your job is to make sure that your security is as good as it can be so that the bad guys choose an easier target.

Get in touch with a good IT company or Cyber Security company or you could #AskAndy. Drop me an email – andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call on 01793 238020 and we can start the ball rolling. I know that I’m not a security consultant but I know quite a bit and can always point you in the direction of a trusted third party if you need more help.

New Year – New Security Resolution

Tamara EcclestoneIn December last year Tamara Ecclestone’s London home was burgled and jewellery worth £50m was stolen.

Leaving aside the fact that this is a phenomenal sum of money to have invested in jewellery only to leave it “lying around” there are many rumours as to the particular timing of the heist.

Just a few hours before the robbery took place, Tamara and her husband shared a picture on Instagram of them boarding a private jet.

As a billionairess it’s no doubt that people of a dubious background will have been watching her social media updates hoping for just such an opportunity. They will have lists of targets, important addresses and social media accounts and probably even have plans in place, ready for execution as soon as an opportunity presents itself.

So, think about the pictures you post to Social Media. What do they give away? All those photos of you sunning yourself on a beach somewhere warm and exotic tells near do wells that you are not at home. Photos of road trips tell people that you are not at home, or in your business.

You even need to make sure that there’s nothing in the background of the picture that can be zoomed in to that might give away something you’d rather kept private. An innocent looking photo taken outside of your house could, if zoomed in, give away your house number whilst previous, or subsequent pictures could give away your street name – for example.

If you are going away, and you are an important cog in your business, it could encourage scammers to target employees with fake emails requesting money transfers, payment of fake bills and invoices etc.

log on boxSo why not make 2020 the year you strengthen your security fortifications. Make a start with passwords and email.

  • Conduct a password audit of everything AND everybody involved in your business.
  • Enforce the use of strong passwords and encourage the use of password managers
  • Make sure that you have a strong email policy in place.
  • Educate yourself and your employees on the tricks used by scammers-
    • how to check whether a link in an email takes the clicker to a safe site or not
      Hint – hover your cursor over the link to see the full web address
    • Ensure that the email comes from a trusted address. Is it from mycompany.co.uk or mycompany.co or myc0mpany.co.uk for example?
      hint – hover your cursor over the address or just hit “reply”
    • Are there any obvious spelling or grammatical errors?
    • Would you be expecting an email from this particular source?
    • Does the email express an urgent response?

Don’t forget that people new to your organisation should also receive the same level of training. Always remember that “if it feels to good to be true” then it probably is

And if you are still unsure, look up the phone number for the company that you think the email is from and give them a call – don’t rely on the phone number that’s displayed within the potential scam email.

Watch out for more emails looking at security issues and if you have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great, and secure 2020.

 

 

Christmas is coming, don’t let the hackers get fat

Christmas is nearly here, people are beginning the big “wind down” and it would be so easy to let your guard down too.

Andy, checking out websites as part of his workWell, let me tell you, the hackers and cyber criminals won’t – if anything they’ll be ratcheting up their activity because they know that our minds will be on other things.

You know, things like Christmas parties, gifts, food, television and everything else that’s associated with the season of goodwill.

So, vigilance must remain high, both in the office and when working from home. Keep your eyes open for suspicious looking emails, especially those coming from unexpected quarters, with messages that promise much, such as tax refunds or deliveries of items you don’t remember ordering. Also beware of emails with links to websites that look OK but in reality will do harm.

It’s also a good idea to take a fresh look at your password security. SplashData have just released their ninth annual “Worst Passwords of the Year” list which has been compiled from more than 5m passwords that have ended up on the Dark Web after being purloined by hackers.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed over previous lists

  1. 123456 (same place as 2018)
  2. 123456789 (up 1 place)
  3. qwerty (a return to the top 5 for this old favourite)
  4. password (slips two places)
  5. 1234567 (up 2)
  6. 12345678 (falls out of the top 5)
  7. 12345 (falls by 2 places)
  8. iloveyou (this perennial is up 2 places from 10 in 2018)
  9. 111111 (yes, people do use this although it’s fallen 3 places from last year)
  10. abc123 (up 7 and breaking in to the top 10)

You can see passwords from 11 to 25 here.

SplashData estimates that at least 1 in 10 people have used at least one of these poor passwords.

Data breaches are inevitable but by using strong, unique passwords for each individual account that you have makes the theft of one password much less of a disaster than if you use the same (or close variant) across all of your accounts.

