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Pharma Hack Fix for WordPress

Pharma Hack Fix for WordPress

Pharma Hack Fix for WordPressI really thought I was doing a good job…starting build my traffic back up to the levels I had seen about 18 months prior, then I saw my numbers drop.  I had been hacked – someone was replacing my links/Google descriptions and sealing my search links and link juice.

My Pharma Hack Fix for WordPress

I’ll be detailing out what happned – how I found it and all the gory details soon.  The short-short answer was the hackers had added a “auto.php” and “keyboard.php” to my root – then modified the “wp-load.php” file to do all their bidding.

Hacking Backlinks

Albeit very Black Hat SEO, the hackers who hacked my WordPress server were very smart and had a very elaborate plan.  They were using many hacked servers to drive links around to high PR (Google Page Rank) sites and creating better link juice.  I’ll explain more in  an additional post.

The Hack – Phase I

It is really a brilliant plan.  If it weren’t so illegal – it would be perfect.  As far as I can tell, they employee a 3 stage process.  (Thanks for the help figuring this all out from my friend David, who is a super knowledgeable dude with this sort of stuff.)

The system has three components –  encrypted php in antu.php and keyboard.php (my guess these files could be named almost anything) and then another bit of encrypted code in wp-load.php.

Notice all the links and then the URL’s

auto.php & keyboard.php
This is used to suck current SERP traffic from google.  With this “auto.php” and “keyboard.php” they are cloaking the Google bot – so basically, when people search google for my content or search google at all and return tomaltman.com results – it it redirects to a site selling Viagra or Cialis.

If you take a look in Google Webmaster Tools you will see how effective they have been.  There are all kinds of links for these terms.  Its crazy – very impresive really.

Not cool – but look at how effective they ahve been…check out those stats.

wp-load.php
But they also employ a second tool – in the “wp-load.php”.  I think this is what communicates back to the mothership and allows them to manipulate SERPs and URLs the way tehy do.

See the encrypted code here: (same thing you will find in auto.php and keyboard.php)

Encoded black hat SEO code

So what the heck is a guy to do?

Well – good question.  This is where my buddy David comes to the rescue.  His SEO knowledge/instinct told us not to waste this huge spillage of Google Juice.  If they want to give us lemons – we’ll make some good old fashion SERP lemonaid.

301 Redirects & commenting out some code.
We added two lines to the .htaccess file and started to redirect all the traffic from those links to this post.  Hopefully – that is how you found it.  :)

RewriteRule ^auto\.php https://tomaltman.com/pharma-hack-fix-for-wordpress?da=1 [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^keyboard\.php https://tomaltman.com/pharma-hack-fix-for-wordpress?da=1 [R=301,L]

By adding these – we have reversed the outward flow of traffic.

Then – for the wp.load.php
For this guy I simply commented out the  section circled in blue above.  It does appear that the SEO hackers do try and keep fixing this issue – I am testing a few things here.  I am trying to figure out if they have FTP access – or are simply using a vulnerability of a plugin.

Non WordPress Hacks

After looking over all the results of these files in Google – it certainly appears that this reaches much further than simply WordPress.  It appears to be links to many Apache/PHP sites.  It certainly seems the base of the hack is the same – look for auto.php, keyboard.php – then for a file modified on the same day as those two and I think you fill find the culprit.

Please let me know if you need help…I will assist if I can.

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Conclusion

This has been a wild day, but fun all in the same.  It is very interesting how smart some people are.  This is a engineering marvel – this is not some fluke, this this is serious – don’t think so…so a search for auto.php and keyboard.php and see how widespread the carnage…very impressive.

Let me know if you have comments or have been bitten by this bug.

Addicted to WordPress Plugins? It May Be Costing You Big Time

If you’re in love with WordPress and all of the fantastic widgets and plugins, you may be losing a ton of money.

That sounds like a pretty drastic statement given that WordPress has been a real “gift” to the non-techie affiliate marketer but it’s true. Technology is a wonderful thing and being able to harness the benefits of technology without being a technician has been a boon to the affiliate marketing industry. However too much of a good thing can cost you money.

When you become addicted to the idea that you have to have the latest and greatest widget or plug-in on your site you run the risk of losing your focus. Every time you add something to your site you should ask yourself “does this addition help or hurt my efforts to sell my product” because selling your product is your true mission.

