Google has one of the most accurate malware scanning features built into its browser and search engine. Google can also penalize your website pretty severely if it detects malware, so as soon as you are notified it’s time to act quickly, not only because it will ruin all your advertising and SEO but also because you’ll lose traffic dramatically. Being labelled as having malware on your site means one of two things i.e. either your website was hacked and malware was installed by the hacker on purpose or there is a coding problem. The chances of it being a false positive is one in fifty.
Take your site down
When your website has been tagged as having malware on it, search engine optimization should be the least of your worries. So, don’t think too much about taking your site down for the next 24 to 48 hours to fix the error or issue. Once down start by verifying the issue by visiting: http://google.com/webmasters/, here you should get some information about the malicious code causing the problem.
The most common types of malware and solutions
The two most common reasons why your website may be labelled as spam is either because you have out of date software running or have an open redirect in place. There are also other reasons like SQL injections, infected admin computer and coding errors. But for the sake of simplicity we’ll just address two of the most common ones below.
Outdated software: Make sure that you check if you have the latest updated version of the operating system, blogging platform software, plugins, applications and content management system. Turn on the ‘auto-update’ feature for each of these things and they should auto update and you’ll never have this problem again. The updates should also patch up any vulnerabilities that may exist.
Open Redirects: These are usually coded to allow the website to redirect visitors to another website. Usually, an old website will have a redirect setup to take people to a new URL that hosts the new website. This is often the case when a company changes its domain and business name. But hackers will abuse these open redirects by adding their own malware or spam pages. The easiest way to fix this issue is to check your software and see if the option for open redirects has been enabled. If it’s turned on by default you may want to turn it off. You can also code the page to prohibit open redirects.
Using the QualysGuard tool
Even though Google does allow you to learn a little bit about why your website has been labelled as having malware if you are not tech minded you will have issues. Most people who are not programmers will have a problem detecting and eventually fixing problems that are not any one of the ones discussed above.
The program works by emulating a real browser working from a user’s machine. Even though this assures accurate analysis it will mess up your web analytics statics because the automated system will show up as a number of individual visits to your website. So, you’ll need to setup your analytics software in advance to filter all of the tool’s visits to your website.
Once the system has compiled a complete analysis report it is emailed to you. In most cases the average computer user should be able to understand the findings of the system and run appropriate fixes. However, some fixes that require recoding in PHP or MySql will require an experienced programmer.
Get off Google’s Blacklist
Once you are 100% sure that your website is free from viruses, Trojans and malware, it’s time to submit your website to Google for reconsideration. This is the only way to get off the blacklist. Head over to Google’ webmaster tools and navigate down to ‘Request a Review’ then submit your website again. It takes a few minutes. But it takes Google around two weeks to get around to whitelisting your website.
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Nathanael Vanderkolk is a qualified SEO optimisation specialist who has spent the last fifteen years optimizing websites for Smart SEO Clients. He currently runs his own SEO business based in Sydney.