Over time, people have gotten smarter about the way they use the internet.
Like anything else, humanity’s harnessing of the online world has followed a natural progression: when a new problem arises, solutions are tested until the right one is found.
It is then implemented, and people move on to a better place than where they were before.
Some people might think they can always tell if they’re safe online. Just get a firewall, don’t give out personal information to sketchy websites, use unique passwords; it’s all been said before.
But computer hackers are out there. They are looking to harm websites and people and are much savvier than the average online user might expect.
Their skill is such that no one would even know their personal information was in danger until well after the fact.
As a digital marketer, website security is something you need to take seriously. This is not just because it’s generally prudent, but because online security measures, or your lack of them, directly affect your SEO rankings.
If you have been optimizing a website’s technical SEO and are now looking to move into the security aspect of that realm, know that doing so is relatively easy.
Let’s look at a few ways that your website’s security could be affecting your SEO.
1. HTTPS Is a Ranking Signal
Any digital marketer knows that a website has to earn its organic search rankings.
It’s easy to get caught up in the mindset of figuring out what Google “wants” to see in a high-quality website, and to an extent, there is nothing wrong with that.
But your ultimate goal as an SEO is not to please Google, not really. It is to please users, to deliver what they want and need.
And while this always means presenting users with relevant, authoritative content, it also means delivering them results that are nearly guaranteed to be safe to interact with. It comes down to this:
An unsecured website risks users’ online safety and could be throwing a wrench in your SEO.
To secure data on your website and show users that you have done so, you’ll need to switch to the HTTPS domain distinction. Doing that requires purchasing an SSL certificate.
Many top websites use HTTPS now, and, in fact, you risk looking outdated and unaware if you don’t. This is part of the reason Google made HTTPS a ranking factor several years ago.
If you’re investing in all other aspects of SEO, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be doing this, as well.
Now, moving to HTTPS might not immediately bump you up in the SERPs, but there are more than enough reasons for you to make the switch.
2. Beware of Getting Blacklisted
Having a website with poor security doesn’t mean you actually have any ill intent.
However, your site’s lack of protection still puts you at great risk from hackers.
You and your team put in a lot of time and effort to get your SEO just right.
No matter how long you’ve had your site or how much content is on it, you should be protecting what’s yours.
No one wants to find out that all their hard work has been tampered with.
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If you don’t have any methods of keeping your website secure, you’re putting everything you have in danger.
Something that might surprise you is that SEO is a primary reason for many website hackings. If you’ve done any link building, you understand how important it is to work with reputable sites.
Unfortunately, not everyone is virtuous when it comes to boosting their SEO.
Without protection, your website can get hacked for the purpose of someone placing links on your site.
This is something you might not be able to catch until it’s too late.
If someone is hacking you for link building, you can assume they’re linking to places you would not want to be associated with your website.
Search engines will pick up on this spam and could blacklist your site. Security helps protect the integrity of your website so that you won’t be penalized because of hackers.
Even if you clean up your site after being blacklisted, it can take a while to get back to where you were before in the rankings.
3. Users Need to See That You’re Trustworthy
Many of the people who visit your site will likely be on the alert for red flags that it isn’t secure.
If they see you don’t have HTTPS in your URL, they could leave right away. But if they get direct notifications that it isn’t secure, it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll leave as quickly as they got there.
If your webpages have high bounce rates, your lack of security could be a reason why.
And yes, you can go and fix the issue, but just remember that a number of people have already had a negative experience with your website. Rebuilding credibility takes time.
Work on this by ensuring users leave your site feeling positive about their experience.
This is at the core of good SEO.
You put so much time and thought into perfecting your website’s overall SEO, so why not devote the same attention to showing users that you value their security when they visit your site?
Even if you can’t see the short-term financial impact of securing your website right away, believe that it will make an important difference for your SEO down the line.
Any small SEO improvement is great if you can make it happen.
Given that user experience is your top priority as a digital marketer, consider this variation of the golden rule: how you would feel if you visited an ecommerce website, went to submit your credit card information, and noticed the domain was sporting nothing more than HTTP?
If this scenario seems spooky to you, make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone who visits your site.
Give users the SEO experience you would want to have yourself. You owe it to your users to ensure their data is protected at all costs.