Did you know that your business’ website security directly affects your SEO? Google sees many of the effects of a hack or breach as a negative ranking factor. This means that cybersecurity is not only important for the safety of your business data and assets, it can also affect your traffic from Google and other search engines.
In this blog we take a look at how the damage and disruption to your site caused by a cyberattack can cause you to slip in the rankings. If you have seen your positions drop as a result for a cyberattack please contact us today for information on the SEO services we can provide to get your business back into a strong position.
Hacked site warning
You have probably seen a Google listing with a warning message that reads ‘This site may be hacked’ similar to the image below:
This is never good news for a website, as it means that Google has noticed that the site is showing signs of having been compromised by cybercriminals. It’s worth pointing about that this will see a very negative effect on your traffic, as the message could put visitors off clicking on your page.
In terms of your SEO too, this is a real cause for concern beyond the challenges of dealing with the potential hack itself. Firstly, we know that the behaviour of users affects search rankings – if your site is hacked and not being clicked, this indicates to Google that you are being ranked incorrectly and are a less useful result.
This means that sites that Google believes have been hacked will very quickly see a drop off in their rankings. The damage to your SEO is greater the longer the message is attached to your site. You can have the warning removed from your site by contacting Google via Search Console to request they review your site. However, it is important that you do something about the hack first.
Content changes on hacked sites
You might assume that the only reason that a cybercriminal would look to compromise your site would be to steal data. However, this is not the case at all – cybercrime has a large range of goals and objectives.
According to a recent study from GoDaddy, 73.9 per cent of cyber-attacks against websites are SEO-based. Sites are hacked and the content is changed with various tactics being used such as adding outbound links to a website, creating new covert web pages, or even configuring the site to show something entirely different to Google.
There are also examples of terrorist organisations and other nefarious groups hacking websites in order to spread propaganda. Other common site modifications include using compromised sites to send spam emails or mine cryptocurrency.
No matter how a site is modified, it can cause seriously reputational damage in the eyes of Google. This can lead to you losing hard earning ranking positions, or even be penalised if links to dangerous sites, or irrelevant content are discovered by crawlers.
The importance of a secure connection
It was back in 2017 that Google Chrome began labelling HTTP websites as ‘Not secure’ – and while at the time sites were not being punished in any other way by this label it was a signifier to the SEO community that having a secure site was something that was going to become very important. The message referred to sites that were using HTTP rather than HTTPS; those not using password encryption, and are therefore less secure.
Initially the ‘Not secure’ label was a problem for SEO only due to the fact that it could put off potential visitors from staying on your site. But Google has since confirmed that the message is now a ranking factor, so it can be losing you traffic in multiple ways if you do not make the switch over to HTTPS.
Bad reviews of your site
Reviews are becoming increasingly important as a ranking factor on Google – the search engine has its own Reviews section and customers and visitors are invited to leave comments about the site. If a site builds up a number of negative ratings, it can start to see the site fall in the rankings. If your website is hacked in any visible way – such as with content changes or warning messages as mentioned above, visitors may start leaving negative reviews.
These reviews hang around and can have a huge impact on your site and your business. This is another reason why it is critical to invest in cyber security for the sake of your SEO.
It should be noted that Google will remove negative reviews against your site in certain circumstances when the reviewer has contravened the guidelines. For example, if someone has used illegal or racist language, or if they have created a number of similar reviews against similar businesses to yours.
Downtime is bad for your SEO
If you suffer any kind of cyber attack or data breach it is almost inevitable that your site will require a period of downtime. It is necessary to take your site down as you seek to understand the extent of the incident, address any damage, and establish how the attack occurred. This is a very important period of your business as you will need to take the time to clean your site – but it can also leave you in a position where you are offline for a significant period of time.
Downtime for a period of minutes won’t affect your ranking, but when your site is offline for hours or even days at a time you will start to see significant rules in your ranking positions.
What does your business need to do?
It should go without saying that cybersecurity needs to be a priority for your business, both as a function of keeping your data and assets safe, but also to protect your Google rankings. Every business and organisation needs to take appropriate cyber security advice and implement relevant defence measures to minimise the risk of a successful attack.
At Artemis, we are an SEO agency that understands the importance of powerful cyber security measures. We understand the need for a holistic approach to SEO and digital marketing – we would love to talk to you about the services we provide so contact our friendly team today.