Malicious attack on CHR’s website

CHR’s webmaster who, among other responsibilities, is charged with maintaining the security of our website, informed us approximately two months ago that CHR’s website has been under a highly organized, apparently well-financed and professionally very competently executed malicious attack since the summer of 2016, with the apparent goal of driving down the organic traffic to our website. As of this point, CHR’s webmaster was able to free the website off many malicious links used as part of the attack, and our attorneys are ready to attack back! It, surely, also would be very interesting to find out who is behind all of this.

These kinds of attacks are not inexpensive, and one wonders who might be willing to spend the money? It is hard to believe that a competitor would do this; but who else but a competitor might even consider such a thing? If it is a competitor, then we take it as a compliment because, boy do we have to be good for somebody to be threated enough to go that far!

The Internet has become important for most medical providers since patients increasingly select their physicians via Google or other search engines. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is, therefore, critical in establishing top ranking for key words a medical provider wants to attract. To rank competitively for important key words, which usually means on the first page, is, therefore, of great importance and, nowadays, much more difficult than only 2-3 years ago. Because proactive steps to rank highly have become increasingly difficult and are also more and more expensive, a new type of SEO has emerged in recent years, the so-called “negative SEO.”

Saying something very important about the morality of our society, recent research, indeed, suggests that most companies, when approached, agreed to use of negative SEOs on their direct competitors in hope of damaging their Google listing and, thereby, improving their own.

All of that, of course, surprised us but, even more surprising was the recognition that, apparently, a whole industry of agencies willing to perform these negative SEOs has arisen over a very short time-period, taking “playing dirty” to a new level. The thought that a medical competitor may go that far is highly disturbing to us.

A negative SEO can involve hacking a website (so far apparently not the case), building up to thousands of spammy links to a website (allegedly discovered), copying content and distributing it all over the Internet (under investigation). Posting links between the website and negative key words (allegedly discovered), creating false social profiles in attempts to ruin reputations online (under investigation) and removing good backlinks from website (allegedly discovered).

Google rankings can also be damaged by so-called “Google Bowling,” which means that the attack exploits certain Google algorithms used for ranking purposes. So, for example, Google, in attempts to reflect best content, searches all the time for “fake” content that is only placed for gains in ranking. A negative SEO attack may be carried out by buying a large quantity of low quality links directed at a competitor’s website, making it look like this website is artificially trying to improve ranking. In successful negative SEOs, this will result in a Google manual or algorithmic penalty, requiring link audits and subsequent link cleanup prior to forgiveness by Google.

Another way to harm a website is by devaluating the site’s content by, for example, duplicating it and disseminating it all over the web.

We are now in the process of “cleaning up” but, at the same time, must be vigilant about repeat attempts to damage CHR’s Google ranking because somebody out there has it in for us! The thought that somebody considers CHR enough of a competitor to unleash such a cyberattack is, indeed, in a perverse way a compliment, but it is also extremely disturbing as a statement of character!

This is a part of the April 2017 CHR VOICE.