If you’re putting together a list of all the components of a successful SEO strategy, there’s a decent chance website security probably isn’t on it.

After all, how is website security going to boost your placement in the SERPs?

Good SEO isn’t just about climbing the ranks; it’s about staying there. And how well secured your website is can have a profound impact on your rankings.

Recently, tech blog CenterNetworks migrated to WordPress from Drupal. As part of the conversion, several of CenterNetworks’ sites were hit by an exploit. The result? CenterNetworks’ Allen Stern explains:

This other site apparently lost most of its “Google Juice” which resulted in a
major reduction in organic search site traffic. Here’s a graph of the before,
during and after.

At the lowest point, nearly 70% of Google-referral traffic to the site in
question was lost. As you can see from the chart above, slowly the Google Juice
has been restored and we are back to normal traffic today. Phew, at least now I
can get the investors off my back.

Ouch. While Stern doesn’t provide any detail on what the exploit was, the message is clear: if you’re hacked, the SEO ramifications can be very painful. Even a temporary drop in traffic from search engines can have real consequences and since there’s really no way to control when and how long it will take you to recover, the best policy is to treat the security of your website as an important part of your SEO strategy, remembering that a good defense can be a good offense.

Here are some tips for securing your website:

  • If you use third party applications (like WordPress), pay attention to new releases. When they include patches for security vulnerabilities, upgrade as soon as possible because by the time a vulnerability is known, chances are somebody is out there exploiting it.
  • Make sure your developers are doing the basics. This includes escaping input and output, adding nofollow to links in user-generated content, etc.
  • Hire a competent sysadmin. If your server or hosting account itself is compromised, anything can happen. So make sure somebody is looking out for your hosting setup.
  • Keep backups. In the worst case scenario, a hack could result in a complete loss of your content/data. Since that’s the driver for your SERPs, you don’t want to risk losing it.

Photo credit: CarbonNYC via Flickr.