You may not think that SEO has much to do with internet security, or vice-versa, but the two do have quite a bit to do with each other. Certain types of SEO practices can be damaging to your website security, and high-quality website security can actually increase your search engine ranking. Understanding the different types of problems associated with certain SEO practices or tools used to increase your ranking is important for every website owner and SEO professional.
The main problem is that hackers and other cyber criminals are looking at your SEO as much as you are. When they find a site that has excellent ranking in the search engines, they look for vulnerabilities that they can exploit. Once they’re in your site, they write their own malicious code into your page. Users visit your site and leave with an infection. Needless to say, this is more than a little damaging to your hard-earned reputation.
Problem: Trending Keywords
You work hard to find the most popular keywords and write strong articles around them to bring in the traffic, so it may be a bit depressing to find out that such a practice also makes you a huge target for hackers, according to Purple Base. You can’t very well ignore popular keywords entirely, the whole point of SEO is to get your page in the top results so you can increase your traffic, and knowing what people are searching for is a huge part of that. Unfortunately, hackers are also checking out which pages are ranking high for popular keywords.
Solution: Since you can’t very well forget about using popular keywords entirely, consider which keywords you want to go after a little more carefully. Use Google’s Keyword Tool to analyze different variations of your subject and opt for keywords with medium competition and slightly fewer global searches. You’ll still have the ability to rank high, but you’ll be less likely to come up in hacker’s searches. Keep in mind that certain topics are prime game for hackers. These typically include news about celebrities, disasters, huge sporting events, and other international news.
If you do write about these topics or other major trending keywords, be sure to pay extra attention to your site during the height of your subject’s popularity. Scan regularly for malware, pay close attention to the links in the comments section, and increase overall website security measures.
Problem: Vulnerabilities in your web forms
Using forms to allow users to input information is practical in many ways, and allows you to branch out and create an interactive web design with taking care of all expected usability issues. While this is great for your SEO – as visitors are more likely to return to a site that they can engage with – it can create a security issue. The biggest problem associated with web forms is a poor database design. Hackers can use the forms to inject code and malware into your site without ever having to break through any of your other security measures.
Solution: Design a better database. Sounds pretty simple, right? SEOChat explains that combating security issues related to web forms requires ensuring that your database is set up in a logical manner. Make sure that you only allow a reasonable number of characters per entry. For example, if you are asking users to input their first name, allow only up to, say, 20 characters. After all, the average length of a person’s first name ranges between 6-10 characters.
Problem: Bots Crawling Your Site for Nefarious Purposes
While you want legitimate bots crawling your site and indexing your pages for search engine optimization purposes, you don’t want to allow just any bot to get in. Hackers use these bots to crawl for sites that they can use maliciously. In addition to searching for exploitable vulnerabilities, these bots can wreak havoc on your bandwidth, shutting down your site to legit traffic if you go over your allotted amount.
Solution: There are several possible solutions depending on your level of technical know-how. The easiest solution is to blacklist known malicious bots. You can set up a list of blacklisted bots through your hosting service. Unfortunately, the easiest solution is also the weakest, as there are millions of potentially malicious bots out there and it’s nearly impossible to keep them all out.
Using htaccess tricks to keep malicious bots at bay is a better solution, but does require a little technical know-how. It’s definitely one of the most stressful ways to keep out bots, as one misplaced character can crash your whole site. Before you begin, make a backup of your entire database that you can upload in the event of an error. Digging Into WordPress offers a fairly comprehensive tutorial on using htaccess tricks to stop malicious bots.
Problem: Your stellar SEO rating encourages spam comments.
You worked really hard to develop an amazing SEO strategy and now you’re ranking high in Google search results. While that’s great news for your traffic, it also means more spam comments on your posts. These types of comments are bad for both the overall aesthetics and the security of your site. First, they just look awful. When a reader decides to engage in conversation on your post and has to weed through dozens of poorly worded, thinly veiled, or just plain nonsensical spam comments, it’s a huge turn-off. Second, those spam comments contain links, often to very unsavory and even dangerous sites.
Solution: Several different methods of preventing spam comments on your site are available, and each has their pros and cons. One option is to go with a captcha code that commenters have to enter to submit their comment. This is, by far, the worst thing you can do if you actually care about engagement levels on your site. First, it’s annoying and no one really likes it. Second, the characters can get so skewed that even the most astute human can’t read it. Expect your comments to drop dramatically if you go with captcha. Another option is to install a plugin that requires commenters to click a box indicating that they are human. This option is relatively easy, but it can miss spammy comments that are actually created by a human rather than a bot. Spam detector plugins like Akismet are typically the best option, although even those miss a few comments here and there. The best practice is to install a detector and monitor your comments to make sure nothing gets through.
Maintaining a secure website not only saves you from major headaches and loss of revenue down the line, it can also increase your search engine ranking. Sites with vulnerabilities often find themselves on the “banned from Google” list, and that’s the last place any good SEO professional wants to end up.
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