The fallout from a website security breach can be catastrophic – your operations grind to a halt, your reputation within your industry is damaged and customer trust is at an all-time low. You then have the, oftentimes, lengthy process of recovering your data or starting to populate it again from scratch.

And then, to top it all off, Google comes along and penalizes you further with a big hit to your search engine rankings.

Why Does Google Penalize Insecure Websites?

Google, as a search engine, wants to create a great experience for its users. That means delivering content that’s as relevant as possible to users’ search terms, formats that fit the device they’re using and websites that don’t pose a security threat to their data or hardware. Google puts their users first and encourages websites to do the same.

How Does Google Penalize Insecure Websites?

Hackers are increasingly skilled at inserting malicious code into websites, accessing customer data and infecting their computers. The lines of code added to your website by hackers can be difficult to detect at first. However, given a short amount of time, Google will crawl your website and identify any dangerous changes.

When this happens, Google will label your website listing in search results with a warning that reads “This site may harm your computer”. Your website traffic will inevitably take a hit and, if you don’t remedy the situation quickly, your SEO ranking is likely to suffer too. You’ll need to work to fix your website, shore up any vulnerabilities and get Google to do a review of your site in order to lift the warning.

Website owners should also be aware that Google’s algorithm now gives a ranking boost to websites with a secure HTTPS encryption. HTTPS is obviously essential to websites handling personal data and banking details but other sites should take heed too. At the moment having HTTPS encryption is just one ranking signal amongst around 200 but Google has hinted that website security status is set to have a greater weighting in the ranking algorithm for future updates.

So, How Can You Make Your Website More Secure?

A website hack can have far-reaching consequences for your business. Prevention is undoubtedly better, quicker and more cost effective than a cure. Here are some of the first steps you should take to make your website more secure:

Update Software: Hackers specialize in finding weaknesses to exploit in the software you use. Updating your software and website plugins as soon as a new version is released will keep you one step ahead of the hackers.

Vet Extensions: Choose extensions for your website that have lots of downloads, good feedback and a recent update. That way you can be sure that someone somewhere is working on the software to keep it secure from a cyber-attack.

Create Strong Passwords: Hackers use exceptionally advanced software to crack passwords. Make sure yours don’t include any recognizable words and contain a mixture of numbers, letters and symbols.

Get A VPN: A VPN internet connection is particularly important if you use public Wi-Fi networks for work or regularly access work networks remotely. It provides an encrypted connection, which is much more difficult to hack.

Manage User Levels: Everyone within your company and any freelancers you use should be allocated a user level for your website. Only allow users to access parts of the website essential to their work.

Putting security measures in place and regularly assessing their efficacy has to be a central part of your business operations. With customer data, business operations and SEO ranking all at risk, you should act now to prevent the preventable.

 

[guest post by Amelia Dermott]