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  by Shahzad Saeed | 6 months ago

How to Scan Your WordPress Website for Better Security and Improved Search Rankings

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Scanning your website is an essential part of making it secured from malicious attacks. Undoubtedly, malicious attacks will destroy your brand reputation and negatively impacts the user experience, which in turn hurts your Google search rankings.

In fact, if you’re taking the security of your website lightly, you’re allowing the bad guys to sabotage the search rankings as well as your online business.

If you’re not scanning your website regularly, below are a few ways how your website will get impacted.

  •      Negative SEO: Did you know that your competitors could hurt your search rankings by following black-hat SEO techniques to build harmful backlinks to your website? Yes, it’s totally possible and this practice is called negative SEO.
  •      Malicious attacks: While some hackers attack a website for stealing personal data and building backlinks to their associated websites, etc. others do it for just fun.  So just because yours is a small website, it doesn’t guarantee that you are safe from malicious attacks.
  •      Website errors and deprecated codes: If you’re using an outdated plugin that is no longer supported, chances are it may comprise errors and many deprecated functions, which will be potentially vulnerable to your site. Vulnerable codes are not only prone to malicious attacks but also slow down your site, which negatively impacts the user experience as well as search rankings.

There are a lot of precautionary steps you can take to avoid getting your WordPress site infected by malicious code. In this post, I’ll explain how to scan your website for better security and how to find if your site is prone to malicious attacks.

 

Protecting Your Site from Negative SEO

Regularly monitoring your Google Search Console account is one of the best ways to identify if your site is hit by potentially malicious attacks.

Aside from that, you’ll also need to monitor Google Analytics data on a regular basis. If you could find a sudden drop in Google search traffic, chances are your site is negatively impacted by malicious codes provided that you’ve not violated Google webmaster guidelines.

If you identified a potential vulnerability on your site, you’ll need to take a deeper look into the potential causes and figure out the ways to fix them.

 

Fixing Negative SEO Impacts

Before jump into fixing malicious attacks on your website, one of the first things you’ll need to do is securing your server. Unless your site is hosted on a secure server, your site won’t be protected from possible future attacks. So all the reversing actions you take would last temporarily.

So make sure your site is hosted on a premium web hosting providers like WP Engine or SiteGround.

Once you secured the server, below are a few ways to fix malicious attacks.

Remove spammy backlinks

If your site is affected from negative SEO, you can find tons of harmful backlinks to your site. To get a detailed list of backlinks to your website, you may use a tool like Ahrefs.

Needless to say, irrelevant links are harmful to your website. Below are a few ways to get rid of them.

  •      Email the webmaster: Send an email request to website owners to remove the link. Tell them those links are vulnerable for both yours and their website.
  •      Disavow vulnerable backlinks: If the website owner doesn’t remove the links, you may have to disavow them through Google Search Console.
  • Check for duplicate content

Redistributing your content all over the web can also hurt your rankings. On a flip side, even if users might not want to hurt your search ranking when copying your content, it can cause a negative impact on your search rankings. I personally use and recommend CopyScape.com to identify content theft.

All you need to do is to enter your URL and check if it is duplicated or not.

 

Monitor Your Site Speed

Sending thousands of requests to your server at a time could bring your site down. If you found a huge drop in your site speed, check if it is caused by spam attacks. You may use a tool like Pingdom.com to monitor the speed of your website and uptime.

You can set an alert on Pingdom, so you’ll be the first to know when your site is down. This will help you take quick actions before it gets too late.

 

Scanning WordPress Website

It is not a surprising fact that WordPress is a favorite target for hackers because it is the most popular website builder out there.

Because WordPress is a popular target for hackers, you should be extra conscious in terms of security of your WordPress site.  In fact, you can’t guarantee the safety, unless you monitor regularly for malicious attacks and take corrective actions against it if exists.

How do you monitor your WordPress website for malicious attacks? How to secure your website by taking appropriate corrective actions? Have a look…

Precautionary step: Use Virus Total

While it is always recommended to install a free theme or a plugin only from the official WordPress directories, many authoritative theme developers and agencies prefer not listing their quality free themes in the official directory. It’s mainly because the guidelines of the official directory don’t allow them to bundle tons functionalities out-of-the-box in their free theme. So when it comes to finding free themes, official directories are not the only show in town.

So if you’re installing a free WordPress theme outside the official directory, make sure to check for potentially malicious code before installing it on your production site.

All you need to do is to upload the theme files to a free scanning site like VirusTotal.com. If your file is infected, you’ll get a red signal or else you install it to your website.

But what if you’ve already installed many themes on your WordPress site? Below are a few ways to find whether your site contains vulnerable themes or plugins.

 

Theme Authenticity Checker

Theme authenticity checker is a free plugin that scans your theme files for potentially malicious code. It searches the source files of your installed themes for signs of malicious codes.

If an unwanted code is found on an installed theme, the plugin will show you the path to the theme file, the line number, and the suspected code snippet.

As many third-party websites are offering free WordPress themes with encoded script slipped in, it is always better to check the authenticity using this plugin.

 

Exploit Scanner

Exploit Scanner is another free plugin that is much robust than the TAC plugin. Along with theme source files, the plugin also searches the posts and comments tables of your database of your WordPress install for anything suspicious.

It just shows the suspicious code and the rest is left to the user.

Please note that this plugin will return a lot of false positives, so before installing it on your site you should know if errors are actually malicious or not.

 

Key Takeaway

I hope this article gives you insights on how to detect suspicious activities on your website. It is highly recommended to scan your website regularly to detect malicious files and unknown activities. Below are some precautionary steps you should take in order to ensure the security of your website.

  •      Setup email alerts- Aside from regularly monitoring your Google Search Console account, make sure you’re subscribed to email alerts, so you will be updated if your site is attacked by malware, got a manual penalty or server connectivity problems.
  •      Update regularly: Make sure you always update WordPress core software, WordPress themes and plugins regularly. This will reduce the probability of being hacked.
  •      Use Pingdom: Subscribe to a service like Pingdom to track uptime, downtime, and performance of your website.

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