3 simple tips to make your digital life more secure

  1. Use passphrases (random word combinations) of 12 characters or more with mixed character types
  2. Use a different password for each of your log-ins so if you loose one password you haven’t lost all of the keys to your digital empire
  3. Use a password manager to secure your digital assets, to generate random password combinations, store them securely and make them available across all of your devices

And PLEASE, if this applies to to you – STOP USING PASSWORD or 12345678 and use one of these instead

Top Password Managers (in no particular order)

Have a great Christmas, a happy new year and I look forward to communicating with you in the new year. If you need any help, please, just ask. You can reach me by phone – 01793 238020 – email – andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or just hunt me down on Social Media.

However, I hope to enjoy Christmas too so may be slower than normal in responding to your requests. I’ll be back in the office on January 2nd.

What’s your Digital Footprint and what is Reputation Management

What do people see when they search for you and your business? What can they find without looking too hard? What does it say about your business and you?

Are you easy to find, as a business and perhaps as an individual. If not, you might need some help.

Carry out a search on your favourite search and see what comes up.

If the results are not what you were expecting then some work is required.

I couldn’t find anything on the first page

If neither you, nor your business, come up on the first page of Google search then you need some Search Engine Optimisation. Either learn how to do your own or bring in a specialist who will be able to go over your website with a fine toothed comb, identify opportunities for improvement and then implement them. But don’t expect miracles – it takes weeks (at the best) and many months (at the worst) for SEO to take effect.(insert shameless plug for Andy Poulton and Enterprise Online Marketing Solutions here).

If your search results look something like these then you are off to a good start. Google has found a lot of references to the search and you can investigate them to make sure that you can see the type of content you would hope for, and expect.

Reputation Management

If the results are not what you hoped for, perhaps a  negative review appeared or somebody had made a negative comment on Social Media then you need to do some Reputation Management. This will involve mitigating the negative content in some way.

If it’s a negative review then you should

  1. post a rebuttal – if possible and without sounding mealy mouthed or catty
  2. encourage more positive reviews to push the negative comments out of the headlines

If it’s a negative blog post, or similar, then you should start to write similar looking posts, but with a positive spin. The goal being to, again, swamp the search results with fresh, positive content, with the aim of pushing the negativity off page one.

What to do next

If you need help with your visibility or your reputation needs some management then give me a call (01793 238020) or email me, for a no cost, obligation free, chat about your challenge and I’ll see how I can help

Are you missing out on a great marketing opportunity?

Email MarketingIf you are on my email newsletter list so you already like email marketing but  are you using email for your business? If so, well done, how is it working out for you?

If not, then perhaps you should read the following before you continue to miss out on one of the greatest marketing opportunities.

  • Did you know that 66% of consumers (businesses and consumers) have made an online purchase as a direct result of an email marketing message.(1)
  • There are more than 6.32 billion email accounts and this is predicted to reach 7.71 billion by 2021. Facebook has 1.3 billion users. A big number, for sure, but that’s around 1/5th the number of email accounts.(2)
  • Despite the explosion of Social Media 72% of consumers say that they prefer to receive their news via email than any other means. This is because ti comes TO them, they don’t have to search it out.(3)
  • 61% say they like to receive weekly promotional emails and 28% want them even more frequently! (4)

And here are some more reasons to use email marketing

Hand clicking on "quality"
  • Personalise.
    One of the other great advantages of email marketing over social media is that you can talk personally to your recipients.
  • Delivery.
    90% of emails reach their destination, the in-boxes of your clients
  • It’s easier
    It’s 5 times easier to win more business from existing customers than it it is to bring a single, new, customer on board
  • Great ROI.
    The DMA quote the return on investment of email marketing as 40:1 so for every $1 spent you get a return of $40
  • Calls-To-Action.
    You can easily add effective Calls-to-Action to your emails
    Buy Now
  • Performance monitoring
    You can measure the effectiveness of your email campaigns
  • Popular
    Email is the most popular activity on SmartPhones

How do you write to?

I’m not talking about buying lists of data but sending emails to your existing customers, which is permitted under GDPR, and encouraging people to subscribe to newsletters.

You can do this using pop-overs on your website, collecting data at networking events and business shows, in fact in any place where you cross paths with potential customers.

Next Steps

If you are interested in releasing the power of email marketing and need some help getting started, with creating your messages and/or with making sure your messages don’t get caught by the spam filters then get in touch.

It’s easy to do. Just give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk for a free chat about email marketing for your business or organisation.

  1. Direct Marketing Association
  2. Radicati Group, 2017
  3. Marketing Sherpa
  4. Marketing Sherpa

Another Google Update

Google my Business

Last week there was a lot of talk across the SEO network about changes to results for Google Maps/Places/Google MyBusiness.

Some businesses seem to have suffered massively impacted by the changes. 

