Blacklists – How to Avoid Them And Prevent Being Added to One
Google is extremely well known as both the technology giant and the search engine used worldwide. What you may not have known is that Google plays an even larger role in ensuring a secure internet. Every single website that appears within Google’s search results is scanned for suspicious activity and infectious, dangerous code. Once identified, these sites are blacklisted from Google’s search results, ensuring users are safe from malicious traffic.
A major issue for businesses is being blacklisted by Google for hosting a compromised website and losing web traffic. It may not even be apparent that the website in question is blacklisted! However, there IS a way to remove a website from Google’s blacklist.
Why might your website be blacklisted? Here are some key reasons:
- Malware! Google will perform a blacklist to malware-ridden sites when they are doubtful the website’s sole intent is to spread the infection. In other words? Your website has been exploited and will download infected files when visited. Google often stops users from visiting such sites with common messages, such as ‘This site may be hacked’, and ‘This site may harm your computer’.
- Phishing attacks. Despite Google’s best efforts to determine and remove bad websites, not all websites are real. Phishing websites are designed to impersonate a well-known, reputed website to steal your financial or other confidential information. Google will stop you with a page of full, bright red to warn you the page you are visiting is designed to steal your credentials.
- Black Hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Bad actors seeking to increase clicks on their websites will often use unethical SEO to appear on user searches. Black Hat SEO tactics are unethical and inexcusable. Google blocks sites that dabble in Black Hat SEO.
- Plagiarism/plagiarized content. No one in this era should have plagiarized content on their website. Once Google detects plagiarized content, the website is immediately IP blacklisted. It is quite difficult to remove a domain from a blacklist due to policy infringement.
- Unwanted site redirection. Unethical hackers may redirect their site traffic towards your website to get it blacklisted. This may be achieved through fake links, pop-up windows on their site, or even false advertisements.
If you or your company is unsure where to start with whitelisting your website, this is how to start:
- Find the problem! You cannot fix something if the problem is unknown. Determine what the issue is, be it malware, spam, or unintentional plagiarism! Google’s Search Console can save you the headache of trying to scour around your site and finding the reason for your blacklisted website.
- Once you have located the problem and identified what it is, you will need to resolve it. In many cases, this may entail the hiring of a professional to assess the appropriate measures that must be taken. Professional help is always recommended, rather than taking on the problem solo.
- In the event, help is not readily available, or you are well equipped to handle the task, there are steps to mitigate any damages:
- Remove or revert unknown modifications
- Delete the site, and start from scratch or load a backup of the page
- Revoke access to outdated plugins and modules
- Scrub database entries clean to remove hidden infections
- Ensure users and employees are taking advantage of 2FA (2-factor authentication)
- Exercise extreme caution when closing loopholes
- Run penetration testing to verify the website has no vulnerabilities
- Once the website has been thoroughly tested and verified, submit the website in question to Google for a malware review. Bear in mind that removing a website from Google’s blacklist is time-consuming, and it can take days for Google to approve the change.Here are a few steps that need to be taken to submit a website for review:
- Browse the issues found by Google within the Security Issues Tab
- Select ‘I have fixed these issues’
- Click ‘Request a review’
- Detail all the actions are taken to secure the website
- Click ‘Manual Actions’ section
- Repeat the above steps if you are facing multiple issues until all are resolved
- Your website itself may not only be domain blacklisted, but also blacklisted through its IP address. Network tools such as MX Toolbox can display issues within your domain and scan your site against other blacklists. It is highly recommended that professional help be hired when tackling IP address blacklisting.
Anyone from small startups to large organizations can face these issues, yet they are easily resolved. Certain instances of compromised websites require the expertise of professionals. It is always wise to consult with experts and enlist their help, as it will save you time and money down the road.