If you’re spending a lot of time adjusting your website’s SEO without seeing better results, it may be time to pay attention to your website’s security. Website security matters a great deal to Google and other search engines. Poor website security can cause an outright drop in your website’s SERPs (search engine results pages).
Cybercrime has become so entrenched on the internet that we underestimate how cybercriminals can affect website owners. But sometimes, we need to halt the pursuit of the perfect website to ask what is cybercrime and how can it hurt your online business.
Cybercriminals can hijack your website without your knowledge. They use poisoned websites to distribute malware to unsuspecting users, steal data and money, and defraud and alienate your customers. And, adding insult to injury, cybercrime can also damage your brand reputation and SEO rankings permanently.
Why does cybercrime play a role in website ranking?
Google and other search engines have a fundamental interest in making the internet as safe as possible. They want people to keep browsing, buying, and spending money on the internet. None of the search engines want to get a reputation for sending their customers to unsafe websites because it will affect their profits.
If they suspect that your website security is not up to standard, they’ll penalize you and send customers to websites that appear more trustworthy than yours. That’s why website security is an important factor in Google’s complex system of over 200 website ranking factors.
The advantages of good website security
Website security is the implementation of security tools to protect your website and its users. It has many advantages:
- Google loves SSL: SSL protects sensitive information by concealing passwords, credit card details, and personal information. Google rewards websites that have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate with a rank boost. If you have an SSL certificate, your website gets a HTTPS prefix rather than the older HTTP prefix. Google prominently marks all HTTP websites as “Not Secure” as a safety signal to users.
- Prerequisite for trust: Displaying your SSL certificate and other trust seals inspires trust. People are more likely to share their personal information and buy things from you.
- Decreases bounce rate: Most browsers display a prominent warning if there are concerns about your website’s security. Website visitors tend to leave immediately if they see a “not secure” warning, which results in a high bounce rate. Search engines consider such fleeting visits as a warning factor and a highly damaging negative signal.
- Promotes traffic: If people feel safe on your website, you’ll be rewarded with higher customer engagement. Customer engagement is another important Google ranking signal.
- Better user experience: Advanced website security tools and plugins often contain additional tools to improve user experience. Security plugins can improve website speed and make it more responsive. That leads to customers spending more time on the site and, ultimately, better conversion rates.
- Backlinks are powerful ranking signals: Backlinks are inbound links from other websites. It’s a proven way to get more visitors since a high number of backlinks is a very favorable ranking factor for better SERPs. If many other websites link to you, Google sees it as a signal that your website is trustworthy and relevant. But if you don’t have SSL, you’ll have a hard time convincing other websites to link to yours.
- Visitors want to know that you’ll respect their data: An HTTPS lock and “safe payment platform” trust seal tells visitors that you care about safety and will treat their payment information and personal details with respect.
How can you ensure website security?
One of the most important steps is to protect your website from yourself. Always use a VPN when updating your content or working on the backend. A VPN encrypts the data traveling between you and your website backend and keeps your logins and other secrets private from eavesdroppers.
- Never connect to the internet via unsecured Wi-Fi. Always use a VPN, and keep your antivirus up to date so you don’t spread malware on the internet.
- Set up auto-updates to keep your CMS, e.g., WordPress, all software, and all plugins up to date. Every day, attackers find dozens of exploits and new ways to attack websites.
- Limit access to your website backend to trusted individuals.
- Implement strong passwords and MFA for everyone who has access to your website.
- Install an SSL certificate. It means that any data you add to the website is safe. Sites without SSL certificates have a “Not Secure” tag in SERPs.
- Regularly back up website data, making sure you include both the website content and the data in your subscriber database. You’ll need that information in case of a security breach.
- Install a website firewall (WAF) to detect and deflect malware attacks and hacking attempts.
Google regards website security as a critical ranking signal and will penalize you if you don’t take steps to protect your website and customer data. You can take a few easy steps to protect yourself and your visitors from potential security breaches. As a bonus, taking care of website security will reward you with a higher SERP ranking.