The way that it works is that a business sets up their GMB account and lets Google know of the areas that they service and so, when a Google user searches for a local business, Google looks at where the person in searching from and displays businesses based on those that are located in an (approx) 10 mile radius of the searcher although competitors up to 60 miles away might be shown.

This latest update now seems to have reduced the radius to just 5 miles with competitor activity limited to 17 miles.

There appears to have been some “bounce”, some businesses dropped out totally but a number then subsequently recovered as Google tweaked the algorithm although the tweaks now seem to have ended so where you are is where you will remain.

It would appear that the number and quality of reviews are not having an impact and the update affects all business sectors.

What can you do?

Not a great deal. Just make sure that your GMB profile is as complete as possible and make regular posts/updates and if you are unhappy about the outcome you can complain to Google using their “Business Redressal Complaint Form

And if you want to discuss this, or any other SEO/Google Ads, issues please don’t hesitate to give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or make contact via Twitter or Linkedin

How Google’s BERT help catch a cow fishing

Google logo

I know, I know, you can’t really catch a cow when you go fishing, can you? Well, you can when you realise that a cow is actually another name for a large, striped, saltwater game fish.

And BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) is a major update to the Google search algorithm that has nothing to do with Transformers films or toys.

What does BERT do?

Google has been consistently trying to understand the context of the words used in Google searches. In the early days of Google they just searched on the words used in the query without attempting to understand the context. So, if you wanted to go on holiday to Majorca and wanted a hotel with a swimming pool you might search using “Hotel Majorca Swimming Pool” for example.

However, your results might include the Hotel Majorca on Swimming Pool Road in Lowestoft or a hotel on Majorca Avenue in Andover or other results based on any combination of the words without understanding the real nature of your search.

Next up came semantic search which was Google’s first attempt to understand context of searches but my experience was that it wasn’t really that much of an improvement on what went before.

And this is where BERT comes in, BERT is a “deep learning algorithm that is related to natural language processing” and it helps a machine to actually understand what the words in a sentence mean, and can take in to account all of the nuances that are included in human speech.

Roger Monti of the Search Engine Journal was looking for a search phrase that he could use to demonstrate how context was interpreted and settled on “how to catch a cow fishing”.

Before BERT, Google returned a lot of results based on livestock and cows in particular. However, following the BERT roll out Google used “fishing” to understand the context and the same search ,conducted by Roger, at the end of October was full of striped bass and fishing related results.

A striped bass being held by a fisherman
A Striped Bass

Do I have to do anything on my website?

Not really. You just need to make sure that you continue to deliver quality, focused content and continue to use synonyms where relevant and appropriate.

BERT is currently rolling out globally and so may not have reached a Google Server near you, yet,

If you DO need some help with your website, search engine optimisation and/or your social media and email marketing you can always get in touch for a chat – 01793 238020 or andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

What does your email address say about you and your business?

Getting the right email addressI’ve been meaning to write about this for a while now and was reminded again about the message your email address sends when I was following a trades-person’s van recently. The van was sign written [good], carried a large phone number [good], web address in significantly smaller [not so good] print http://www.jobbingtrader.co.uk and an email address,  not just any email but a Gmail address [awful], jobbing-trader13@gmail.com [names have been changed to protect my health].

This is wrong on so many levels.

First off – a Gmail address, really! In fact any free email address, such as one from Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo, Virgin, BTInternet or AOL to name but a few really does send the wrong message!

Secondly, it also shouts I don’t understand. It’s far easier to remember an email address when the bit that goes after the @ is the same that goes after the www. You are getting twice the chance of people remembering your contact details

Thirdly, you are missing out on so many opportunities to better manage your email. You can have multiple addresses, info@, sales@, accounts@, enquiries@, myname@ to name just a few. You can set up folders in your email program for each address and easily create rules which automatically route incoming emails and move them to the relevant folder.

With each part of your business having a unique email address everything is a little easier to prioritise and manage. As an example, you could look at sales@ first because these might be new contracts, accounts@ next because these relate to money and myname@ last because these are more likely to be personal in nature.

All of the above can be easily achieved if you have your own web address because each web address can usually have more than one email address and most email programs enable you to set up folders and create rules.

Managing your emails in this way will help you to present a more professional look to the outside world and enable you to be more effective when it comes to managing your emails and the way that you act, save, delete and back them up. You do back up your emails don’t you?

If you have any questions about your email services then get in touch blog@enterprise-oms.co.uk [did you see what I did there?] or give me a call on 01793 238020

Where do you get your pictures from?

