Nobody likes having their website hacked. It’s the online equivalent of having your house broken into. It can cost you business, it takes time and money to fix the site. If that wasn’t enough, having your site hacked can harm your search engine ranking. Let’s look at the many ways that hacking can damage your site, business and ranking and offer a few tips on how to prevent this from happening.
It’s an all too common occurrence. You go to check on your site or make some changes, and you can’t find it. Or someone else informs you that your site is offline. Unless you have high level hosting that provides guarantees against hacking, your host will not be of much help. At best, they’ll offer you some kind of upgrade to fix it for you.
You may wonder why someone hacked your site. In some cases, the objective is to steal valuable information such as financial data. Some hackers install malware and spam to drive visitors to their site rather than yours. An unscrupulous competitor might also arrange an attack if he sees you as a threat. It’s also common, however, for hackers to act out of simple malice. Most hackers are opportunistic. Just as a typical burglar will search for a house with an unlocked door or window, hackers are looking for a site that’s easy to break into. To some hackers, ruining your site is fun and challenging, like a computer game.
After gaining entry to your site, the hacker will install coding that either causes your site to malfunction or adds some unwanted content. You can remove this code later, but by then the damage is done. Unless you’re technically savvy, you have to pay someone to restore your files or even rebuild your site from scratch.
The most obvious damage that is done when your site is hacked is that your visitors either can’t reach your site or find that it’s been altered. If you have a business site, this can cost you valuable sales and prevent you from acquiring new customers, clients or leads. It can be even worse if the hacker has installed spam, malware or links to porn or gambling sites. This can get you categorized as a spammer in the eyes of visitors and even the search engines.
Very often, you won’t even know right away. Most people aren’t going to bother to track you down to tell you your site is offline. You may not find out until you or someone on your team visits the site or admin panel. Every hour or day that the site is offline or compromised can cause you to lose credibility and business. If you’re doing paid advertising to make sales or acquire leads, your ads will be sending people to a non-functioning site.
If you’ve done any SEO on your site, getting hacked can do real damage. Google has, in the past, posted warnings to visitors that a site may have been hacked. Google, however, has just recently issued a new update on how they handle this issue. Google is mainly concerned with hacked sites that install spam and malware, which can harm visitors. So the search engine is going to remove such content from the search listings entirely.
The fact that you risk SEO harm after your site has been hacked may seem like a double whammy. At the same time, you have to look at it from the point of view of the search engines, who are trying to protect their users from visiting harmful sites. From Google’s point of view, it’s the responsibility of website owners to keep their sites secure. It is now more important than ever to do this.
While there is no 100% foolproof way to prevent hacking, there are several things you can do to greatly reduce the chances that your site will be hit. Since hackers are mostly looking for easy target, you want to do everything possible to make yourself a very difficult target.
The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that hackers won’t bother to target you because you’re too small, aren’t in the financial industry, aren’t an eCommerce site or any other reason you can think of. While the latter type of sites do have to be extra careful, hackers can target anyone, from one page WordPress blogs to corporate sites with thousands of pages.
Safeguarding your site from hackers can be a lot of trouble, requiring extra work and expenses. However, this is truly a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Between losing visitors and customers and suffering a drop in your search engine rankings, having your site hacked could undo months or even years of hard work. Google’s latest announcement that it will de-index hacked pages makes it more urgent than ever to do everything you can to protect your site.
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