This is a true story and not some backroom geek conversation, or a rumor read on the bathroom wall of an Internet Marketing conference, it really happened. Not too long ago, someone who had a successful website had their server hacked, sometime during the weekend, late at night, their online security was violated. Once the hackers got in, they were able to alter the ‘robots.txt’ files on their site, which commanded Google and friends to pull their entire website listing from the search indexes.
So you can imagine the absolute anxiety and panic attacks setting in. After several hours of restoring the site, followed by calls to tech support, they were finally able to repair the situation, and eventually got their site restored in Google’s index. However, it took close to two entire weeks to get their website re-established in the organic rankings that they built up for years.
Preparing A Findability Emergency Response Plan
You can lose thousands of dollars daily or per month, if you lose your ‘Findability’ in the search indexes. So you will need to be fully prepared if something like that happens to your website.
You should have a program in place to prevent your website being shut down by uncontrollable outside forces. A list of steps that you can to take to initially prevent or restore your site as soon as possible. After an incident like the one above, every company with a website should be able to recover immediately.
SEO Isn’t Always The Answer
Although we all know that SEO is extremely powerful and necessary, you’re still leaving the marketing up to chance because of search engine nuances. There are some external factors that can potentially leave you suddenly with no traffic, even overnight, resulting in a sudden decrease in leads and sales.
If SEO is the only means of traffic to your site, it can be a high risk form of marketing. So you should have some type of back up plan in place, such as a PPC campaign set up and running profitably, or you will be at the mercy of the search engines, and at times, their erratic behavior. Or worse, someone can hack into your website server.
Three Reasons For Erratic Website Traffic
First of all, your website rankings on the search engines can at times be extremely volatile and finicky. So don’t panic if you get sudden visitor spikes, or your traffic flatlines for a while.
1. You make a change to one of your website page(s) or links.
2. Your competitor suddenly changes something on one of their page(s) or links.
3. One of the search engines changes something in their algorithm or data.
When a change suddenly occurs in your site’s positioning, don’t panic or automatically assume that you did something wrong. You will need to find the reason why by using the following steps. Also exercise patience by waiting to see if your rankings eventually correct themselves in a few days, due to an alteration in the search engines.
1.) Find out if Google, Yahoo or Bing has updated or changed something in their algorithm. If there is a big shakeup in their ranking methods, there will be a buzz in the SEO community. Look at your rankings on your other pages as well as your other keyword phrases. If the search engines are the cause of the problem, then those other pages and keyword phrases will also be affected at the same time.
2.) If you rule out that the search engines are not the cause, then take a look at your niche or product marketplace, and see whether there are some changes in the market’s landscape. Most search engines will use a ‘Relative Scoring System’ when competing pages are evaluated. Find out how your competition in your market uses certain SEO techniques, as that will influence the degree of success on how your target keyword phrase is going to rank against theirs. It’s often the case that you will lose some ranking power in the search results because your direct competitor has done some type of SEO work to improve their ranking.
3.) If you have ruled out both of the above, then look at the recent changes that you’ve made on your website, if any. Pay extra attention particularly to your: title tag, the placement and percentage of your target keyword phrase throughout your copy. Also check your backlink strategy. Look at the number of authority links, relevant link text, and the quality of the links pointing back to your site.
Preventative Maintenance For Your Site — Staying Secure
As someone famous once said, “An ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.” The best thing that you can do to ensure your website or server is secure, is to perform a bit of preventative maintenance. Always keep in mind that your website is the primary location where your online brand or product is located, and thus a target to be hacked.
Preventing Website Hacking
1.) Make sure you use strong ‘unrelated to you’ passwords, and always routinely change them.
2.) Select a webhost provider who has a strong security and maintenance reputation and policies.
3.) Invest in reputable third-party security applications, with PCI compliance and intrusion detection.
4) Always make sure you back up your website every 21 to 30 days if you have a static website, and daily if you have a blog. Always store a copy off-site.
If your site does get hacked, contact your webhost immediately and inform their security department of the breach. Using your saved backup copy, you should be able to restore access and be back online in a few hours.
Server Security Procedures
1.) Always change the default server ‘login’ as well as the password routinely. Although this may sound simple, there are a lot who forget this step. Recent hacking techniques will allow potential attackers to probe millions upon millions of servers each and every day looking for this type of mistake. If they find you are making their life hard, they will usually just move on.
2.) If at all possible, keep your website and data separate. Although it’s easier to just host your website on the same server that you store your data, doing so opens yourself up to greater risk. It’s also at times more affordable to pay for external hosting, rather than hosting a website yourself.
3.) Make sure you give most employees, as well as outside IT contractors just the minimum set of ‘permissions’, that they will need to do their jobs. Even the people who designed your website don’t usually need full administrative privileges.