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January 2010 Features » Blog Security, Expired Domains, Google on "Caffeine"

Nancy McCord, Owner of McCord Web Services LLC.Dear Friend,

Here at McCord Web Services we are hoping that you had an excellent holiday and are set to start the New Year off with a bang!

Our articles this month are based on two situations that happened last month that we can all learn from. I think you will find the insights helpful for your own website.

Best Regards,

Nancy McCord

Connect with me online on Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Plaxo | Naymz

Blog Security | Domain Expired? What Happens |Google's New Caffeine Algorithm

Simple Blog Security May Prevent Hacking

Don't be hacked be secure.Have you checked out your blog admin or writer passwords lately? Are they something simple like aabbccdd or squirrel94? If you don't have a secure password like Afj*2p!5, a password that includes upper and lower case letters, characters and numbers, you may be a prime target for hacking.

We had a most unusual case this past month where one of our top performing client sites went from top placement on to no where to be found. More problematic was in the Google Webmaster control panel new strange gambling related keywords were being reported as top page keywords. Additionally his meta title tag and description on Bing showed casino and gaming descriptions. Yet, when the specific website pages were inspected using an online browser, the keywords did not exist in the source code.

In this case what had happened was the client's blog had been hacked and scripting embedded in two hidden pages in his blog files. These scripts generated code that created special pages only viewable by search engine spiders overlaying his real website content. All this originated from his blog but targeted his website. This technique is called cloaking. The client and I could not see the content when reviewing the page's source code but search engine spiders where being fed a totally different page version causing his drop in organic placement. You can read my full blog post on meta tag hijacking to identify the exact pages in his blog where the code was installed so that you can troubleshoot your own site if you are experiencing a similar problem.

Although we can not identify how the site was hacked, it was sneaky, unobtrusive, and yet extremely damaging. However, after removal of the code, in less than seven days his site was back in the top position on Google. Proving that the damage once found was easily repairable.

The lesson learned from this situation is that all passwords that you use for your blog should be secure and should even be changed on a monthly basis. Especially if you have multiple people accessing your blog. Unfortunately any site that has top organic placement will be considered a target for schemes such as this, as the bad guys want to piggyback on your popularity and web authority for their own purposes. Secure passwords and regular password changes may really help to keep hackers such as this from damaging your site placement.


What Happens If You Let Your Domain Name Expire

Confused on what to do when your domain name expires here is what to do.For most website owners, the ownership of their website domain name is secure. You know where you registered it, you keep the same email, and you renew your domain on time. But for large volunteer organizations, sometimes this is not the case. This past month we've had a very thorny situation for a webmaster client and have been hired to try to fix it.

In this case, the association had a key member leave. The domain name was registered to the organization but with the key person as the registrant. Additionally the email address tied to the domain was the one referencing the site's domain name. When the key member left the association, no one thought to change the domain's registration records. When the domain's annual renewal came around the renewal notification was sent to the past key member's email account, but no one ever checked it because the key member was no longer associated with the group.

The domain then expired. When the website went down, the organization started to try find out what went wrong. Here is what I have found out and wanted to share with you.

1. First always keep your domain records updated.

2. Never use the email address with your registered domain name in it when you register your domain name. In this case when the website went down when the domain expired the email went down with it.

Yikes you have let your domain name expire, that is very serious!3. It turns out that even though WhoIs or other domain records may show your domain is still active, it may really not be. Typically the registrar, the place where you bought the domain originally, will add a year to the ending date of the domain when it expires to allow the next process to work its way to the end before the domain is put back on the open market and available for purchase again.

4. After a domain has been expired about 30 to 45 days or so, it goes into a redemption period. At that time you will need to pay about $175 to redeem your domain name, that means try to get it back. Even then, it is not guaranteed that you can get it back. There are set periods that you must take action within to redeem your domain name. To me, it sounds like holding your domain name hostage to get a big chunk of cash, but this is the actual sanctioned domain redemption process by ICANN, which governs all domain name registrations worldwide.

5. If $175 is too rich for you, you can always backorder your original domain name for $69 at a place like and hope that no one else will bid up the price. Remember, in the meantime your website and email are still down. This means that your site can be down for possibly 120 days or even longer.

The bottom line is to let your domain name expire creates such huge issues that you should never allow that to happen. For the client I was working with, we actually had to abandon the name and set up a new name and then hope that the original name could be bought 90 to 120 days after it had expired. Their website is now live, but under a new domain name, losing the search engine capital that they had accrued for their old domain name. Additionally links to their previous content on other websites are now broken. This is a serious problem for older, large, authority, and content-rich sites.

The best tip for organizations is to make sure to keep the domain name contact records updated, use an outside email address for the contact email for the domain registration. If the domain name contact person leaves the organization make sure to pass the domain name "baton" to another volunteer.

It is important to know that you cannot always get your domain name back after you have let your registration expire. If you want to read more about the ICANN sanctioned redemption process for expired domain names, here is a fine article detailing the rules that all registrars must adhere to when a domain has expired.


Does Your Site Place Well on Caffeine? Wait 'till January to Know

Google is rolling out a new algorithm after the holidays and it has some webmasters shaking in their boots. It appears that this new update will have far reaching consequences. When a huge adjustment comes, it even gets a name, and this one has been named Caffeine. The last one that shook the webmaster world was called Florida and it was, and still is, infamous in my circles.

Will you place well on Caffeine?Google is indicating that with the new Caffeine algorithm that website speed may be a key factor in deciding organic placement. We suspect that Google will be further devaluing inbound links in this new algorithm as well. One interesting conversation has surfaced about Caffeine that is mentioning that the number of social bookmarks a site has may replace links as a website popularity vote. There is strong talk that Google will strongly consider these numbers for organic ranking.

But all of this is talk. No one really know what the change will do to their sites and what Google will really consider important at this point. We, professional webmasters, did get a snap shot of what the new algorithm looked like when Google set up a testing "sandbox" for professionals to run their keywords through several months ago. This was the first time ever that Google involved professionals in advance of a major algorithm update. Google's original plan was to roll out Caffeine before the holidays, as they did Florida several years ago. But the blow-back in the forums was so strong, Google decided to move to an after holiday shopping season roll out.

For the majority of the client sites that I tested in the "sandbox", I saw no big dip in placement, but that does not guarantee that the algorithm has not been tweaked for final rollout. It will be very interesting to see what the real impact will be in January and what the discussions will center on in the professional forums as this new update hits the Web.

As we know more about the impact to websites and identify what Google now thinks is important for organic placement, we'll make sure to mention it in our e-newsletter first. So stay tuned for more updates on this topic.


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