How Hackers May Hurt Your Organic Search Rankings

by | Dec 20, 2023 | Cyber security, SEO

Key Points

As the digital landscape evolves, the significance of website security in relation to SEO cannot be overstated. Hacking poses a serious threat not only to your site’s integrity but also to its performance in search engine rankings. Let’s delve into the critical interplay between website security and SEO:

  • The direct impact of hacking on a website’s search engine ranking and user trust.
  • Various types of hacking threats and their specific risks to websites.
  • How common hacking methods like SEO spam, malicious code, and unplanned redirects affect your SEO performance.
  • Understanding the importance of a multi-layered security approach to safeguard against potential attacks.
  • The role of proactive security measures like regular software updates, strong password policies, and the use of Web Application Firewalls (WAF) in maintaining a secure online presence.


SEO professionals need to be vigilant about website security. While it’s common to leave cybersecurity concerns to IT departments, the reality is stark: website security, or the lack thereof, can dramatically affect a site’s SEO performance.

Illustration of Website Security and SEO on a Computer Screen

What Is Hacking? A Closer Look at Its Impact on SEO

Hacking is when someone gains unauthorized access to a website or computer system. Hackers might do this to get sensitive information, disrupt the site’s functioning, or redirect its visitors to other, often harmful, websites.

The Different Types of Hacking

  • Data Theft: Hackers might steal personal or confidential information from your website, such as customer data or trade secrets.
  • Malware Insertion: Malicious software can be installed on your site, which can damage your site’s functionality, steal information, or even spread the malware to your visitors.
  • SEO Spam: Unauthorized changes to your website content or the addition of spammy links can hurt your SEO ranking and mislead your visitors.
  • Unwanted Redirects: Hackers can redirect your visitors to other websites, often containing scams, further harming your website’s reputation and SEO performance.

Understanding these hacking methods is crucial because each one can negatively affect your website’s SEO. From lowering your search engine rankings to damaging your online reputation, the consequences of hacking are far-reaching. As a website owner, it’s important to stay vigilant and protect your site from these threats.

The Effects of Hacking on SEO

Understanding the profound impact of hacking on SEO is crucial for website owners. Hacking can lead to several detrimental effects, each of which can significantly harm a site’s search engine ranking and user trust.

SEO Spam

SEO spam, one of the most common consequences of hacking, involves the unauthorized insertion of spammy links or keywords into your website. This can happen in various forms such as hidden text, irrelevant outbound links, or keyword stuffing. The presence of these elements can trick search engines into categorizing your website as low-quality or even malicious. As a result, your site could plummet in search rankings, lose credibility, and experience a drop in organic traffic. Cleaning up SEO spam can be a time-consuming process, requiring a thorough review of your site’s content and links.

Malicious Code

When hackers insert malicious code into your website, it can lead to severe repercussions. This code can steal information from your visitors, redirect them to harmful sites, or even take control of their devices. Search engines like Google are quick to identify sites with malicious code and often issue warnings to users who try to visit them. Such warnings can deter visitors, leading to a decrease in website traffic and engagement. Moreover, search engines may lower your site’s ranking or remove it from search results entirely to protect users, causing significant harm to your online presence.

Unplanned Redirects

Hackers sometimes implement redirects that send your visitors to different, often malicious websites without their knowledge. These redirects can be particularly damaging as they directly affect user experience and trust. If search engines detect these redirects, they may consider your site unsafe, leading to a decrease in search rankings. Additionally, these redirects can confuse your audience, harm your brand reputation, and result in a loss of returning visitors, which are critical for sustained SEO performance.


Backlinks are a vital component of SEO, but hacking can compromise their quality. Hackers may add backlinks from or to low-quality or irrelevant websites. Such unnatural backlinks can signal to search engines that your site is engaging in manipulative SEO practices, even if it’s not your intention. As a result, search engines might penalize your site by lowering its ranking. Regularly monitoring your backlink profile and removing any suspicious links is essential to maintain your site’s SEO integrity.


