Can Keeping Your Site Safe Raise Your Search Ranking?

Keeping your site safe for your visitors, and protected from hackers to prevent downtime, could help to raise your website’s search ranking. In fact, anything you can do to signal to search engines, especially Google, that your site is trustworthy, all the better. Clearly, the main reason to beef up your security is to prevent the spread of viruses and mitigate costly site disruption. However, increased security measures have the lovely byproduct of increasing your Google “trust factors.”

Make Your Site HTTPS

Google has been using an “HTTPS” URL as a ranking signal since 2014. However since July 2018, without an additional layer of encryption  (an SSL – secure socket layer – certificate), your site will be labeled by Google as “not secure. ” Those scary “proceed at your own risk” signs will appear before visitors can go to your site. Needless to say, an unsecured site isn’t going to rank in the top ten. AND if they find you, they will not probably not visit.

SSL Protection Against Hackers

The SSL not only protects visitors, it also adds a layer of protection for you against hackers. If you rely on your website for business leads or retail, any downtime will cost you revenue. Repairing the damage could also cost you significant time and money, in restoration of your site and your Google ranking. If there was a data breach, you’ll likely have legal fees and settlements to add to your bill.

If your site isn’t HTTPS, the next thing you need to do after you read this article is contact your host or webmaster and purchase and install an SSL. An adequate level of protection can be had with a free module. Better and best will cost $40-$100/year, and usually a little installation fee.

Like most processes, a secure URL is just the tip of the iceberg – the 5% that is most visible and “must do.”

GDPR and Cookie Collection Compliance

Have you seen those little pop-ups talking about “cookies”? Every site now has to be GDPR compliant (thanks to EU General Data Protection Regulation that governs the collection and usage of personal data), to help safeguard visitor data, aka “cookies.” If your site isn’t compliant, you risk getting a ridiculously large fine (up to 20 million Euros or 4% of annual global sales, whichever is higher). There currently isn’t any correlation between GDPR compliance and Google search ranking, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was added to the list of Google “trust” variables.

This is typically a quick addition and set up of a GDPR plugin(30 minutes), typically free to download and use.

Also take a look at any additional settings that need to be checked for customer relationship management databases (CRM) to make sure new customers are on your email lists.

Upgrade Server PHP

Software runs at every level of computing – from your laptop, to your email, to the WordPress blog post, to the server that hosts your site. To guarantee your site’s security, speed, and functionality, it is critical that your host is running the latest versions of PHP (or Hypertext Preprocessor, V 7, 5.4 or 5.3). This is an urgent matter, because older software is being taken offline at the end of 2018, and there is no guarantee that your site will function properly when that happens. We’ve had a couple instances where the site had to be redesigned because of unsupported backward compatibility.

Keep your site live and secure by getting in touch with your webmaster or host to make sure you site is being hosted on PHP 7.

CMS Software Updates, Especially WordPress

Are you vigilant about closing “back doors” and loop holes for hackers in your content management software (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magneto)? Out of date software, ESPECIALLY PLUGINS, is the Achilles’ heel of your website. With the worldwide increase in hacking last year, we increased the update frequency from annually to quarterly. We now recommend at least monthly updates and backups, even if the site doesn’t have an active blog or new content.

It’s literally an arms race in cyberspace between the hackers and the software developers. It can’t be stressed enough how important regular software updates are to the health and protection of your site.

SIDE NOTE: Updating to WordPress 5.0 won’t necessarily break your site, but existing content may need to be updated, on a page by page basis, to be converted to the new “block” format.

Website Maintenance vs. Triage

Do you have insurance on your house, car, and health? You recognize that the probability of needing to file a claim are much less, depending on how you drive, where you live, and how you take care of yourself. Similarly, taking preventive measures regarding your website can significantly decrease the likelihood of having your website compromised.

Did you know the likelihood of your website being hacked is 90%. I’m not saying that to scare you but to motivate you. Without this “ounce of prevention,” you are practically guaranteed to have your site hacked and have to pay for an aggravating, time-sucking, and expensive cure.

I’m not saying that to scare you but to motivate you. Without this “ounce of prevention,” you are practically guaranteed to have your site hacked and have to pay for an aggravating, time-sucking, and expensive cure.

So what’s your website worth to your business on a monthly basis (including your online reputation and Google ranking)? Is it more than $40/month?

Exactly, so get your webmaster (or me) on the phone or email and protect your site ASAP and give them this laundry list:

  • Install an SSL certificate and update Google analytics account accordingly.
  • Add plugin for GDPR and cookie collection and email opt-in compliance.
  • Confirm with your host you’re using PHP 7 or greater to serve your site files.
  • Upgrade your website platform software, especially WordPress, and all plugins, and backup and security programs.
  • Make sure the site looks and behaves the way you want by updating content to WP5 block formatting.

Marjorie Clark, Owner of Little Fish Studios Web Design

Marjorie is a self-taught designer, writer, editor, project manager, and marketing, business and networking coach. She always brings her clients the freshest design and marketing information, and her “Rolodex is always open.” Playing the role of “customer philosopher” inspires her copyrighting and design choices.