Better Secure than Sorry: Safeguard Your Website & SEO Rankings!

A recent consumer survey conducted by HubSpot Research across the UK, U.S. and Australia found that up to 85 percent of users would leave a website that isn’t secure. What does the word “secure” really mean in this context? Usually, when a company claims that its website is secure, it implies that the website can be considered trustworthy and is protected using tools such as an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, encryption, firewalls, and plugins. What is the main purpose of these security tools? Such tools are meant to safeguard personal user information.

So, why is website security so important? As of December 2018, there are 1.94 billion websites and the number of internet users has crossed 4.1 billion worldwide. It will come as no surprise that these figures are set to skyrocket in the coming years, with more than 1.92 billion expected online purchases and over 5 billion Google searches happening every single day! Considering the exponential market growth and opportunities, do you really want to turn away visitors that show up at your virtual doorstep?

Additionally, while an insecure website will drive users away, lack of security will also have a severe effect on your rankings, thereby reducing your website’s traffic. Web security must be an essential and consistent part of your website’s SEO and digital marketing strategy. One of the big indicators of the importance of website security was presented in 2014. Approximately five years ago, Webmaster Analysts announced that migrating your website to HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) from HTTP had become a ranking signal in Google’s ever-changing search algorithm.

As a company, we have understood the importance of having a secure and effective website. Our SEO and IT teams continuously work on implementing necessary strategies to create and maintain secure, SEO-optimized websites for our clients. Here are a few tips and strategies for you to ensure that your organization doesn’t lose out on potential visitors!

Are My SEO Rankings in Jeopardy?

With the recent buzz surrounding GDPR, personal data theft, and website hacks, internet users are more conscious about how they interact with different websites. They’re now aware that their sensitive information could be at risk each time they surf the web. Naturally, websites with higher credibility and security will drive more traffic as a result of top Google keyword rankings. An evident question you might ask yourself at this point is: how is web security related to SEO rankings?

Websites impacted by SEO spam often become infected with spam content or redirects visitors to spam-specific pages. Unwanted content is regularly found in the form of ad placements and injected content for other popular industries such as entertainment or fashion. Hence, not taking the essential steps to maintain your website security can leave it vulnerable and exposed to some of the most commonly known SEO spam tactics which include the following:

  • Building hundreds and thousands of spammy back-links to your website
  • Redirecting pages on your website to other websites
  • Copying your website content and fraudulently distributing it all over the internet
  • Destroying your website’s best back-links

The threats discussed above are scary enough to make any website owner take their security very seriously. The intention behind carrying out these nefarious activities is pretty straightforward: to deliberately manipulate search engine indexes through link spam or content spam, so that websites can rank higher in SERPs than they normally would. Hoping that you’re fully convinced, here’s how you identify if your website security has been compromised or is at risk of getting there.

Wait, What? Did I Just Get Hacked?

A study by GoDaddy found that 73.9 percent of hacked sites are hacked for SEO purposes! We’ll let you in on a little secret: 100 percent security is a myth! This means that even if you’re positively sure you’ve done everything by the book, you could still be at risk if your precautionary measures aren’t regularly updated.

So how and when do you know that the dreaded event has occurred? Most website owners discover that their website’s security has been breached upon seeing Google’s Red Screen of Death. This could be dangerous because it means that your website has been infected with malware for quite some time which could have inevitably damaged its reputation. We’ve taken the liberty of listing down all the top ways to spot whether your website’s security has been compromised.

If Google Says Its Bad, It Probably Is

The most obvious sign that your website may be compromised is if a warning message greets visitors to your website. If you see this message, the first thing you should do is confirm whether your website is hacked with Google’s Safe Browsing tool. Popular browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari display different types of alerts depending upon what kind of suspicious activity Google finds on your website, but they usually look similar to the one below. This indicates that your site is hosting malware; hackers have gained access and installed malware that could be infecting your website and potentially your visitors as well.

Why Am I Offline?

Website hosting companies regularly scan their servers for malicious code and are alerted to security breaches through their own automated tools. In some cases, they immediately disable compromised websites to contain the spread of malware to other websites on the server. Some of the reasons why your website could be taken offline are:

  • Spam or phishing emails sent from your server
  • Blacklisted website domain by Google, Norton Safe Web, etc
  • Malware code found on the server
  • High CPU usage due to the  presence of malicious script on your website

You’ve Got Mail!

In some cases, if the website is linked to Google Search Console, a sign of a website security breach might be that the organization receives a warning email from Google. Obviously, this means that Google has detected malicious code, suspicious spam content or has reason to believe that your website’s security has been compromised. The message from Google Search Console will look something like this: