What does website security have to do with SEO?
What is website security?
Website security is the process of protecting websites from unauthorized access, use, or disruption. This can be done by securing networks, devices, and data. Website security is important for personal and organizational public-facing websites to prevent cyberattacks.
Why does it matter?
Apart from the obvious, (viz. website defacement, loss of website availability or denial-of-service (DoS) condition, compromise of sensitive customer or organizational data, etc) website security needs to be a priority for digital marketers especially since it is one of the ranking factors for search engines. That is, search engines such as Google are focused on not only providing relevant and high-quality search results, but also on protecting users from malware and deceitful websites. Furthermore, if your website is hacked, this can give Google false information which will then directly impact your ranking.
How do compromised websites affect SEO?
- Compromised websites may face long-term SEO penalties from top search engines like Google and Bing. This is because these engines want to safeguard their users from the risk of cyber-crime. Additionally, search engines may blacklist websites that are infected with malware.
- Cyber attacks can have a profound effect on website performance, sometimes causing it to become completely inaccessible or only partially functional. This is referred to as downtime, and extended periods of downtime can result in serious issues such as a drop in SERP rankings.
- Damage website ranking in search engines by modifying site content adding hidden pages, outbound links, etc.
- Hackers could insert spammy keywords and links into your website, which would then result in your website appearing in SERP for irrelevant keywords and deter its appearance in relevant SERPs.
- Malicious bots can negatively impact your website ranking. For example, a content scraping bot can be used to copy your site and add them on another website. If the other site is indexed first, your website will be flagged for having duplicate content and as a result your website may be penalized or blacklisted.
- Negative reviews can have a significant impact on your website’s ranking on search results pages. If hackers are able to prevent search engine bots from accessing your site and its content, this could lead to fewer visitors and result in negative reviews.
How to recover SEO rankings after being hacked?
If your website is hacked, there are steps you can take to try and recover your SEO rankings. Google allows webmasters to submit a reconsideration request after a penalty. Your website will need to be fully restored and any malicious files removed before Google will review your request. In the meantime, there are resources available from Google to help webmasters struggling to recover from a hack.
Steps to be taken to improve website security?
Cyberattacks can wreak havoc on businesses, large and small. Proactively taking steps to ensure that your website is secure will not only protect your business but will also add to your SEO activities. Here are a few steps that you can take to achieve this:
- The first step businesses should take to ensure their cybersecurity is to install an SSL certificate. It provides encryption of data in transit to protect it from unintended users or hackers. An added benefit is that it is one of Google’s ranking factors.
- Review registrar and Domain Name System (DNS) records, change any default passwords that were provided by your domain registrar and DNS, enforce multi-factor authentication (MFA), and monitor certificate transparency logs.
- Secure user accounts by enforcing MFA on all internet-accessible accounts—prioritizing those with privileged access. Implement the principle of least privilege by disabling unnecessary accounts and privileges. Change all default usernames and passwords.
- Vulnerability are loopholes or software flaws in the system. It’s important to regularly scan for vulnerabilities. This means assessing static and activity-related information for existing and potential security vulnerabilities. This way, you can identify and resolve any issues early on, across all systems on the network.
- Install malware-scanning software and antivirus software to help identify infected codes and files. These tools can be useful in protecting your system from malware infections.
- Apply an intrusion detection system (IDS) to help protect your network by scanning traffic patterns and connections for signs of an attack. If an IDS detects a possible attack, it can block the traffic and also alert administrators about the suspicious activity.
- Add firewalls. They play an important role in network security by blocking unauthorized access, unwanted traffic, and harmful software.
While there’s more to cover in terms of website security these would be a great start. If you are looking for expert advice on how to manage your website security and improve SEO performance, reach out to us or our consultation services.