One of the most severe consequences of hacking is getting your website blacklisted by search engines. If your site is flagged for malicious activities such as malware distribution or phishing, search engines may completely remove your site from their results. Being blacklisted means a total loss of organic search visibility, which can be catastrophic for traffic and revenue. Recovery from blacklisting requires identifying and fixing the security issues, submitting your site for review, and rebuilding your SEO from the ground up.

In conclusion, the effects of hacking on SEO are extensive and can derail even the most well-optimized websites. Proactive measures and continuous vigilance are key to safeguarding your site against these threats.

Common Risks & How to Prevent Attacks

Understanding and mitigating the common risks associated with hacking is crucial for maintaining your website’s security and SEO integrity. Let’s explore the most frequent vulnerabilities and how you can effectively guard against them.

Installing Plugins or Other Tools From Untrusted Sources

One major risk comes from installing plugins or tools from sources that are not verified or trusted. These can often contain hidden vulnerabilities or outright malicious code. To prevent this, only use plugins from reputable sources and regularly check for and install updates, as these often include security patches. Additionally, minimize the number of plugins you use; the fewer tools your site relies on, the fewer potential entry points for hackers.

Not Updating Plugins and Software

Another common risk is failing to update existing plugins and software. Outdated software often has known vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Regularly updating your website’s software, including its CMS, plugins, and themes, is essential. Set up automatic updates where possible and subscribe to notifications from software providers about new patches and updates.

Using Weak Passwords

Weak passwords are a significant security risk. Use strong, complex passwords for all your site’s accounts and change them regularly. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for an additional layer of security.

Lack of Regular Security Audits

Regular security audits can identify potential vulnerabilities in your website. Conducting these audits involves reviewing your site’s code, analyzing your plugins and third-party services, and checking for any unusual activity in your site’s traffic and access logs. Professional security audits can provide an in-depth assessment and are a worthy investment.

Insecure Web Hosting

Choosing a secure web hosting service is vital. Opt for hosting providers known for their security measures and reliability. Ensure they offer features like regular backups, firewall protection, and active monitoring for threats. Understand the security protocols your hosting service uses and how they respond to potential threats.

Unsecured Data Transmission

Data transmitted over unsecured connections can be intercepted by hackers. Ensure your website uses HTTPS to encrypt data transmitted between the server and the user’s browser. Acquire an SSL/TLS certificate for your website to facilitate this secure connection.

Ignoring Website Backups

Regular backups are essential for disaster recovery. In case of a hack, having a recent backup allows you to restore your website quickly. Store backups in multiple locations, including off-site storage, and ensure they are encrypted for security.

Open Network Ports

Unnecessary open network ports can be exploited by hackers. Ensure that only ports essential for your website’s operation are open. Regularly monitor your network’s port usage and close any ports that are not in use.

Training and Awareness

Human error can often lead to security breaches. Regular training and awareness programs for your team on security best practices, recognizing phishing attempts, and safe internet practices are crucial in preventing attacks.

By addressing these common risks and implementing robust preventive strategies, you can significantly enhance your website’s security, thereby protecting its SEO performance and maintaining the trust of your visitors.


In today’s digital world, website security is not just a technical necessity but a crucial component of maintaining and enhancing your SEO efforts. The risks posed by hacking can have far-reaching consequences, from damaging your site’s reputation to plummeting search rankings. By implementing a comprehensive, multi-layered security strategy, including regular updates, strong passwords, and using tools like Web Application Firewalls, you can significantly reduce these risks. Remember, a secure website is a trustworthy website, both for users and search engines. Investing in robust security measures is investing in the future of your website’s success and visibility online.

More Resources:

This blog post has been crafted to align with current SEO best practices and to provide valuable information on the impact of website security on SEO. For more in-depth analysis and tailored advice, visiting is highly recommended.

The Evolution of Website Malware: How to Stay Protected in 2024

The Evolution of Website Malware: How to Stay Protected in 2024

As digital threats evolve, staying ahead of cybersecurity in 2024 is crucial. In 2023, new malware like RogueRaticate, Fake Browser, and SocGholish have emerged, demonstrating increased sophistication. This blog post delves into the latest trends in website malware and offers effective strategies for businesses, to especially SMBs, to bolster their defense against these evolving cyber threats. Learn how to safeguard your digital presence in a rapidly changing cyber landscape.