Client with outdated website shows up on Google search for unrelated

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Debra Axness

Sep 30, 2021, 12:17:41 PM9/30/21
to Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group
I have a client that I am building a new website for - their current WP website is five years out of date. The new site is not ready to publish yet - but my client has noted that a Google search for their brand and company has a listing that Google found on a completely unrelated link - to a prescription online pharmacy, selling Viagra!

My question: I've looked at the old WP website and can't find any obvious security holes I even looked at the generated html using Firefox Web Developer, and can't find this link. Where should I be looking to see how Google inserted this bogus link in its search list?


Patrick Lewis

Sep 30, 2021, 1:22:27 PM9/30/21
to Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group
It may not be on your client's site. It may be some site has loaded their page(s) with a bunch of keywords that are identical or similar to your client's brand and company name.

As the old site has not been updated for a while, this could give an opportunity for non-related links to be promoted.

The best solution might be to get the new site up and running and begin building up your client's search presence.

Winnie Williams

Sep 30, 2021, 5:37:31 PM9/30/21
Look for separate files in the backend that might be being called to insert it. And then look for recently modified files in the old site, that are calling these other files to insert it.

I had this happen several times to a church website that was on crappy hosting. I eventually talked them into better hosting, because it happened repeatedly, in spite of permissions on files being appropriately set.

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Jodi Stammer

Sep 30, 2021, 11:00:07 PM9/30/21

I remember seeing something like this before where if you search for the site in Google, it redirects, but if you type the domain in yourself it’s fine. Also, I think if you used a different browser to search it was fine. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the solution! Possibly something in .htaccess – have you checked that? It could also be hidden somewhere in the database where you can’t readily see it.


Are there extra pages in the site you’re not seeing on the front end? If you do a Google search within the site for Viagra, maybe you’ll see them.


I found a few posts with some helpful info. You can try to remove the bad URLs in Google’s Search Console and resubmit the site. Not sure if it would be better to wait for the new site to launch (hopefully on more secure hosting along with other precautions in place).


Hope that helps.



Toby C

Oct 1, 2021, 8:42:24 AM10/1/21
to Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group
You could try searching the database (via phpmyadmin) for the words that are showing up on the false pages in the Google search - if it turns up something, you could then delete the offending stuff in the database.  Also, if you haven't already, consider running a WordFence scan, which might turn up offending files.


Ben Wilson

Oct 1, 2021, 9:08:55 AM10/1/21
to Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group
Take a look at the  .htaccess file.  We had a site with redirect code that 'hijacked' site when accessed thru search.

Debra Axness

Oct 15, 2021, 11:22:57 AM10/15/21
to Minneapolis St. Paul WordPress User Group
I want to thank everyone who responded! I also brought it to the MSP WP Help session, with a few more ideas to check. I did check the .htaccess file, and it did not contain any redirects or other obvious problems.
My client decided to step up her pace in providing me with content for the new website I'm building, publish that, and trash the old site.
This just points out one of the problems with stale websites and the need to keep all sites up to date.

On Thursday, September 30, 2021 at 11:17:41 AM UTC-5 Debra Axness wrote:
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