To attract online traffic and grow profits, businesses resort to implementing sound SEO strategies. Filling your website with great content is good but you also need to offer visitors with great user experience, something valued highly by Google and other search engines.
While businesses are prioritizing their investment in great SEO strategies, many tend to lose sight of another aspect that is perhaps as important: cyber security. While cyber security and SEO have long been viewed as having distinct or separate roles; they have lots of crossover points.
For instance, did you know that failure in SEO is a major cause of website hackings? Anyone who has implemented link building will understand the importance of working with reputable websites. Your site’s security measures, hosting, and maintenance play a critical role in your SEO performance.
Impact of Security Breaches on SEO
Often, website security is a neglected aspect when digital businesses are discussing and strategizing their long-term marketing plans. This is what could be the business signal that distinguishes you from the crowd. SEO professionals have always appreciated the negative impact on a website due to hacking in terms of potential ranking losses as well as SERPs warnings.
But how well do you know the impact of security breaches on your website?
After an online hacker attack, a common consequence is a downtime, particularly when a direct massive DDoS or server compromise is involved. Downtime literally means that your web content, services, and products are no longer available online for your recurring or new clients.
Not only does downtime affect access to your own platform, but perhaps more significantly, the access by your customers to your data, products, and services. While Google may not drop you from its indexing, but downtime could move your main keywords rankings to lower levels as your site waits to recover from the downtime.
One of the most common error messages seen on the Internet is “Error 404 – Content not found”. Basically, this means that the web content that was previously visible was not found; it is, therefore, missing.404 errors are due to a security breach or perceived risk.
While Google may be a bit permissive with your 404 errors, they tend to become a major stumbling block to SEO when attached to your web site for long periods.
Hackers can load your site with lots of spam content. This could, sadly, be deliberate acts of sabotage, or simply indiscriminate attempts to deface, scrape, or efforts to capitalize upon an authoritative site. Spammers may also want to discourage legitimate visits to your site, instead of turning them into link farms or for baiting unsuspecting visitors with phishing links or malware.
Search engines like Google will pick up spam on your site and you could be blacklisted. Security helps in protecting your website’s integrity so that you do not get penalized because of hacker activity. In many cases, the hackers are taking advantage of existing loopholes or vulnerabilities in your website to get administrative access to your site through an SQL injection.
Such types of targeted spam attacks can have devastating effects on your SEO. Your existing customers and new visitors will be manipulated. This could cause irreparable damage to your reputation. Your site could even be easily be overrun with spam and Google could potentially blacklist it.
Website Blacklisting and Google Penalties
Attackers will sometimes inject your web pages with JS, PHP, or HTML redirect codes. These cause your visitors to be redirected to sites that spread viruses, malware, or malicious phishing URLs. Ultimately, this will make your site automatically or manually blacklisted. At times, which can happen without you even noticing that a hack occurred until it is too late.
To be blacklisted means your site gets removed completely from the search engine index. Even after you improve security and manage to restore a clean website version, you still have to go through a process of submitting the website afresh to the search engines plus getting it off the blacklist.
Hacked websites are considered dangerous. This is the reason Google wants to protect users from getting damaged because of visiting such suspicious websites. After hacking, long term SEO penalizations are a cruel reality that you may have to deal with if part or your entire entire website gets compromised.
Apart from the known technical consequences, after a cyber security breach, the worst thing that could happen maybe how much of your reputation gets damaged. This will include the loss of trust from your clients/customers, financial institutions, and investors that you are working with you, among others.
Many people visiting your site for the first time will likely be on high alert for red flags in case it is not secure. In case, they see your website does not have HTTPS, they might opt to leave right away. However, getting direct notifications that your site is not secure almost guarantees their departure as quickly as they arrived.
If you experience high bounce rates on your site, lack of security could be a factor despite your strong SEO efforts.
How to increase Security?
For a long time, dealing with on-site vulnerabilities was considered a different skill set than Search Engine Optimization. The truth is that many businesses are yet to grasp the significance of cyber security. If a website is compromised, it’s SERP ranking gets hit significantly.
Any digital marketer needs to take website security seriously and be capable of dealing with it. It is not only generally prudent, but a lack of solid online security measures directly affects your overall SEO rankings. That, however, should not be the case for there are several strategic steps that you can implement.
Site Monitoring & Identifying Hacks
Search engines and web browsers are now warning browsers by labeling websites that are considered potentially dangerous with warning notices posted below the website listing title.
You will there for want to institute all possible steps towards stopping all hacking attempts as well as avoid getting a Google malware warning on your site. One way of preventing malware is by having scanning software on your site that not automatically scans but also removes malware.
A good practice for all operating systems is to ensure your system packages stay updated and if you are using a firewall is to increase your server security. A firewall shields your website by preventing unauthorized access.
SSL and SEO Ranking
You are risking the safety of online users when your website is unsecured. You could also be throwing a spanner in your SEO efforts. To secure website data and show visitors that you have done that, it becomes essential to switch to the more secure HTTPS domain distinction. That will require must have an SSL certificate to encrypt all areas of your website. You can consider different brands of SSL certificate like Comodo SSL, GeoTrust SSL certificate, Thawte SSL certificate, GlobalSign certificate, etc.
Google has since 2014 been encouraging website owners and administrators to switch from the outdated HTTP to HTTPS – this means adding an SSL certificate. Besides, Google has also made it public that the website ranking benefits of HTTPS will only continue increasing in the years ahead.
Web security affects every business and individual. If proper preventative steps are not put in place, the worst could happen with clear and lasting consequences from an SEO perspective. You not only owe it to yourself but your users too to ensure data is protected 24/7.
Even when you cannot right away see the impact of securing your site in the short-term, believe that in the long run, it will make a difference for your SEO performance.