Technology is great but too much can hurt and that’s a hard lesson I learned when I reviewed one of my websites sometime ago.

Shiny features and flat sales

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love WordPress. It’s a fantastic way to quickly build a professional looking website and it comes with the incredible number of features that you can add by dragging and dropping. I know enough about coding to know I don’t have the patience nor the skill to get all the features I can get from WordPress just by dragging the mouse.

Think about it for a moment. How easy would it be to add sidebars, comment clouds, tag clouds, all the video you could possibly want, those spiffy social media buttons and all the rest if you didn’t have WordPress? If you wanted all those features you would have to pay a programmer and a designer to put them together for you.

But the danger is the temptation to go overboard with all these nifty functions and when that happens you can do serious damage to your income.

When features cost you conversions

If you are promoting routers for woodworking, auto insurance quotes, an e-book on home remedies for dogs, golf tips or just about any product or service as an affiliate marketer did your livelihood depends on conversions. You can afford to have anything on your site that will detract or distract your marketing message.

If your pages are full of spiffy WordPress widgets your message can be buried by all the options you’re offering your visitors. If you have multiple ways of navigating site you can confuse visitors or even lead them off the site and you simply can’t afford that.

A snip, snip here and a snip, snip there

A while back I decided to take a hard look at what my websites and see just how many actions of visitor could take on a single page. The only action I wanted them to do was my call to action by discovered that call to action was diluted by all the features and photographs that I had cluttering the page.

I decided I was going to cut back on the number of widgets and photos that I used on the page to see what kind of results I would get. I’m a big believer in social media but I had every social media button known to man plastered on the page and I decided to cut those back to a limited number.

When I had completed the project I was happy with the results. My page now looked much cleaner and was far easier to read. My message was no longer buried. But the real payoff was the increase in conversions. By cleaning up my page I was in a better position to take the visitor by the hand and walk them through the conversion process.

Five tips to de-clutter your page and increase sales

If you think your website may be a little overloaded with features and clutter then check out these five ideas to streamline your pages and increase your sales.

1. Define what each page is supposed to do.

Every page on your website should have a purpose. For example the visitor lands on opt in page than the purpose of that page is to get them to submit their e-mail address and sign up. If you’re not certain what the page is supposed to do than your visitor won’t know what to do.

2. Take your prospects by the hand.

Design your content in such a way that when the prospect finishes reading it and then comes to your call to action the call to action will seem like the logical next step. Your objective is to get him or her to take that next step rather than click on the comment cloud or an archived article. Can you see how having these features can be distracting? Just stay focused on the mission of making conversions.

3. Keep the layout simple.

Your page layout has to allow your visitor to grasp your message right away and not be lost in the clutter of features and graphics. Sometimes a simple white background with black text and an interesting and engaging header is the most effective page design.

4. Tell your prospect what to do.

If every page on your website has a purpose then every page should have a call to action to accomplish that purpose. If you have engaging and informative content that’s great but we don’t ask the prospect to do something after reading that content you’ve blown an opportunity for conversion. Test out different calls to action to see what works best.

5. Don’t totally neglect social media.

Social media can be a great way to get referred traffic to your site so you can’t totally ignore the features that allow the social media buttons. Just keep this feature to a minimum number of sites and services.

And one more thing…

Don’t forget that people read left to right. The first place the visitor’s eyes are going to go to is the top left of your webpage. Take a moment and think, what is currently in the top left of your page? Ideally this should be the most important content that you have on the page. It still surprises me that so many websites use a left sidebar. The visitor’s attention is immediately distracted from the purpose of the page.

De-cluttering a web page will work for any type of website be it financial planning products, washers and dryers, TV stands or router table reviews. Virtually every site can benefit by cleaning up their pages and making their message clearer to the visitor.

Take the challenge and start by looking at your website and seeing how many actions of visitor to do on a single page. If you’re offering too much then you’re reducing the probability of a conversion. Take off the stuff that distracts from the purpose of the page and you’ll discover a significant increase in sales.

