Hacked content spam: Search Engine Land’s ultimate guide to Google penalties and messages

The hacked content spam penalty resembles user-generated spam for one reason: It is a case of a compromised website which is being abused by spammers to inject malicious and/or irrelevant content without the site owner’s consent. Again, Google’s message includes a sample URL, which provides a clue to where to start the investigation and what type of content to look for while cleansing the site of spam.

There are, however, two important differences between hacked content spam and user-generated spam.

  • First, the hacked content spam penalty is applied to sites which are not user-driven and where the vulnerability isn’t caused by poor quality enforcement, but rather insufficient security.
  • Second, the consequence of a hacked content spam action is a prominent label in SERPs, warning users of the possible threat if they dare to open the website. This means imminent and potentially lasting loss of user traffic coming from organic Google Search.

In this instance, Google provides some assistance to less savvy webmasters not used to dealing with a crisis like this. But ultimately, a permanent solution has to be identified by the webmaster. A simple clean-up and malicious content removal alone are not likely to have the desired effect unless the underlying vulnerability is identified and patched. As in all previous cases, submitting a compelling reconsideration request is the first step toward resolving the problem and removing the “hacked” SERP label.

Hacked Content Detected notification

Legitimate, yet compromised, websites run the risk of misrepresentation in search engine results. Fixing the issue is the only way to remove a SERP warning, as it is a necessity to protect users and brand integrity.


Hacked Warning in SERP

Hacked sites remain indexed and visible to Google Search users. However, they are labeled with a prominent warning and therefore are likely to be disregarded by users.