What is SEO poisoning?

Posted on November 9, 2021

 

In recent months, researchers have noticed a rise in “black hat” search engine optimisation (SEO) being used for malicious purposes, in a technique known as SEO poisoning.

The name of SEO has often been dragged through the mud over the years by operators who create poor-quality, keyword-stuffed websites purely to advance their rankings, without offering any benefit to users. In some cases, this can simply be a nuisance, resulting in a poor user experience, but at its worst, it can have a more sinister purpose.

Researchers at cloud security platform Menlo say they have recently observed REvil ransomware campaigns and SolarMarker backdoor exploitation being carried out through SEO poisoning. This is when hackers obtain an existing website, fill it with popular search terms in an attempt to boost its search engine rankings, and hoodwink visitors into clicking malicious links, downloading malware and giving away personal information.

The technique is not a new one, and the advice to website owners and users remains the same – keep your antivirus software up to date, be careful what you share online and look for the signs of suspicious-looking sites – but what does it tell us about SEO in 2021?

The first thing is that keyword use still works in terms of rankings and signalling to search engines what a website is all about, although irrelevant keyword stuffing is sure to have a long-term detrimental effect on your site.

Perhaps more importantly, this approach is a turn-off for website users, who may visit your site but leave quickly when they realise how poor the content is. Worse still, with internet users becoming more clued up on cybercrime, black hat SEO is increasingly being seen as not just a hallmark of a website of no value, but one to be suspicious of.

That’s why the key to effective SEO is high-quality content with a natural use of relevant keywords. Speak to the team here at Engage Web to learn about how we can help you with copywriting and web content.

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.
John Murray
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