You need pictures for your website, your blog or your email marketing. Pictures helps make it look nice, showcases your products and services, breaks up your text, helps with your SEO and each picture is worth a thousand words, according to the old Chinese proverb.

And Social Media demands pictures. I’m not just talking about Instagram and Pinterest but Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc because using pictures helps you post stand out from the crowd. Does anyone even read a “boring” text update these days?

But where do you get your pictures from?

Do you just go to Google, do a search, filter it by images and look for those that appeal? Do you look at other websites and think “that’s a nice picture, I’ll have some of that”.

Google Images selection of fast carsBelieve it or not, some people still believe that you can use any picture that you find on the internet. It’s OK because it’s there, on the internet, so it’s there for anyone and everyone – isn’t it? Do a Google image search, browse the web, find a picture you like, right-click and choose “Save As” and the picture’s yours to use in any (and every) way you see fit.

That’s the attitude that was very common in the early days of the internet. It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.

sketch on a napkinEvery picture on the internet has been taken by a photographer or created by someone, frequently with a particular purpose in mind. As soon as the image has been created the copyright is automatically assigned to the creator. They don’t have to do anything, they don’t have to register it anywhere, mark it in some way or declare that it’s copyrighted. The mere process of creation automatically creates the copyright at the same time. Even a sketch on a napkin.

So where can you get pictures from

Google Image Selection Tool

Well, you can still use your Google Image Search, you just have to be a little selective.
Instead of just choosing the first picture you come across, you can filter the images by “usage rights”. Click on the “Tools” button and a fresh line of navigation appears. Click on the “Usage Rights” and choose “Labeled for reuse”.

It is still advisable to check the rights that the publisher has attached to the image but at least you’re looking at images that should be OK for re-use.

But why use a picture created by someone else or a photograph taken by someone else? Far better to create something of your own. That way, you can be sure that it won’t appear on any other website. Use the camera in your phone, use your digital camera if you have one. Just make sure that your pictures are in focus, well lit and focus on the subject.

Alternatively, if your budget can stand it bring in a professional photographer or use a graphic designer. You’ll be sure to get unique, high quality content and the cost may just be a lot less than you expect. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Of course, there are large libraries of stock images where you search for a picture that suits your needs. When you find one you’ll have to purchase a license to use it. Probably the most well known image library is Getty Images, a vast repository of high quality stock photography – but it’s not cheap. Shutterstock is another – and there are several more.

However, if you are working to a really tight budget, there are a number of stock photo sites that have a wide range of images that are actually free to use – here’s a small selection of ones that I turn to when the need arises

What happens if you get caught

All of the big stock photography libraries have software tools that are always crawling the internet. They are sophisticated enough to be able to tell whether you have cropped an image, flipped it left to right or carried out other forms of editing designed to hid the origin of the image – even if you have renamed it.

If you are caught using an unlicensed image you will be sent a letter from the copyright owner’s solicitor demanding payment. There is no way around paying; they will hound you remorselessly, like the Terminator. The demand will be based on how long they think you have been using the image so it could go in to the thousands of pounds. I have known people who have managed to negotiate the fee down, but they have never managed to negotiate it down to zero.

The whole tone of this email exchange in this regard can be very aggressive and unpleasant. Not good if you’re looking to keep your stress levels down.

Even if you “borrow” the image from a website you’ll never know. They may have bought a license to use the image but you haven’t – so you’ll have to pay up.

What’s the solution?

Ensure that you know where every single one of your images has come from and that you have the appropriate rights to use the picture and if you need any help – just give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

What is “bad” SEO

SEO writing on a windowThe Art/Science/Discipline (delete as you see fit) of Search Engine Optimisation, aka SEO, has many branches. However, the first decision is whether you are going to use best practice or try to “game” the system, aka cheat, to get the search results you need.

The SEO practitioners who cheat are known as “black hatters” or “unethical” whilst the good guys are “white hats” or ethical.

Which you choose is up to you, however the impact on your business, if you make the wrong choice, could be disastrous.

How long does SEO take to have an impact on your website?
SEO takes time, months not days, not weeks but months. However, sometimes there are ways to “game” the system that can deliver results far more quickly. The downside is that doing this will be going against Google’s Best practice guidelines & will attract penalties from them.

Yes, your website might rocket up the search engine results but, once your site has been identified as using unethical techniques,Google will apply a penalty.

Google Penalties
Remember, Google does not have to list you anywhere, it’s of no real benefit to Google to have you in their listings and if you go against their guidelines you will be penalised.

Google is constantly checking results to make sure that the right sites are listed in the right place, to make sure that sites are not gaining unfair advantage and making sure that sites are not cheating the system.