Bio

James Martell discovered the lucrative world of affiliate marketing in 1999. He is a self-taught Internet entrepreneur and a leading expert in affiliate marketing, outsourcing and SEO. James is the host of the “Affiliate Buzz”, the first and longest running affiliate marketing podcast. James is the host of the “Affiliate Marketers SUPER BootCamp”, a continually updated affiliate marketing training well known for turning affiliate newbies into success stories. James resides in White Rock BC, a seaside suburb of Vancouver on the West Coast of Canada with Arlene and their four children.

How To Get And Stay Organized Online – The Key To Your Success

I’m a big believer that my success in internet marketing is largely due to my early commitment to organizing my effort. When I first got started in this business back in 1999 I was like many working at it part time. Initially I got lucky and was able to generate some decent income very quickly without fully knowing what I was doing.

However that sweet deal disappeared in the dot com bust and suddenly I was faced with reality.

I needed to start all over again, finding a new niche, building new websites and trying to figure out the best way to market my new affiliate products. It’s one thing to spend a couple of hours each evening on a single product knowing that it was going to generate money and it is quite another when you no longer have that product and you’re starting from ground zero. Where time wasn’t really a big concern for me while the dollars rolled in regularly, when that stopped time became extremely important.

It was right about then that I lost a critical password list. I knew I needed to learn how to get and stay organized online if I was ever going to succeed.

Just the kick in the butt that I needed

Now that may not seem like a big deal to you but trust me it was. I was feeling the pressure to get the business off the ground and now I have to waste precious hours trying to recover those passwords from the various websites. That’s when it dawned on me that I had to do a better job of organizing my business to prevent catastrophes like the password list but also to use my time as efficiently as I could.

Since that time I’ve been committed to improving the methods that I use to conduct business and am in a constant search for new time-saving tools to help me achieve just that. I’ve made process improvement an important part of my business model and it has really paid off.

The rewards of an organized business model

My wife Arlene and I have been working from home for over 10 years now and we are enjoying a fantastic lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all worry free and no pressure, there are always challenges to be met whenever you run your own business but the benefits we have today are fantastic and I attribute them to our organized business model.

Today Arlene and I can’t even imagine working a 9 to 5 gig for someone else.

Today we enjoy a super short commute (30 seconds), a flexible schedule that we control and financial rewards that have allowed us to take a few amazing vacations. I knew I was making progress when I finally purchased my dream car a replica of a 1965 Shelby Cobra.

It’s a great way to live and you can do the same thing…if you get organized early on.

Laying the groundwork for an organized business model

You can start with your home office. Regardless where it is in your home you want to make sure that you have a minimal number of distractions and that includes family members or roommates. When you’re in your space the rest of the folks who live in your home have to understand that you’re not browsing for the latest sports scores, you’re trying to make a living and it’s not a good idea to interrupt you.

Your computer is your number one tool so make sure it’s adequate to do the job. If you have high-speed Internet connection and the pages are still loading slowly consider getting some more RAM for the computer. You can easily double the amount of RAM in most computers for under $50 and the difference in speed is well worth it.

You don’t need the latest whiz bang computer workstation you just need a desk that’s functional and a chair that will give you good back support. Likewise you don’t need a ton of office supplies.

What you do need is to spend the time to evaluate how you pursue your business. How are you going after your goals? How much time you spend on tasks or functions that are not directly related to meeting your goals?

A second here a second there

I found that one of the biggest time wasters in this business is simply navigating the Internet. The amount of time spent filling in usernames and passwords or filling in online forms is significant if you add it all up. And guess what… there’s a way to automate those functions.

Here’s a short list of 5 tools that I use every day to save time and get the most out of my work day:

