How and When to Use Reciprocal Links in SEO

link_exchangeReciprocal linking has been a part of search engine optimization for a very long time now. If you start building your own backlinks, you will start to notice them everywhere. When you have an opportunity to place a backlink on another site, that company will likely want a link to their own site as well. This is reciprocal linking; a link exchange in which two sites post links to each other.

These mutual links offer many SEO advantages. The most important is that it creates more backlinks to your site, boosting your ratings in search engines. It also offers another method that allows more people to access your content. If your website is being linked from a reputable and popular site, it could potentially drive a lot of traffic to your content.

So if reciprocal linking has such great benefits, when should you to it?

Linking to a relevant site. You want to make sure that your links direct to a site that has similar content. If your site is about pet care, you probably don’t want to share a link with a boating enthusiast site. Google checks for sites attempting to boost their reciprocal links and can punish you for things like this.

When it is to a complementary site. The idea is that you are linking to sites that are good for your customers. This means you don’t want to link to a direct competitor, as it is not always in your best interest to drive more traffic to them. It may also give them more benefits than you are receiving.

Only link when it is natural. Don’t go overboard with reciprocal links. You want more regular backlinks than mutual ones. You also want to make your links feel more natural rather than forced. Try embedding it into your content, rather than linking on the sidebar. Google checks for links like that and will often ignore them if it doesn’t seem natural.

There are some other things to look out for when setting up your reciprocal links. If you link to a site that is not trustworthy, even if it is relevant, you can be punished by lowering your SEO. Another thing to watch out for is link farming. This is a technique that started when reciprocal linking started to become popular. People started linking all kinds of sites together that offered no benefit to visitors. They often just linked to a page that was simply full of links. Google and other search engines put a stop to this and now punish sites that practice this. It may be an old system, but people still try to do that, so be careful that you don’t get put on something like this.

Reciprocal links are a great tool for SEO. When done the right way, they can add a lot of benefit to your site. Just make sure that the pages you are linking are relevant and natural.

Awesome Domain Endings Released in 2014

new domain namesHow would you like to have a .builders domain for your construction company, or a .sexy domain for your clothing store?  These suffixes at the end of domain names are called generic top-level domains (gTLDs).  Historically, these have only included the common .org, .com, .info, and .net endings.  However, there will be hundreds and possibly thousands of new gTLDs released throughout the upcoming 2014 year.

There has been a slow introduction of several top-level domains over the past years which has only generated a greater demand for a wider variety by the general public.  Since 2008, gTLDs have fallen into two categories: Open or Community.  Community-based domain suffixes are described as being available only to organizations that benefit a defined community consisting of a restricted population.  Every other domain is considered to be part of the Open gTLD category.  These can be used for any purpose consistent with requirements of the evaluation criteria; in other words, the gTLD must relate to your business (you can’t register for a .casino gTLD for a non-gambling related business).

You may be wondering what domains exist at this time, as certainly I have.  The following is a list of the gTLDs I found to be the most entertaining:

.amsterdam .baby .beauty
.beer .buzz .casino
.cricket .football .fishing
.gal .money .mom
.rocks .republican .sexy
.play .wow .vegas

 

And still… hundreds more exist!  Contact our web department to see if a new, creative gTLD is available for your business!

What To Do If Your Website Is Hacked

Attacked Site HeaderEver seen this image when trying to go to a website? Every day, hundreds of business websites are the target of malicious attacks. There are always people looking to take advantage of the good will you have built with your customers in order to make money for themselves. If you believe that you have been the target of one of these attacks, read on for an idea of what to do. Even if you have not been hacked, it’s a good idea to be educated on the symptoms of hackers and things you can do to prevent your site from falling prey.

1. Recognize that your site has been hacked

Here are some signs that your site may have been hacked:

  • The site redirects to an unknown domain.
  • Some permission files have been altered or new users have been added.
  • The search engine results for your page are unrelated to your site.
  • You receive an email notification from your web hoster indicating that your site has been compromised.
  • Visitors see a warning from their browser or antivirus software indicating that there is a problem with your website.

If you think you have any of the symptoms from this step, then proceed to the next step.

2. Contact Your Hoster

Most times, the hoster will be able to help you throughout the entire recovery process. If your site is hosted here at iPoint, and you think your website has been compromised, you can contact our support team at (970) 266-0703. There we will be able to fully help you get your site back to its original state.

If your site is hosted by another company, then you will have to contact them through some other means. Even after contacting your hoster, it is a good idea to educate yourself on the recovery process. StopBadware.org is a great resource for learning what you can do if there is a problem during the recovery.

The following steps may be difficult for some people who are not as technical savvy. If you are not comfortable with these steps, simply contact your hoster and they will guide you through the process.

