How Does WordPress Website Security Affect Your SEO Rankings?
Security is a big part of what the user would like to see on your website. And so, it’s only obvious that your WordPress website’s security would affect your SEO rankings. But how exactly? And what’s the connection? In this post, I go deep into the world of SEO and explain why your site’s security should be an integral part of your SEO strategy.
What SEO Should Be All About?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, has taken many different twists and turns ever since the invention of Google and the search engine algorithm.
But while Google was busy tinkering its algorithms and striking website owners with new updates, one thing remained constant all this time: the expectations of the end-user.
Though you want your site to rank high on the SERPs, think about who your site is for? Did you put your site up only to have Google find you and list you on the SERPs? Or do you want your end-users to land on your site and engage with you?
Hopefully, it’s the latter. And in that case, your SEO strategy for WordPress shouldn’t all be about pleasing the search engine – it should be about pleasing your end-user first and then the search engine.
You need to understand one thing about Google: your customer is Google’s customer as well. Your user’s experience matters to Google as well. And so, all of Google’s search algorithm updates are going to be user-centered.
If you keep this in mind and optimize your site for the user instead, your site isn’t just going to rank high on the SERPs today but you’ve very few chances of having your rankings slipping the next time Google rolls out an update.
Now, if you think along those lines, it isn’t difficult to understand why a WordPress website’s security is an important ranking factor for SEO.
Your Users Want To Feel Safe Online
News of sites getting hacked and personal information including credit card numbers getting compromised often makes the rounds.
And so, people have become more conscious about online security than they were before. They want to feel safe when they’re browsing online.
Anything fishy on websites like strange error messages, security warnings, and redirects are going to raise those red flags for your users.
If your users feel unsafe on your website, it won’t take long for them to abandon your site. A constantly high bounce rate is a signal Google uses in its search algorithm. And so, you need to make sure your WordPress site remains secure from all types of hacking attacks so your users can safely engage with the valuable content you have on your site.
SEO Spam Can Get You Blacklisted
To understand how your website’s security affects your SEO rankings, it’s very important to understand the most popular type of hacking attempts on WordPress sites.
Most people think their site is safe and protected if they can access it and if it seems to function well. If it all seems fine, it isn’t necessarily so.
If you’ve ever wondered why hackers hack your site and what grudge they hold against you, well now you’ll know.
Often, site hackers are just black hat SEO people that use unethical ways to insert links to other sites to boost their own site’s rankings.
This is called SEO spam. These hackers will insert spam links on your site, add web pages, and even redirect users to other websites.
All of this increases your chances of getting blacklisted by Google and chases away your customers.
Constant Security Attacks Block Google Bots
Another way your rankings can slip because of your site’s defenses not being strong is simply by preventing Google’s bots to access your site properly.
So, if hackers have gained access to your site, their constant attacks can slow down your servers and prevent Google’s bots from accessing your site properly. Sometimes, it even stops showing web pages to Google altogether, which results in 404 error messages on Search Console.
The result? Well, if Google can’t access your site’s pages, your rankings are naturally going down the slope.
Tightening your website’s defenses and having a strong focus on WordPress security will prevent those hackers from gaining access to your site.
Google Uses HTTPS As A Ranking Signal
Google uses a bunch of ranking signals in its algorithm – HTTPS is one of them.
To get the HTTPS domain distinction, you need to get an SSL certificate. Most top websites today use HTTPS domains and so, not using one looks like you’re outdated.
When you get an SSL certificate, the HTTPS in the beginning instead of HTTP in your website URL.
Most WordPress hosting services offer free SSL certificates so you don’t even need to invest heavily in this.
It’s a small thing that can have really adverse effects on your rankings if you ignore it.
Your Site Can Get Blacklisted By Google
Finally, all that SEO spam and constant hacking attacks can get you blacklisted by Google. And obviously, you shouldn’t wait for that to happen before taking action.
Unfortunately, many businesses today don’t have an active security strategy for their website. Their site remains in an infected state without them knowing about it.
Google’s search bots eventually pick up on all the SEO spam on their site and blacklist them.
To avoid this, you should have a strong focus on protecting what’s yours and all the hard work you’ve put in to bring your site up on the SERPs.
If you’re penalized and are blacklisted, it won’t be easy to get back to where you were before being blacklisted, even if you clean up your site and remove all spam links.
For all of these reasons, it’s extremely important to have a strong focus on your website’s security and make it an important part of your SEO strategy.
Here are a few things you should absolutely do to tighten your WordPress site’s defenses and keep your site secure:
Invest In Good WordPress Hosting Service
First and foremost, choose a hosting provider that takes all security measures to protect their servers from hackers. Instead of buying the cheapest package out there, prioritize quality and choose a popular hosting provider. If you can afford, take your WordPress site’s security to the next level by investing in managed WordPress hosting services like WPEngine and Pantheon.
Install A WordPress Security Plugin
The next thing we highly recommend is installing a WordPress security plugin to manage all security-related tasks. A security plugin like Sucuri and iThemesSecurity takes care of all security-related tasks. Like it installs a firewall and blocks all bad traffic from reaching your server, sets up two-factor authentication, changes file permissions, and so on.
Keep Everything Updated
This is a very simple thing you can do to protect your site from hackers – just keep WordPress core, your PHP version, all WordPress themes, and plugins updated. Leaving anything outdated will leave your site vulnerable and at the mercy of hackers.
Purchase Plugins And Themes From Reputed Developers
Third-party themes and plugins are the reason why WordPress sites remain a common target for hackers. First, you should try to avoid installing unnecessary plugins as much as possible. If functionality is absolutely needed, look for plugins and themes from reputed developers and authors. Run a Google search prior to buying any WordPress theme or plugin and see if that theme or plugin has ever been in the news for security compromises. If yes, steer clear of those.
Get Two-Factor Authentication And Strong Passwords
It’s a no-brainer with a mighty effect. A lot of people ignore this aspect of online security and only start taking it seriously when their account gets hacked.
The simplest thing you can do is keep a strong and unique password. And then, to take it to the next level, set up Two-Factor Authentication to further prevent anyone from getting access to your site.
Wrapping It All Up
In short, your WordPress website security, directly and indirectly, affects your site’s rankings. And so, to enjoy that sweet spot on the SERPs, you need to take your site’s security seriously and invest time and effort into tightening its defenses.