There are a lot of moving parts to any website, and it’s difficult to vigilantly maintain every aspect of your online marketing strategy. It’s easy to get distracted with Facebook, social media posts, producing new content, keeping an eye on the competition, and managing your online reputation, not to mention the burden of actually running your business!
Digital marketers (and maybe that's also you) are also bogged down with SEO and the tasks of monitoring crucial metrics like bounce rate, clicks, shares, likes, time spent on a page, and a myriad of other quantifications that reflect how well your site and content are performing.
In the whirlwind of minutia and daily routines of online marketing, it’s easy to completely forget about an unquestionably vital component of your website, one that surprisingly has the power to affect your SEO performance: web security.
It may not be as obvious an SEO influencer as keywords or meta descriptions, but a lack of due diligence with regards to web security could undo all of your hard work – and lose your hard-earned rankings – in the blink of an eye.
Let’s take a look at how web security affects your website’s rankings as well as some ways to increase your awareness of security breaches.
Some Hackers Intentionally Target Competitors
Some hackers simply try to cast a wide net and see how many strangers they can dupe, while others maliciously select targets with premeditated schemes in mind. Corporate espionage is a real thing, and on a smaller level, some hackers attack individual websites to eliminate the competition. After all, why would an immoral hacker or website administrator spend months or years of their time to overcome their competition when they can cheat their way to the top by hacking in a few day’s time?
I know it sounds like something out of a novel, but people really do attack competitors’ site’ for shameless Machiavellian self-advancement.
Do you really want to risk giving a competitor the opportunity to root through your website and tear things apart? How much time and effort would be wasted in the blink of an eye if you were successfully targeted and hacked by others in your industry?
Leveraging the “Little Guys” for Malware and Scripting Attacks
Other types of hackers may not have any particular reason to single out your website. For instance, they may not be competing in the same market, and have no reason to target you if it weren’t for the fact that they noticed your site was vulnerable.
You see, some hackers see vulnerable sites as a stepping stone that can be leveraged to perform further attacks, especially as a way to perpetuate and spread malware. Similarly, ripe, low-hanging, and vulnerable websites also tempt hackers with an opportunity to perform scripting-based attacks.
And naturally, it should come as no surprise that hacked websites are penalized by Google. In fact, your site can be removed from Google's index if hacked. Ouch.
Worse yet, your domain could be picked up by an antivirus and web security service like Avast, MalwareBytes, Norton, and other similar providers. If your domain has been blacklisted by on of these services, the user will be presented with a stern warning before they can proceed to your site, and some services would block access to your site entirely.
I’ve talked about this concept plenty in other posts, and while it is important to understand, I’ll be brief.
HTTPS and SSL aren’t an option anymore.
You need to implement them on your site because Google uses them as ranking signals. If you don’t implement these basic security staples, you’re losing ground to the competition who are implementing them, and missing an opportunity to bolster the rightful appearance of trustworthiness to your audience.
But for the sake of increasing web security, realize that data sent via HTTP is in plain text, meaning hackers, third parties, and ISPs can read the data with impunity. If there is any sensitive information contained in the connection between the client and server, you owe it to your audience to encrypt the connection with HTTPS. Some people will bounce if they feel a connection is insecure, and a high bounce rate is bad news for your SEO endeavors.
How to Increase Web Security Vigilance and Awareness
Be aware, there’s no such thing as being “too small” to be hacked. Even if you think you’re not important enough to be noticed by a hacker, think again.
I've seen plenty of one-man operation websites hacked, and cleaning them up isn't a cheap fix.
Some attacks are automated by viruses and malware who are completely impassive to the size of your business. Furthermore, some hackers don’t care who you are or what you do – only that you can be successfully attacked to leverage your website to in turn attack others.
For these reasons, it’s imperative to ensure that you’re staying ahead of the curve with regards to security vigilance. Otherwise, you risk losing rankings and negative SEO consequences due to a compromised site.
In summary, the following are ways to boost your security efforts to avoid being victimized by hackers and increase the strength of your website’s security:
Add WordPress plug-ins’ blogs (if available) to your RSS feed, or just visit them manually on a weekly basis
Use genuine third-party security tools, and not the most basic security package that was thrown in with your hosting provider subscription.
Care enough to commit a portion of your budget for a quality, paid security and monitoring tool instead of opting for the low quality and feature-lacking freebies
Keep WordPress and WordPress plug-ins updated to the latest version of code
We offer a service called WP Care to keep your site updated and backed up to offsite cloud devices for these exact reasons.
If you have an office, you may also want to consider having a cyber threat audit done on your network. This can show you other vulnerabilities that should be proactively fixed.
Don't Wait Until You're Hacked
Whether it’s in the forefront of their minds or not, it matters to your audience that you adopt a proactive approach towards web security. It certainly matters to the success of your site, because one breach could make your domain toxic and sully your good name – and good rankings – in a heartbeat.
If you don’t know how to secure a website, then I highly recommend reaching out to a professional for help. The success of your website could depend on it.