Google Search Advocate John Mueller recently responded to a post on Reddit from a website owner experiencing a significant increase in indexed foreign language pages.
The website owner reported that over 20,000 pages in Japanese and Chinese suddenly appeared on their site, which they didn’t create or intend to host. They asked the Reddit community for help removing unwanted pages and restoring their site’s rankings.
Mueller suggested ways to clean up the issue and prevent a recurrence.
The website owner said Google indexed thousands of foreign language pages in one day, and they didn’t exist in the backend website management system, known as cPanel.
This led the owner to worry their site may have fallen victim to a security breach or misconfiguration that allowed unknown parties to post content.
The sudden influx of pages is a technique known in search engine optimization circles as a “Japanese keyword hack.”
Perpetrators can manipulate search results by flooding a site with junk pages optimized for Japanese keywords.
These attacks are a rising threat to website security and integrity, and the Reddit user’s situation highlights the need for increased vigilance.
Responding to the call for help, Mueller confirmed the website had been hacked and said the next step was to identify how the breach occurred.
“Since someone hacked your site, even if you’ve cleaned up the hacked traces, it’s important to understand how they did it, so that you can make sure that the old vulnerabilities are locked down.”
He advised that even after cleaning up traces of the hack, it’s crucial to understand how it happened to lock down those vulnerabilities.
Mueller suggested automatic updates and potentially switching to a hosting platform that handles security could be beneficial solutions.
Mueller said that once a site’s most important pages are cleaned of unwanted content, they can be reindexed quickly.
He said there’s no need to worry about old hacked pages that remain indexed but invisible to users, as they can stay that way for months without issue.
“Old pages will remain indexed for months, they don’t cause any problems if they tend not to be seen.”
Mueller also clarified that spammy backlinks pointing to these invisible indexed pages do not require disavowing.
Instead, he advised focusing cleanup efforts on a site’s visible content and preventing internal search results from being indexed.
Addressing Spammy Links & Indexing
The website owner asked Mueller for advice regarding spammy backlinks causing internal search pages to be indexed.
Mueller clarified that this was separate from the hacking issue. He recommended against disavowing the links, saying the pages would naturally drop from search results over time.
He advised proactively blocking search results pages for any new or existing sites to avoid potential exploitation by spammers.
“Block the search results from indexing (robots.txt or noindex). For new/other sites, I’d generally block search results pages from indexing, no need to wait until someone takes advantage of your site like this.”
Insights For SEO Professionals
This dialogue with Mueller highlights the importance of proactive measures to prevent hacking and spammy links from hurting sites’ search rankings.
Regular security updates, malware scans, and link audits should be part of your routine maintenance. Websites share responsibility with search engines to keep results free of hacked and spammy content.
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