Your website’s hosting, maintenance and security measures play a critical role in SEO. Any investment in pay-per-click campaigns and other tactics to drive traffic to your website can be a waste of money if your website is not secure and is hosted on a low-quality hosting provider. Website hosting and security impact SEO in many ways.
Top hosting, maintenance, and security factors that can help or hurt your SEO efforts:
1. SSL certificate
An SSL certificate activates the HTTPS protocol and is essential for protecting your website, even if you aren’t handling sensitive information like credit cards. Since 2014, Google has encouraged all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS – adding an SSL certificate to your website – to keep everyone safe on the web. Recently, Google has gone on record saying that the ranking benefits of HTTPS will continue to increase in the future.
Web browsers also give visual cues, such as a lock icon or a green bar, to let visitors know if the website has an SSL certificate and that the connection is secured. Firefox and Chrome are pushing visitors more and more toward secured connections. Therefore, visitors will trust your website more when they see these cues, knowing any personal data information they share with you will be encrypted and secure.
Before installing an SSL certificate, consult with experts in website hosting and security. You’ll need a web developer to help install an SSL certificate and track your HTTP to HTTPS migration carefully. If this migration isn’t handled correctly, you can experience downtime or web page errors.
2. Website Speed
Any investment in SEO and pay-per-click campaigns to drive traffic to your website will be wasted if your page speed time is extremely low. All the traffic directed to your website will immediately bounce if it takes longer than 2 seconds for a page to load.
Google has been consistent on this – faster sites are ranked higher than slower sites. Page load time and bounce rates are critical factors in search engine ranking algorithms. If your website speed is poor, first look at where the website is hosted and the server performance. Switching to a better hosting platform, optimized for WordPress websites, very often improves the website speed and load times.
Curious about your website’s performance and speed? There are many speed and performance tests that can be run on your website to help identify the issues.
3. Security and Malware Removal
Web browsers and search engines now warn searchers by labeling potentially dangerous websites with the notice, “This site may harm your computer” or “This website may be hacked” below the title of website listing. You’ll want to take every possible step to stop a hacking attempt and avoid a malware warning on Google.
One way to prevent malware is to have a scanning software that automatically scans and removes malware on your website. Every database or plugin on your website is another possible point of entry for hackers. The popularity of WordPress also means that it is now 1 of the top 3 platforms targeted by hackers and according to 2016 report by Sucuri on infected websites, 78% of the infected websites were built on WordPress platform and the #1 cause of infection was outdated software and plugins. Keeping your plugins and software up-to-date is critical and you’ll need a web developer to manage the updates and handle any functionality issues.
4. Avoiding Google Blacklisting
If your website is hacked and infected with malware, you must act quickly. It is desirable to have a backup of your website so that you can restore a clean, pre-hack version. Traditional hosting platforms don’t offer backups. You’ll want a daily backup of the website so you can restore the website in case of a security breach.
A hacked website may be blacklisted by Google and the other search engines. Google blacklists between 9,500 to 10,000 website per day. Blacklisting means your website is removed from the search engine index completely. Even after you restore a clean version of your website and improve the security, there is a process to submit the website to the search engines and get the site off the blacklist. Our team has a great deal of experience in cleaning up hacked websites and restoring the Google listing.
Remember to evaluate and improve your website hosting and security at all times. Poor hosting and security vulnerabilities can not only affect but undermine your SEO work.