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Defending against SEO attacks in the enterprise

What is an SEO attack and how can I protect my enterprise organization from this type of threat?

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Search engine optimization (SEO) attacks occur when search engine results pages are manipulated by an attacker where an organization's website is ranked lower than the attacker's website and the attacker distributes malware from his/her website. The attacker can use several different techniques to affect search engine results pages, including proxy hacking, spamdexing, link farms, keyword stuffing and article spinning. Let's cover each method briefly.

Proxy hacking is the process of getting a website indexed through a proxy, which then manipulates the search index for the website. Proxy hacking can be rendered ineffective by limiting connections to your website from open proxies. There is software available for proxy hacking protection that runs either as a part of a Web server or as a part of the webpages themselves.

Spamdexing entails replicating content unrelated to search terms to manipulate the relevancy of webpages indexed by a search engine. This type of attack can be stopped by searching for your content and contacting websites that duplicate it.

Link farms are websites that have a large number of links to each other to manipulate the relevancy of webpages indexed by a search engine. You would also need to contact websites if a link farm links to your website to ask them to stop doing so.

Keyword stuffing is when a webpage has a large number of keywords in the meta tags in an attempt to improve the content's rank in a search engine. Keyword stuffing is an attack on the search engine and not something you can do anything about.

Finally, article spinning involves rewriting existing webpages and replacing parts to avoid being penalized by search engines for using duplicate content. Article spinning, as with spamdexing, can be stopped by contacting the website that is copying your content and having them remove the infringing content.

This was first published in May 2010

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