For the second time this year, Portsmouth-based Search Engine Marketing Agency Vertical Leap has discovered an incidence of hacking on a client’s website with the express intention of hijacking its high position in the ranking results.

The hack consisted of a selection of links covertly hidden in the source code ‘behind the scenes’ that led to a network of other compromised pages and indirectly to a ringtone site.

The result for Vertical Leap’s client - and dozens of others hosting the unwanted links visible to the search engines and not users, was to slightly reduce their ability to rank well.

The hack was discovered by a Vertical Leap Campaign Delivery Manager making routine investigations into SEO results as applied to all campaigns, but of course, in another scenario, it might not have been uncovered at all.

As Google and the other search engines get better at removing spam from their results and providing more relevancy to their searches, hacking is becoming far more common as spammers attempt to find new ways to rank higher for their selected searches.

The issue is becoming increasingly high profile as recently highlighted by the hacking of Al Gore’s climate site in the USA.

A few months ago, Vertical Leap uncovered another hack where all the websites on one shared IP address had been compromised with the same intention to ‘steal’ credibility, the nefarious links this time included hacked websites in many different locations all over the world including India, Canada and the UK. They varied from magazines, eCommerce stores and personal blogs.

Vertical Leap Managing Director, Matthew Hopkins, commented: “The hidden links that were inserted into source code were visible to the search engines, but not to users and were set to increase importance of very specific search phrases for their own ends. Not only does this illustrate the increasingly desperate measures spammers will resort to, but it demonstrates another advantage our ongoing, diligent campaign management offers in uncovering the hack in the first place.”

Vertical Leap contacted all the sites they discovered inadvertently hosting spam links or pages to let them know. The companies and individuals concerned were naturally grateful, as search results are a key driver of traffic to their websites.

Hopkins continues “For our customer, the story has a happy ending – now that the spam links have been removed, rankings – and results – have improved steadily, including significant first page positions for an especially competitive phrase applicable to their market sector and an increased Google PageRank from 4 to 6.”

Notes: Vertical Leap is a leading search engine marketing company, providing its clients with a fully managed and comprehensive campaign to improve ranking results and website performance. At the heart of Vertical Leap is TotalPropulsion, a unique concept and relentless methodology that gets results and guarantees you high service. Vertical Leap is committed to providing unrivalled search intelligence to enhance that service with is own proprietary technology, Apollo, the ultimate campaign management system delivering informed data in real time to maximise Return on Investment.

Vertical Leap has offices in the UK, USA and Australia. Find out more at

Tel: 0845 123 2753
Vertical Leap Ltd, Customs House, 10 Hampshire Terrace, Portsmouth, Hampshire PO1 2QF

Tel: 214 329 1550

Tel: 1300 665 323

Published on: 12:00AM on 10th December 2007