  1. WordPress – okay you may not think of WordPress as a time-saving tool but it really is. When I design my first website back in 1999 I had to do it a page at a time in HTML. When I first learned how to create a WordPress website I was amazed at how fast the process was (literally minutes) and how robust the features were. Easy to build easy to manage, this is the best platform for affiliate marketers who have little or no technical skills
  2. Carbonite – this is your safety deposit box for all the files on your computer. Carbonite will automatically upload any file that has been modified and all new files to secure online storage facility. In short, this is where you log into to recover all of your files when your computer crashes. Think about the enormity of that kind of event. Forget for a moment the time involved, could you actually recover or re-create every file that’s on your computer? Probably not. Carbonite is a must-have to prevent a catastrophe.
  3. RoboForm – remember when I said I lost that list of usernames and passwords? It was a real pain and time-consuming trying to track them all down. RoboForm takes care of that for you. This little piece of software automatically remembers your username, password and any other personal identification such as e-mail address or physical address. When you land on the sign in page RoboForm will fill out the fields and automatically submit the information
  4. Snag it – this is another super time-saving software. One of the great time consuming tasks is the management and sizing of images. Snag it basically allows you to snag an image, crop it, add text and graphics and do it all on the fly. Managing images just doesn’t get any simpler than this.
  5. Google Documents – at some point in your business you’re going to develop a team whether you realize it or not. You’re going to want to interact and share documents with vendors, freelancers, affiliate managers and all the others that you work with. Google documents are a great way to manage information among those team members. You can share documents and you can collaborate on documents without having to create duplicate documents.

So what are you doing this weekend? Are you planning on watching that tutorial on WordPress small business themes? Let me suggest that you do this instead… spend this weekend really getting organized. Take the time to evaluate just how you do business and how you can streamline the workflow. Check out the tools listed above and others that can automate functions you frequently perform.

It may seem like small potatoes, saving a few seconds here and a few seconds there, but they add up that more importantly they keep your mojo going. There’s nothing worse than being fired up about idea and having to wait for slow page load or download. So take the time now to build that framework of organization that will allow you a faster success.

Bio

James Martell, his wife Arlene and their four children live in a seaside suburb outside of Vancouver BC. James is a recognized leader in the affiliate marketing industry and is the founder and co-host of the longest-running affiliate marketing podcast series on the Internet. James has been training and mentoring online marketers since 2001. You’ll receive actionable tips, strategies and money making advice directly from James Martell when you subscribe to his weekly Affiliate Buzz podcast by email, RSS feed or iTunes. You can also follow James on Twitter. You’ll be glad you did! ;)

7 Top Tools To Get Your Organized And Save Hours Of Time

It’s been my experience that when people first get started in affiliate marketing they have an incredible amount of enthusiasm. They’re absolutely in love with the idea of having control their future, working for themselves and living life as they want to. But someplace along the line as they are learning this new craft, they become overwhelmed.

There’s a lot more to this business than just perusing the WordPress themes for small business, picking one and throwing it up on the web. If you’re serious about this business you already know the importance of research, content, back linking, marketing and all the other little ins and outs that make for a successful affiliate marketing website.

But in the beginning before this becomes second nature to you, all the tasks can seem insurmountable particularly if you’re trying to get started while still holding down a full-time job. Time is the enemy. There’s just so much time available to work on your project.

Tick tock tick tock – where did the time go?

All of us get the same number of hours in the day. How we use that time often determines whether we are successful in our lives or something less than successful. Running an affiliate marketing business is no different than running any other business. It has to be run efficiently and you have to use the time available to you as effectively as you can. In other words you have to be organized.

This sounds like a simple concept but so many times people simply don’t take the time to organize their work or their workspace. They’ll spend hours watching videos on how to set up WordPress websites without giving much thought about the consequences of losing or forgetting the password to that site. It’s much, much easier to get organized before you start than it is after a disaster.

So over the next few paragraphs I’ll share with you some ideas and tips that will cut back the amount of time you spend on doing tasks that could easily be automated, and in helping you prevent a disastrous calamity like a computer crash (and it will happen at some time).

Picking the space you work in

Of course the size and location of your home office is going to be determined by the space that you live in but you really try to keep these ideas in mind:

  • Make a space that is definable as a place of work. I could be a corner in the bedroom or a kitchen nook or whatever. It has to be a place that is identified by the rest of your family as you workspace. That means when mommy or daddy is in the space the kids shouldn’t be asking him or her to help them fix a video game.
  • Don’t go cheap on the chair. Your will spend a lot of time sitting and if you don’t want to develop a bad back, then you need a chair that will give you proper support.
  • Make sure you have a decent high-speed Internet connection. If your pages are taking longer than you like to load, consider installing extra RAM. You can double the size of your RAM on most computers for under $50 and it’s simple to install.
  • Don’t go crazy on office supplies. Do you really need a gross of pens and 12 reams of paper? But those supplies that you do purchase keep in an organized fashion in your workspace.

