How Cybersecurity Can Make or Break your SEO Rankings

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Even if you are a seasoned player at the Search Engine Optimization game, it is never too late to keep discovering more ways to boost your rankings and give you the upper hand in keeping that traffic incoming. If you have established yourself with the basics like link-building, keyword placement and so on, it is time to turn to more unconventional fields that can actually make a difference in your SEO strategy; case at hand: the cybersecurity of your website actually has a lot to do with how your site features in rankings. And here is why.

Cyber-attacks Cost in Both Damages and Consumer Trust

It is well known that cyber-attacks can cost you in both money for the cleanup process and in reputational damage – which is translated in customer trust, so suffering a hack is prone to drive people away. Consider the infamous Sony hack a couple of years back; the company not only reported “investigation and remediation costs” that rose well to $15 million but also estimated the full costs to reach a whole of $35 million for the complete fiscal year.

Yet further to that, Sony suffered major damages with regard to its commercial and professional reputation, as scandalous details about what Sony executives thought of renowned movie stars came to light and that cast the entertainment and tech titan in a bad light. Reputational damage means that people turn their backs on you, which can make your SEO rankings suffer, as they heavily depend on factors that are client-oriented – for instance, social media shares and mentions of your brand on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, or click-through rates (CTR), which takes into account how many times people click on a link that comes up after a query.

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As major companies struggle to restore their public image after data breaches and leaks due to hack attacks, it is well documented that clients turn their backs against hacked enterprises not only due to negative details but mainly due to the sheer fact that a company was vulnerable enough to suffer an attack. According to a 2016 survey, almost 60% of users are likely to avoid transactions with companies that have suffered hack attacks. This leads to fewer people visiting your website to engage in business with you, which in turn means lower traffic and a fall in rankings, as visitor traffic is an influential factor in SEO. Failing to take appropriate measures to prevent data breaches drives customers away, especially in light of the fact that, as per the same source, 93% of cyber-attacks are preventable.

Data Protection is a Priority for Google as well as for Clients

Arguably, loss in consumer trust mainly arises from the fact that clients will no longer think that their personal data is safe with a company, as even if a data breach did not affect them, they interpret it as meaning that the company does not value security and a future attack might impact them. Data privacy is tantamount to the digital consumer, which means that companies need to take it seriously and take steps to ensure safe transfer and processing of data. Taking simple measures like classifying personal data you collect (sensitive data like medical or financial records warrant extra protection), conducting Privacy Impact Assessments to identify vulnerabilities, ensure data masking and encryption, as well as monitoring user access are the absolute essentials for beginners.

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Google itself has already stated that security is high up on their list of priorities and that they are using HTTPS connections, that is, secure, encrypted connections, as a factor in their rankings.  In fact, 45% of the top websites in 2017 featured HTTPS – while the same figure was just 12% two years ago. Beyond that, if your site suffers an attack and particularly if it gets infected by malware, that could lead to Google blacklisting you – which means that your website will get (temporarily) get removed from search results altogether. No need to explain that this would be devastating for you SEO rankings as well as drive away loyal customers that try and access your site while it is blocked.

So if you are looking for ways to give a twist to your SEO strategy, cybersecurity is one of the top things to consider. Getting protected and securing your clients’ data can go a long way with both traffic and search engine rankings.

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