3. Stop You Site From Infecting Other Users

After your hoster has been contacted, you should take down the site temporarily. This will prevent your compromised site from spreading to your customers. Once it is down, you should start by changing all of your login and passwords related to the site.

4. Identify the source of the intrusion

Most website hacks occur from security holes. These can be things such as outdated software or plugins, insecure permissions, or even stolen passwords. Another method that someone can gain illegitimate access to your site is by logging in to your website on an infected computer. Identifying the source of the intrusion is essential in both fixing your site, and preventing another intrusion in the future.

5. Patch the Security Hole and Confirm Your Site is Once Again Secure

If you do not know how to use code such as PHP or JavaScript, then allow your web hoster to manage this step. However, if you feel confident in your ability to patch this yourself, check out these pages here and here for more information and possible solutions.

6. Bring the Site Back Online

Once you are confident that your site is once again clean, it’s time to bring it back online.

 

Hopefully this blog can give you some direction on what to do if your site ever becomes the target of a hacker. Always keep in mind however that it is much easier to be proactive rather than reactive in regards to web attacks. It will be more likely that you will never have to follow these steps if you follow good security practices to begin with.

You’ve Been Hacked! 6 Computer Symptoms to Watch For

symptoms of a computer hackInternet security is a huge part of the technology industry these days.  Antivirus and antimalware programs are ever prevalent in computer systems, but hackers have learned how to easily bypass them.  In fact, most of the software security programs on the market today are wildly inaccurate.  Their technology has advanced over time, but so have the tactics used by hackers.  It is now easier than ever for someone to infiltrate a vulnerable network- the following 6 symptoms are signs that your computer is definitely infected by a hacker or malicious software:

1)      Fake Antivirus Messages & Random Pop-Ups

Although these aren’t as popular today as they were in the past, fake antivirus messages still occasionally can appear on a machine.  At this point, however, the damage has already been done.  The purpose of the message is to get the user to click on the pop-up, which links to a fake “antivirus” website asking for credit card and billing information.  It is the easiest way for hackers to dupe users into handing over their financial data unknowingly.

2)      Unwanted Browser Toolbars

A very common sign of infiltration, unwanted browser toolbars can suddenly appear at the top of the screen, and mimic existing applications.  This is another hacking tactic designed to get the user to click on various buttons which can open the gate for pop-ups, redirected webpages, and other malicious activity.

3)      Redirected Internet Searches

Hackers are drawn to redirecting users’ searches because they generally get compensated for the amount of traffic clicks to a certain website.  Be sure to look at each URL very carefully as this can be the first sign of discovery.  For example, if you are searching for www.facebook.com and are redirected to www.faceebook.com do not attempt to login.  Hackers can view and save personal login information and bank account details from redirecting users to fake sites intended for just that purpose.  Check out this list of existing, fake Facebook login pages.

4)      Phony Outgoing Emails

This is a very common occurrence, and was a huge hit for hackers a decade ago when address-hunting viruses were attached to malicious email messages.  Now days, hackers tend to steal email addresses off of social media sites, which means they have access to a very incomplete list.  If only a few of your contacts receive spam emails, then your machine is probably alright.  If everyone in your address book got sent a worm, then it’s time to take your machine to the doctor.

5)      Passwords Are  Mysteriously Changed

Fake service emails are popular for hackers who wish to change emails and get inside personal online accounts.  If you receive an unknown ‘change password’ email from any company, be sure to call in to confirm as this could be a phony email intended to steal your information.  Once a hacker has this data, he/she can make it almost impossible to regain access and can steal your identify very seamlessly.

 

6)      Suspicious Mouse Cursor Movement

Cursors can sometimes move randomly due to hard drive errors or glitches, but this can also be the work of a cybercriminal.  If the movement is short and random, then there is no need to worry as this is common.  However, if you notice your cursor moving and selecting correct options or opening specific programs, then you certainly know someone else is controlling it.  If you notice your computer running programs on its own, take a few minutes to analyze what the hacker is searching for or trying to steal before shutting down your computer completely and disconnecting from the Ethernet or Wi-Fi.  This may come in handy when you seek professional help to get the problem sorted out.

 

The bottom line is that no program or software exists that can entirely prevent malware and virus infiltrations.  Keep an eye out for these symptoms so they can be prevented in the future.  If you do succumb to one of these infections, performing a complete restore is the first option.  Starting from scratch is often the simplest way to resolve computer infiltrations.  Of course, backing up data is vital to recovering important information in the case of cybercriminal activities.  Utilizing iPoint’s network monitoring service is also a great way to be alerted of these issues before they become problematic- and it starts a $6/month!  Let us handle the nitty-gritty cybercriminal justice for you, and watch out for these potential security risks.