Having a space that works for you is so very important. My wife Arlene and I have been working from home office spaces for over 10 years now. It’s actually a great life that has so many benefits that we didn’t even consider when we first got started.

The morning commute is a walk down the hall. The company lunchroom is our kitchen. In our business, flex time really means flextime. It means we can work when we want for however long we want so long as we get the work done. It also means that we can do things that we couldn’t but when we were working for someone else. For example how many times have you gone on a field trip with your kids? How many times did you break away from work to have coffee with a friend?

Or my favorite, the unscheduled cruising in my Shelby Cobra replica. I am a huge Shelby fan and to be able to just jump in the car and cruise down to the beach anytime I want is a huge benefit to me.

That’s the way life is today but it wasn’t always that way. When I first started back in 1999 I was really crunched for time so when I lost a list of crucial passwords that time crunch, that time wasted trying to recover passwords, really made an impact on me. That’s when I decided I needed to check out what tools were available to automate tasks and provide backup to prevent another catastrophe.

Over the years I’ve collected some great tools that I use every day in my affiliate marketing business to speed up and protect my work. Here’s a short list of some of my favorites:

  1. RoboForm – this is a great piece of software that will remember your username and password for every site that requires one. It will automatically enter that information when you land on the sign in page. You’ll never have to worry about forgetting a password again.
  2. Carbonite – this is like your “safe-deposit box” for all the files on your computer. Carbonite automatically transfers the contents of any new file, or any file that is modified to secure storage. So when your computer does crash, or if you need access to a file and you’re not at your home computer you can simply log into Carbonite and access the file or download to a computer. Trust me you need this type of backup.
  3. PageLeap – without question one of the best timesavers and organizers available. PageLeap is actually a start page that takes the place of bookmarks and allows you to customize categories and include up to 20 links in each category. Presto, you have all of your frequently visited sites completely organized on your start page.
  4. Skype – you probably already have this; if you don’t you’ve got to get it. You can call anyone anywhere in the world, have conference calls, use as a chat forum or even as a video platform. If you install the Pamela Skype add-on you can record conference calls, individual calls or podcasts. This is a powerful communications tool that you can’t be without.
  5. Snag-it – one of the things that you’re going to rapidly discover is that you can spend an incredible amount of time trying to manage and manipulate images. Cropping and managing images can not only be time-consuming but exceptionally frustrating. Snag it makes this chore a snap. You can grab photos, crop them and file them all on the fly. But it’s much more than that. You can do screen captures, or captures a particular part of the screen or even make a video. This is another must-have tool.
  6. Google documents and Google calendar – at some point in the development of your business you are going to have a need to share documents and your schedule with others. These two free Google products allow you to do just that. It’s a simple way to share information without having to create duplicate documents, and to keep track of important project dates.
  7. WordPress – this is perhaps the most popular website platform used by small businesses today. It was designed as a do-it-yourself website but it has many features that you would expect from a professionally designed and developed website. Search engines love the architecture, the site itself is spam resistant, there are literally thousands of themes to choose from at either low-cost or no cost and it’s extremely easy to customize. When you have a website that you don’t have to worry about technically maintaining you have more time to focus on marketing your business.

Unless you have been marketing your business for a period of time you may not be able to appreciate the value of these tools. But trust me, shortly into your new venture you’re going to find that there are so many time-consuming tasks that have nothing to do with your skills as a marketer that you’re going be begging for time-saving help.

That’s why I encourage you to take some time on a Saturday or Sunday and get yourself organized now. Don’t wait for the problems crop up and your frustration level go off the chart. Having these tools and understanding how they work before you actually become overwhelmed is a far more efficient use of your time.

Getting organized at the start of your business simply means that your business will succeed that much faster. Give it a shot; your business will thank you.

Bio

James Martell, founder and host of the industries longest-running affiliate marketing podcasts show, has been training and mentoring other marketers since 2001. A recognized leader in affiliate marketing, James a sought after as a speaker at the most prominent industry conventions and seminars. James, his wife Arlene and there four children live outside Vancouver BC in a seaside suburb.

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WordPress – remove “category” from URL for SEO

If you are sick of the extras WordPress gives you for free?  Seriously…you don’t really need the “category” in the URL, and if it is bothering you, or your SEO – then this is a great trick for modifying the .htaccess by wprecipes.