Not a nice experience, this.
At the last Social Media Surgery I was chatting to the lovely Ged Hughes, who’s done a brilliant job with her Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum blog – well done Ged! Anyway, she was asking me how to improve a site’s Google ranking and I explained that, as you link and get linked back to and as your online social network grows, you rise up. I then tried to use Digbeth is Good as an example: “You see, if you search for ‘Digbeth’ in Google, Digbeth is Good is the first thing to come up.”
Except it wasn’t the first thing to come up. In fact, it was nowhere to be found. Digbeth is Good had kind of disappeared. It was probably around this time that Ben Whitehouse took this photograph:
A crisis call was shouted across the room to Pete Ashton, who did some online digging. It seemed that searches for ‘digbeth.org’ were okay but if you searched for ‘Digbeth’ or ‘Nicky Getgood’ the site was nowhere to be found. Curiouser and curiouser.
And then he switched the stylesheet off in page view and all became clear. It revealed a load of links in the header to all sorts of disgusting sites. Digbeth is Good had effectively been turned into a lot of links to sexing-type spam.
Things took a bit of fixing – seeing if it was a rogue WordPress plugin by disabling them all (it wasn’t), getting rid of the links in the template and changing the FTP password, which Pete suspected they’d got into.
So now the spam has gone. But the problem of the Google ranking hasn’t. Seems I’ve been put into the Google naughty corner for my sins and need to do a bit of work to get out of it. Like joining Google webmaster and putting in a ‘reconsideration request’ and other ideas on this film forwarded to me by the thoughtful Andy Mabbett.
I’m pretty annoyed about it. I feel kind of violated (some nasty pervert’s been fiddling with my Digbeth is Good baby) and I have to waste time and energy learning how to do stuff to put it right (I need to join Google Webmaster to put in a Reconsideration Request, and to do that I have to put a verification meta tag into the template header. Erk).
But a lesson’s been learnt. I had no idea that this could happen, I’d never heard of a template being hacked before. So be careful of your passwords and your WordPress plugins, folks. If the former is too easy, or the latter a nasty Trojan horse, you could end up linking to sites selling cheap, performance-enhancing drugs. Grrrr….