Recently, a prospect was referred to me by a long-time business colleague in the computer networking field.
Prospect wants updates to their WordPress website
The prospect, now my client, contacted me to update the portfolio on their WordPress website. As a high-end architectural firm that works with developers and general contractors across the United States, it is important to them to maintain a certain image, and, one way to accomplish that is to showcase recent projects. And, indeed, their website does showcase their projects using full-screen images and slideshows of before and after.
The home page, in fact, is solely comprised of a carousel of full-screen images with a menu that floats on top for quick navigation.
What the client didn’t know was that behind the carousel of images—was text.
The average viewer did not see the text because the images loaded quickly and overlaid the text. BUT, the text was always visible to the search engines.
Search engines read text
Search engines read text and not images. They read meta data (data about an image like the “alt” and “title” tags, creation date, etc.), but, cannot read an image.
The text behind the images was a list of porn websites with links to those sites.
Let’s pause and think about that for a minute…
Your home page, arguably the most important page of your website, and, certainly, the most visited page of your website, ‘openly’ links to porn websites.
[From here on, I will refer to the text and links as the ‘ugly stuff’ because I want to avoid being associated with the “p” word in the search engines.]
Non-professionals might be thinking, “No problem. Delete the ‘ugly stuff’, and let’s move on.” Naturally, the first course of action was to delete the text and links, BUT in the web world, it doesn’t end there.
We all rely on the search engines to get found. We trust that the search engines are going to correctly categorize us as the WordPress webmasters, SEO educators, dentists, mobile home communities, and, HVAC contractors that we are.
How do the search engines determine the category in which we belong? You guessed it…by reading the text on our websites.
And if the most popular page on our website has the ‘ugly stuff’ – and – is loaded with images that cannot be read – what must the search engines be thinking?
You might be thinking…Can’t the text on the other pages in the website override the text on the home page? Sure, to some extent. In all, though, there were less than 1000 words on the website. Every [marketing] message was delivered via images and slideshows. It takes a ton of text to override the negative, ‘ugly stuff’, bad reviews, negative comments, etc.
How long ago had the website been hacked?
After reviewing the WordPress files, logged activities, and talking with the client, it was determined that the hack was done in June 2013. Whoa!!! For six years, the search engines have visited the website and validated the ‘ugly stuff’ and the general state of the website which remained 99% images.
This is a very tough situation for a high-end business that is proposing on huge projects throughout the U.S. Heck, it is even a tougher situation for a small business and solo-preneur working locally who is fighting to get found in the search engines. A website hack left unfound like this one could quickly be catastrophic for someone who relies on website sales for their salaries.
So, what started as a simple WordPress website update project costing less than $500, has turned into a full-blown website redesign and search engine optimization (SEO) engagement that will probably cost upwards of $9,000 in 2019. SEO is not a one-and-done activity, so, there will be some money spent in 2020 and beyond, but, hopefully those SEO efforts will be focused on growth and not on image recovery.
What do we learn from this website being hacked?
- Images are nice, but, it is important to have a ton of text on your website in order to help the search engines properly categorize you in their indices.
- If your online business image is important to landing your next gig, you need a professional WordPress webmaster like myself managing the behind-the-scenes technical stuff so that hacks are avoided—or—found quickly and dealt with before the search engines miscategorize your business.
- Just because your website works, it is not a good idea to ‘do nothin’ for an extended period of time. The WordPress software is not like editing software that you buy and put on your laptop/desktop that doesn’t need to be updated as long as it keeps working. WordPress software needs to be updated every 4 – 6 weeks; not just the core, but the framework, themes, and plugins as well. (Learn how old files and unused files create incubators for hackers.)
Keeping your WordPress software up to date is a good first line of defense against hacks
Take a look at the WordPress software maintenance service called “WordPress Upgrades Package” I offer. You are worth the investment. Protecting your business’s online image is worth the investment.