How Are Website Security & SEO connected?

Date: 2 June 2022

For every business, organisation or government body, having a website is almost mandatory today. The only thing that’s worse than not having one, is having a website that’s not secure.

We all know the perils of having an unsecure website. If you become victim of a cyber-attack, your site could be down for days, your customer data may get compromised and you’ll lose hard-earned goodwill in the market. God forbid, if this attack is a ransomware attack, then you may have to shell out thousands of dollars in order to get access to your systems or data again, sadly with no guarantee that the cyber-criminals will honour their promise once the ransom is paid.

Unfortunately, that's not all. If you have an unsecure website, it could also render your SEO and marketing initiatives futile. Yes, did you know that protecting your site and business is critical to your SEO ranking on search engines?

In this blog, we explore why cybersecurity best practices are essential for your website’s performance and search ranking.

How do Cyber-Attacks Affect Your Website's Search Ranking? 

Machines and technology are becoming smarter as human life becomes more digitalized. Yet, the larger the digitized network, the larger is the attack surface for cyber criminals. And nobody really wants to do business with someone who hasn’t secured their network perimeter. Google is no exception.

When it comes to website ranking, the no.1 Search Engine places a high priority on user safety. Websites with poor security are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, financial and sensitive data theft, and reputation damage. Google penalises such websites and significantly reduces their organic search ranking. Furthermore, websites with poor security may even be blacklisted.

This means that you have to be extremely vigilant when it comes to your website security. You must train your development team in basic Cyber Incident Response and Planning and  Ransomware Prevention. They must have a plan of action or a Ransomware Response Workflow they can refer to in case of an incident so that the damage is mitigated, and your website ranking doesn’t hit rock-bottom.

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How Do Cyberattacks Affect SEO And Marketing?

Let’s take a closer look at the disastrous consequences that cyber-attacks can have for your business, affecting not only your reputation but also your SEO:

  • SEO Spam: If your site security is weak, hackers can exploit it for what is known as SEO Spam. They can exploit your website's vulnerabilities to flood it with spammy links and keywords that will redirect every user to their malicious website. If you become a victim of SEO Spam, you can quickly lose your site ranking. Not only will Google penalize you, but your users might also get security warnings about your site from web browsers, greatly affecting your chances of attracting organic traffic. 

  • Browser Blacklisting: In this case, the main goal for a hacker is to integrate a page with different codes into your site. For example, JavaScript, HTML, or PHP. They are intended to direct users to phishing sites and malware distribution resources.

    This puts the site's owner at risk of being blacklisted by Google. It will automatically add your site to the blacklist to protect users from cyberattacks. What is more terrifying is that Google will do it without warning. 

  • Bad Site Reviews: Website reviews are a crucial tool in shaping consumer demand for goods and services. Obtaining positive online reviews is the primary goal of every business today as word of mouth has a huge appeal. The popularity of review writing websites such as Rated by Students corroborates this view.

    The reviews left on Google Maps and Google My Business improve the websites' SERP rankings. If the website's customers or users are influenced or notice security issues, they will leave negative reviews, which will have the opposite effect on the website's SERP performance. The more negative reviews your website has, the more likely it is that customers will avoid visiting it, further impacting your search ranking. 

  • Crawling Errors: Search engines use a wide range of bots for crawling, ranking, indexing, and other purposes. As a result, some crawl activity on your website is considered normal. With the advancement of technology, some bots have evolved into malicious ones that disrupt website traffic.

    Moreover, such bots steal data, steal unique content for republishing elsewhere and look for vulnerabilities in the website. The presence of a large number of malicious bots on the site significantly worsens its traffic and affects its position on search engines. 

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Ways To Improve Website Security to Protect SEO

There are numerous things you can do to keep your website safe online and enhance its search engine ranking:

  • Performing regular network audits. They entail assessing static and activity-related information for existing and potential security vulnerabilities. If you’re heavily dependent on your website for attracting customers or doing business, then investing in a breach readiness assessment for your site and business in general is definitely worth it.
  • Regular site vulnerability audit. It helps to identify your website’s vulnerabilities and customers’ pain points.
  • Installation of malware-scanning software and antivirus software. They will help you identify infected codes and files.
  • Use an intrusion detection system. These systems scan traffic patterns and connections for signs of an attack and not only block them but also alert administrators about the suspicious activity.
  • Use of Firewall. Firewall contributes to network security by preventing unauthorized access, unwanted traffic, and harmful software.
  • Hardening of WordPress security. It defends against attackers looking for outdated software broken-by-design vulnerabilities.
  • Having an Incident Response Plan: A major part of bolstering any security strategy is having a proper cyber crisis incident response plan in place. This plan tells all users and admins what exactly to do when you’re attacked and how to prevent too much damage to your site and your sensitive information. You can check out this Cyber Incident Response Plan Template and Example to build your own.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, cyberattacks can devastate even the most resilient businesses. As a result, it is critical to consider cyber security of your website and consistently monitor suspicious activity to save your reputation, vulnerable customer data, and remain at the top of the industry.

 

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