Whenever we discuss the factors which impact the success of your SEO strategy, we include this element: website security. A secure site is one of the first signals Google is looking for when determining which websites to display in response to users’ searches. Since many of our readers expressed their wish to learn more on this topic, today we will discuss the connection between website security and SEO.
What Exactly Is a Secure Website?
There is one simple way of telling if a website is secure: if its URL address (which appears in the browser search bar) starts with HTTPS instead of HTTP. This means that the website implemented a SSL certificate, which gives the assurance that users can navigate the site, input data (for instance, their personal and credit card details) and interact with the properties of the site safely.
But what exactly does a website need to be protected against? Unfortunately, the internet is the playground of many people who seek to get rich or do harm by attacking websites in various ways:
- By taking control over them and posting their own (illegal) content
- By stealing the clients’ credit card data
- By inserting viruses in the website code, which may be transferred to the visitor’s devices
- By mimicking the design and content of a website (phishing) and determining users to perform financial transactions on them.
Website Security and SEO: What Is the Connection?
Now that you understand why your website must be secure, let us look at the relationship between website security and SEO. Here is why an unsecure website will not have a high page rank, no matter how hard you work on keywords, content and backlinking:
1. HTTPS Is a Key Ranking Signal
There it is – the most important connection between website security and SEO. One of the first things Google checks is the URL of your site. If it does not find HTTPS, then you are already losing valuable points.
As we explained above, you need to purchase a SSL certificate in order to assure both Google and your visitors that you have a secure website. You can check whether your certificate is still valid by using this free tool.
2. Search Engines Warn Users about Unsecure Sites
Let us say that a user finds the right answer for their question in the meta description displayed by Google on their search query. However, they also see this notification next to your URL: “This site may harm your computer”.
Now, this is a serious warning and most people will heed it. According to Google Search Help, the message is displayed when the search engine believes that the site might allow programs to install malicious software on a user’s device.
This does not necessarily mean that your website is infected, but it may have vulnerabilities. The Help page offers webmasters step by step instructions to solve the issues and get the notification removed from search results.
3. Users Leave Unsecure Websites
Here is the last connection between website security and SEO: users already know the importance of HTTPS. Thus, many of them will look at the URL before they do anything on your site, from subscribing to your newsletter to making a purchase.
If they do not see HTTPS, they are likely to leave the site without taking any action. This means two negative things for you:
- Getting a high bounce rate in your website traffic analytics data
- Losing a potential lead.
How likely are people to leave an unsecure site? According to a research study conducted by Hubspot, 77% of Australian users would not browse an unsecure site, slightly below the global average of 82%.
Tools to Improve Website Security for SEO
Now that you know the problem, it is time to find solutions. Buying a SSL certificate is the first step, but not the only thing you can do to keep your website safe from malicious attacks.
One of the first things you must do – and not only for your website – is to use a strong password and change it frequently. The best solution is using a password manager – an application which generates very strong passwords, stores them securely and allows you to log in by means of auto-complete.
With this main point in mind, these are some of the most effective tools to improve website security for SEO:
1. Sucuri Security
This website security plugin is one of the most comprehensive solutions if you are interested in complete website security for SEO and for your own clients. It offers:
- Various SSL certificates (for the paid version)
- Advanced protection against DDoS attacks
- Website firewall
- Automatic scanning for malware
- Blacklist monitoring.
Even if you choose the free version, you still get many useful tools which will help you protect your website against attacks and viruses.
Cloudflare used to be a simple DNS management tool, but it became so popular with webmasters that its developers decided to add extra features. At the present, Cloudflare offers:
- Website security for SEO
- Bot management
- Performance features.
In terms of website security, you get:
- SSL certificate
- Captcha (the tool that validates a human user).
3. Wordfence Security
This is one of the most popular website security tools for WordPress. The free version is ideal for smaller websites. If you choose the premium version, you get:
- Advanced firewall solution allowing country blocking, manual blocking, brute force protection and real-time threat defence
- Scanning for and removing malware, spam and real-time threats
- Comment spam filter
- Plugin monitoring and sending notifications when one of the plugins was removed from the WordPress repository
- Live traffic monitoring.
This is one of the newcomers on the market for website security for SEO. What makes it increasingly popular is the simple interface, which even beginners can use with ease. The premium version of the tools offers no less than 35 security points checks and the ability of changing the login URL for your WordPress website so that bots cannot find it.
Finally, this is a tool which allows you to scan the WordPress version your site is built on in depth. The database of vulnerabilities is manually curated by specialists. Thus, you will always know that your site is safe from the latest and most dangerous types of attacks.
Moreover, you will be notified as soon as WPScan detects vulnerabilities in your website. This gives you time to fix them before hackers manage to identify and take advantage of them.