Part of Solutions Review’s Premium Content Series – a collection of columns written by industry experts in maturing software categories –Jenna Bunnell, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Numeric keypadshares some information on how web security vulnerabilities can affect SEO performance.
You know that SEO and cybersecurity both contribute to success digital CX strategies. A good search ranking makes you appear trustworthy. Often online retailers have to plaster their checkouts with cybersecurity certificates to get the conversions they need. Website security vulnerabilities are a top priority among the hundreds of factors that determine your SEO ranking.
Google wants to create a safe user experience, and if your site is deemed insecure, you could be demoted in search results or removed entirely.
How Web Security Vulnerabilities Affect SEO
In the world of SEO, the worst thing that can happen to your site is getting blacklisted. This means that Google will not show your site to anyone. You’d think you’d have to do something pretty extreme to get this punishment, but Google wants to create a safe experience for all searchers. Showing up with website security vulnerabilities is the fastest way to get your domain delisted from Google.
So here are three common vulnerabilities that could affect your site and how to prevent them from impacting your hard-earned SEO rankings.
Obtain an SSL certificate
A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate ensures that the link between you and your website visitors is end-to-end encrypted, protecting you both from bad actors and other web security vulnerabilities. Google rarely gives details about how its algorithm works, but they did confirm that SSL certificates played a role in your search rankings in 2014. And yet, as recently as 2020, only 56% of companies had fully encrypted their traffic.
With cybercrime becoming mainstream, your average customer is paying more attention to SSL certificates than before. They are displayed prominently in browsers like Chrome and Safari, which actively try not to lead users to sites without one. If you plan to take the user’s card details without an SSL certificate, you will see an increase in your bounce rate. It’s a review customer satisfaction KPIs that Google pays attention to. The worse your domain’s user retention, the worse your SEO ranking.
The link between SSL and SEO is quite direct: Google will give you a thumbs up if you have one and prefer to show the user someone else if you don’t have one. It’s a small investment, usually less than $100 per year, but fixing this simple website security vulnerability will increase your SEO and consumer trust. The increased activity on your site will increase your SEO rankings even more over time.
Prevent SEO poisoning
In 2019, GoDaddy discovered that 73% of website hacks were used to game SEO algorithms. The practice is so common that it has been given a name: “SEO poisoning”. This is when the pirates break in through a vulnerability of your site with tactics like an SQL injection attack. Once they have access, they can modify the content of your site. Maybe they’ll flood your site with their content, or maybe they’ll quietly replace all of your blog post links with domains of their choosing.
Not only does this interfere with your SEO strategy, but it can also lead to one of the penalties listed above. Google’s “Penguin” updates specifically targeted sites with suspicious links. If your SEO links have been secretly poisoned, it may be a long time before you realize why your rankings have taken such a hit.
If your hack becomes a hot topic, it could cause serious damage to your brand. According to strategist Hamilton Helmer, branding is simply what allows you to charge more for a product than your competition. Not only is brand damage terrible for your marketing and SEO, but it could also directly cut off any flexibility you have around your ecommerce pricing strategy. Hacks like this often generate suspicious activity in analytics data. Examining your web traffic may reveal a past hacking attempt, but to actively prevent one you will need to detect this activity early.
Tools like SiteLock and WebsitePulse give you tools to closely monitor activity on your site’s pages and server. If, for example, they find that your links all suddenly change, they will alert you within minutes and give you the tools to act quickly.
Control bots and crawlers
As cybercrime becomes increasingly automated, artificial intelligence and website security intertwine more deeply. At least 25% of all traffic to your website could be “bad bots”, automated software designed to perform spam, fraud, etc. in large scale. So-called “grinchbots” made more than $80 million last year buying and reselling Playstation and Xbox consoles, compounding the supply chain problems they were taking advantage of.
In the same way that Google’s crawlers crawl your site for useful content, this growing stream of bots scours your site for web security vulnerabilities they can exploit. If you don’t take preventative measures, there may be so many that Google’s bots can’t access them. This means that your on-page SEO efforts will be for naught. Google will not see your content and will update your search ranking accordingly.
Sites that use server-side caching are not as prone to this problem. Sending each user a pre-built “image” of the site rather than creating a new one is much more efficient for your server. As well as speeding up your site – a handy SEO boost in Google’s eyes – you’re also able to handle the pressure of more bots on your site. Additionally, tools like AWStats can give you a report on every bot that has crawled your website, how many times it has been visited, how much bandwidth it has used, and more. You can also get bots’ IP addresses, allowing you to block them. entirely from your site.
Protect against website security vulnerabilities
As you can see, fixing the most common website security vulnerabilities that could affect your SEO is quite simple. Cybersecurity is a deep topic, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. But by following these three steps, you can continue your SEO efforts knowing that your website is safe from attack.