Google engineer Matt Cutts wrote an extensive post describing Google’s response to a website that had undoubtedly been hacked. If you are at all curious as to what would happen to your website rankings on Google should it be hacked please read this post – it is an excellent read and comforting in my book.
In summary, here is the process that Google followed in the case provided by Matt Cutts:
- TalkOrigins.org was hacked November 18th
- November 27th Google was the first to notice that TalkOrigins.org had obviously been hacked; due to the new presence of pornographic links hidden within the background of the page. Google’s staff was notified and the site was removed from Google results so that Google users were not exposed to the ugly results of the hacking. A 60 day de-inclusion penalty was applied to the site.
- On the same day of November 27th, Google provided a warning within the Google Webmaster Console noting that the site had been penalized.
- November 28th Google tried to contact users at TalkOrigins.org via some basic email addresses such as contact@, support@, info@, and webmaster@ (some pretty reasonable guesses). This note included the exact problem and where it was located along with a link to follow to reinclude the site once the hacking had been removed (a copy of hte email is on Matt’s posting). Unfortunately this email did not get to the staff at TalkOrigins.org and the poor people went frantic when the site was dropped – understandably.
- TalkOrigins.org understandably got very upset and thought that Google was penalizing them unfairly. They wrote this note and this note describing their situation.
- TalkOrigins.org requested reinclusion into Google once the hacking had been removed. Matt Cutts confirmed the reinclusion and expected the site to be back up within 24-48 hours. Note that I can only assume that TalkOrigins.org filed the reinclusion on their own accord; there is no note that the two companies had actually connected and the tone of Matt’s post appears to reflect this.
All-in-all, this situation was handled well in my opinion. I am sure there is more that Google could have done… such as picked up a phone (I mean come on!!). That said, I am impressed with the responsiveness of Matt’s team and I am completely empathetic to the nightmare that the staff at TalkOrigins.org must have experienced.
If you are at all curious how Google handles different types of hacking or spam penalties, Matt also provided a great article – with examples – describing how Google responds in different situations.