In my experience, when caught cheating Google has three levels of penalty it can apply, depending on the seriousness of the “crime”.

  1. If it’s a relatively minor digression then Google may simply stop monitoring your site. Any updates that you apply to your site will be ignored. This means your site will just slowly drift down the pages until your site effectively disappears.
  2. A more serious misdemeanour will see your site actively demoted, perhaps by 5 pages (for example). With only 10% of Google searchers EVER going beyond Page 2 of the results, if you are on Page 5 you may as well be on Page 100.
  3. Total deletion from the Google database. Remember, Google is under no obligation to you.

Google Search ConsoleThankfully, most issues tend to be (1) and (2) and Google will let you know before a penalty is applied and give you time to put a remedy in place. They do this through the Search Console. You do use the Search Console, don’t you?

If you click on the “Security & Manual Actions” link in the Search Console’s left-hand navigation menu, Google will have posted any penalties that it is looking to apply. You have about a month to resolve any which means that you need to be checking every fortnight, giving you a good 2 weeks to resolve any issues.

How to overcome a penalty
If Google advises you that you have done something that goes against their guidelines and that they are about to apply a penalty you need to put a solution in place.

The first step is to identify what has caused the problem. Contact your SEO company and ask them what they have done and instruct them to undo it, PDQ! If you have done it yourself then you need to undo the dubious SEO tricks that you have applied to your site.

If Google don’t tell you, how will you know that you have been the subject of a penalty
Over the 20 or so years that I have been doing SEO I have fielded a number of calls from business people (not clients of mine) which all went in the same direction.

“Hi Andy, I don’t know if you can help but yesterday my business was on Page 1 of Google search. Now I can’t find it, and I’ve gone to Page 20. What’s happened?”

What’s happened is that they have been hit, and hit hard, by Google and have likely been deleted from their database.

Another way to tell is through Google Analytics, if your web traffic falls off a cliff, for example – as shown in the Analytics screen grab, below.

Google Analytics graph hit by a Google Penalty

 

If you receive notification from Google that they are going to apply a manual penalty then you have time to reverse the activity that was the cause of this warning.

If, however, you are like the people that have called me, and your site has simply disappeared it might be better to bite the bullet, buy a new domain name, build a new site and start again.

In many previous cases, I have worked with businesses to identify what went wrong, put corrections and rectifications in place and then tried to convince Google to relist them. When, after 6 months, there had been no change, my recommendation was to start again.

However, the last time I did this was a couple of years ago so things could have changed

Types of Black Hat Activity
Cheating has changed over the years. Back in the (very) early days of SEO, all that was required was to add keywords multiple times in the Keywords Meta Tag and repeat them multiple times on the page itself. So you’d have a page of content and them across the bottom of the page you’d see the keyword repeated many, many times.

Keyword, Keyword, Keyword, Keyword. Keyword, Keyword

The search engines spotted this and didn’t like it & the web developers realised that this looked bad so they changed the font colour to match the background so the visitor couldn’t see the text but the search engines could.

The search engines soon spotted this and didn’t like it so Black Hat SEO people simply made the font size 0. The text disappeared from the page, but was still visible in the HTML that could be read by the search engines.

The search engines spotted this too and didn’t like it so the SEO folks went for keyword “stuffing”. Cramming the keyword in to as many keyword places that they keyword possibly keyword could

The visitors didn’t like this and went elsewhere.

Next came Link Building and Link Farming. Buying back-links from websites that simply published lists of websites on thousands of pages, for a fee. These pages effectively looked like a phone directory where the only content was links to websites.

But Google didn’t like this and link farm users were likely to find themselves deleted

The next technique was cloaking. Your web-server can differentiate between you and I visiting a website and a search engine. Black hat SEO folks learned this and created content that was precisely what the search engines were looking for and only showed this content to the search engines. It was a bit like putting a honey pot at the end of the garden to attract the wasps when you’re having a picnic in the garden on a sunny day

But Google didn’t like this & users of cloaking were likely to find their sites deleted

How can you tell the difference between White and Black Hat SE Optimisers
If someone approaches you, offering to do your SEO and they guarantee to get you on Page 1 then I’d be inclined to avoid them. Nobody can guarantee this unless they are either

  1. Running a Google Ads campaign – but they should tell you this
  2. Running a Black Hat campaign.

If you ask an SEO agency how they will optimise your site, they should tell you what they will be doing. They should also tell you that they can’t guarantee results, just that they will use their skills and experience to move your site higher in the search results.

Avoid being hit by a penalty and do your SEO the right way. Give me a call to discuss ethical, White Hat SEO for your website on 01793 238020 or drop an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk