Let’s Talk About All these Websites Getting Hacked (and SEO)
If all things “mobile” was the big marketing theme these past few months, I’m going to go ahead and bet my next pay check that the next big online marketing buzz will center around website security.
Let’s look at the evidence:
“Don’t Chase the Algorithm.”
That was advice that two of Google’s reps gave during a Q&A session prior to the last major update to their mobile algorithm (“Mobilegeddon”):
Instead of chasing the algorithm, Google—as always—recommends you focus on creating a positive user experience for your website visitors. Having mobile-friendly sites is one way to do so, and Google’s reps also recommended focusing on security, spam, and abuse prevention.
Would you look at that? The whole Q&A session was supposed to be about mobile-friendliness, but they couldn’t help but sneak in a bit there about website security.
This isn’t the first time Google let the world know it prefers secure sites.
Flashback to August 2014
Secure Sites See Increase in Google Rankings
Last summer, Google decided to give ranking boosts to secure sites with the SSL 2048-bit key that protects a site connection through authentication and encryption. For all you non-nerds out there, you can recognize these security sites by the HTTPS (which stands for Hypertext Transport Protocol Security) at the beginning of the URL. That still sounded a little nerdy. It looks like this:
HTTPS websites only experienced a minor ranking increase to begin with, but Google has indicated that they may strengthen the signal in the future.
With the crazy amount of hacking I’ve been seeing go on, I’m wondering if that time is now?
How a Hacked Website Hurts Your SEO
So now that we know that secure sites get a small ranking boost, we also need to investigate what happens if your non-secure website DOES get hacked.
Obviously nothing good comes from a website hacking anyway—hackers can install malicious code, redirect your website to another, or take your website down altogether. These thing are clearly bad for your website’s SEO. But there’s another problem too:
Whenever your site’s security is compromised, Google displays a warning to searchers on your listing that your site might be hacked. This makes sense if you think about it—Google wants to show its users good and relevant search results, not websites that have been hacked and are now full of a bunch of Viagra and Cialis text.
Google recommends users don’t visit the website until the message disappears from search results. As you can imagine, this can hurt your organic search traffic quite a bit:
I’m going to give you a break from our regular programming to have our Director of Analytics & Strategy, Tyler Yost, walk you through the chart above (complete with appropriate GIFS and JPGS). From Tyler:
- Us: “Oh man, this is looking to be a great spring! Can’t wait to break new records!”
- Google: “You’re site has been hacked, good luck hitting those records!”
- Us: “We cleaned up the hacks, time to resubmit a reconsideration!” Hackers: “Not just yet…” Google: “Sounds good, let’s see what you’ve done. Looks like everything is good, let’s take that icon!”
- Hackers: “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! (In a Billy Mays voice, rest his soul)” Google: “Just kidding!” Us: “Crap, let’s permalock this stuff! Alright, looks cleaned up, let’s resubmit to Google!”
- Google: “All is well, be back on your way!” Us: “Hooray!” Hackers: “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”
So thanks to Tyler, we’ve got a great example (and narrative) of how your site getting hacked can impact your SEO and hurt your organic traffic.
So What Do You Do If You Get the “This Site May Be Hacked” Message from Google?
Google Webmaster Tools (which they recently renamed Google Search Console) is crucial for not only being alerted if your site’s been hacked but also for cleaning it up. If you’re not already using it, sign up here:
Side note: if you have an online marketing company and they don’t already have you set up with one of these accounts, they aren’t a very good online marketing company.
After your web guy or online marketing company has cleaned up your code (by the way, we can help do this for you if you need it—fill out a contact form or give us a call. Google also has tips for hacked sites here.), you have to let Google know that you’ve cleaned up your site before they will remove the “This site may be hacked” message from your search engine listing. You do this by requesting a review in the “Security Issues” section of Google Webmaster Tools. After Google reviews your site, they will remove the message.
Preventing Your Site from Getting Hacked
It’s also important that you figure out why your site was compromised to begin with. We wrote an entire blog post about security vulnerabilities common with WordPress sites (which most of our client sites are built on).
If you’re worried about the health of your WordPress site or you’ve been hacked, we can help! Call Blue Corona today. Our web development team can identify your site’s security vulnerabilities, assist with removing any malicious code, secure your site, and help protect you against future attacks.
About The Author: Lexie serves as Blue Corona's Content Marketing Manager. She's also the author of our soon-to-be famous, and someday to be written white paper, "Horse Hat SEO: Giddy-Up Your Google Rankings."
View more blogs by Lexie Bond
“We are very pleased not only with the end result, but with the entire process of working with Blue Corona. The amount of patience, guidance, and knowledge that they displayed throughout the whole process made them a very easy and enjoyable partner to work with. We are thrilled with our new website, mobile site, and content management system. We would recommend Blue Corona for any website development or redesign project. ”
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