July 21, 2020 Last updated August 8th, 2020 113 Reads share

How Hackers Can Impact Your Website’s SEO

Image Credit: DepositPhotos

According to the 2019 Website Threat Research Report, at 62%, SEO spam was the most common threat found on compromised websites. Security must be paramount, not just for protecting information, but also for preserving SEO value. 

When websites are breached, they usually consider the financial and technical implications. But SEO attacks are real too. And even once a breached site recovers, it cannot immediately regain its SEO authority and traffic. 

How Hackers Hurt Your Website SEO

For the severe ways that hackers may hurt website SEO, website security needs to be taken seriously. These are some consequences that may follow a compromised website:

  1. Blacklisting: Google may blacklist suspicious and unsafe websites. Website legitimacy and authoritativeness are essential to Google, especially those in the YMYL category. When your website is infected with malware, Google may blacklist (or quarantine) the site. That means the site has been taken off its index and would no longer rank for keywords, and the implications are obvious: loss of organic traffic.
  2. Crawling issues: Even if Google does not blacklist a malware-infested website, the crawling bot would still run into problems that would result in inadequate crawling. This is usually the case when you receive an error 404 for a webpage that is not missing at all.
  3. Reputation damage: The worst thing after discovering that your website has been breached is finding out that that information is public. The bigger the brand, the worse damage it would do to the reputation. The worst is if it is a site that collects personal or financial data in some way. It is a fact that negative publicity has damaging effects on a website’s SEO, and it may take a lot of time and effort to get back on track.
  4. Downtime: “Site is down,” three chilling words no webmaster wants ever to hear. In the case of a severe breach, hackers can take your website offline altogether. While the site is down, the Google bot can’t crawl the website, neither can its pages appear in the SERPs. More so, regaining traffic after downtime is a hassle. 

Forms of Website Attacks

Website attacks can take different forms. You should mainly watch out for these major categories of offenses.

  • Cloaking

A cloaked website appears normal to the webmasters, but visitors and search engine bots would see different content on the affected webpages. The hackers may add absurd links, and texts, images, and other forms of malicious content to compromise the webpages. 

“The website may receive organic traffic, but visitors would be redirected to a third-party website landing page as part of a possible phishing scam,” says Sophia, cybersecurity and professional SEO expert at VFMSEO. “While the hacked website may seem to function normally, redirects to a malicious website would trigger Google’s attention, leading to blacklisting and de-ranking the website.”

  • Website Spamming

Hackers may spam a website with links to leech traffic from that website to another for criminal purposes. Links are important to Google, as they may be a measure of authoritativeness. Too many links to low-quality websites would trigger a suspicion that can lead to the attacked site being penalized. 

  • Malware

The implication of malware attacks may be far-reaching and affect your website in unimaginable ways. Malware attacks often target website database to exploit user information, especially financial data. If Google notices that your website is infected with malware, it warns users who are about to visit the site. Google may also impose penalties on such a website. All of these affect SEO severely.

Protecting Your Website Against Attacks

  1. Update your website frequently. Security patches are vital because they come with defense against the latest identified threats. Outdated software is leeway for attacks. Likewise, if you use WordPress, the security plugins must be updated regularly.
  2. Create regular backups: This is an essential preventive measure. If your website does get attacked, you can mitigate the impacts of such by recalling the latest backup. Maintain multiple backup copies simultaneously, and they should be stored off-site on a different server from the website. 
  3. Website Security Monitoring: If the first inkling you get of an attack against your website comes from Google, then things have gone far south. Use dedicated tools and plugins to monitor your site’s health and security continually. Inspect source codes too to identify hints of attacks. Regular audits can reveal vulnerabilities in the system so that you may take necessary actions.
  4. Use a secure web host: Ideally, the appropriate web host should provide your website with a custom SSL certificate, malware protection, and regular backups to ensure the security of the website.

Conclusion

Security is a serious issue, and webmasters must take serious steps to protect their websites from hackers. Sometimes, these hackers may be lower-ranked competitors, who attack your website as a form of negative SEO to overtake you easily. Whatever may be the case, remember that prevention is the most critical step of all.

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Daniel Moayanda

Daniel Moayanda

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