There is nothing worse than receiving a notification from a site visitor that your site has been flagged as spam or malicious. After all, you spend hours creating unique content and making sure your website is perfect. But that flag can cause untold problems, not just for your site traffic but also for your reputation and search engine optimization.
Here’s how to deal with the problem if it occurs.
First, don’t ignore the problem. Google can remove you from the search engine rankings if the problem isn’t solved, you’ll lose traffic when visitors see the malicious page warning, and your website hosting company may even take down your site.
You need to find out if the flag is for spam or for malicious content.
This could be because Google or another search engine has updated its algorithm or changed it entirely (as with Hummingbird) and your content is viewed as spam. Quality, unique, fresh content and well-written copy will always help prevent this occurrence.
Spoofing of your domain to send Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE). It is a relatively simple matter to disguise the headers in an email and for a spammer to send out junk email making it appear as though it came from your servers. Increase security on your email servers or seek support from your hosting company if you have become a victim of this practice.
Shared IP addresses – some cheap hosting companies have a block of websites on a single IP address. Check before you choose your hosting company whether this is the case and either pay for your own IP address or go to another host. Even if one website on your IP address is flagged, you can suffer too – so stay out of those “bad neighborhoods”.
Malware, virus, spyware, malicious code, a vulnerable plug-in – there are many ways that your site can be attacked. You must make sure that your website code is updated at all times, especially if using WordPress or similar mass use content management systems which often become a target. Be careful what you upload to your site and always scan any files before putting these onto your site and server.
How To Resolve The Problem
The most common flag is from Google. To check whether your website has been flagged, use this link: http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=YOURDOMAINHERE
Next, you’ll need to eliminate the malware on your site and fix the problem. This means
a) searching the Internet for solutions
b) talking to your hosting company and/or
c) getting a developer or security expert to resolve the problem
All the big anti-virus companies now offer online checks for virus and malware so all you need to do is just enter your URL. These include Norton Safe Web, McAfee Site Advisor, AVG Online Web Scanner, Trend Micro and Securi. While it might be a little time-consuming, it’s worth using all the tools as some sites will detect problems that others may miss.
The vast majority of malware and viruses are detected rapidly and solutions can be found online. However, if the solution is beyond your technical skill set, do seek advice and expertise rather than ignoring the problem.
Many people use plug-ins and extensions to constantly monitor the sites that they visit to avoid infection. These work mainly through reporting by the community of users.
The most well-known of these is Web of Trust which works in all the major browsers. It is an indispensable extension for safer surfing whether your site has been compromised or not.
When you have resolved the issue, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again – so make sure you have taken all the necessary steps to protect yourself from another issue with malicious content.